Leaving something behind to reach future goals

Leaving something behind to reach future goals is something I’ve told myself to do many times. Change. Usually heels dug in, kicking and screaming and yelling, “It’s going to work! I just have to work harder”. Saying it like the salmon in the river, right? Never compare yourself to something that tries to kill itself so hard with so much success. Watching the river go by with so much grace and ease, it naturally finds it way to the end, and in the process, provides so much value to everything around it.

Finding time in a day to sit down and add something valuable to the remodeling world is just, well…difficult. Every business owner I know and have talked to in this business is busy. I realize my own time constraints are created by a lot of work that should never of been committed to in the first place.

The business model I have chosen for my business is Design/ Build. Design…..Build. Dream it, put it on paper, draw out the concerns and issues ahead of time. Then commit resources AFTER that process is completed. In the end, a superior value over “we’ll just put an allowance in” business model. I know this from countless customers who complain their contractor didn’t help them with the issues they had to begin with. I’m winning, right?

I have also thought it would be a good idea to do general home maintenance as an adjunct to the core business model. After all, most people say they need these little things done and in the grand scheme of co-opting different things together, it seems like the right thing to do. It’s just….that it isn’t.

Time in any business has to be compensated for. Not just for the hours someone works, but the time and resources it takes to get that person there. Home maintenance is a job for a person who has no business in my market.

Hours worked are paid for by the customer. Knowing how much to charge is dependent on what your expenses are. Most “handymen” don’t know what this true cost is, and such, has driven the price of their services down. The proverbial race to the bottom. Like a lot of businesses. Except, most are not businesses. Just wage producers.

Our Company’s actual cost of doing business is higher than “Chuck in a Truck”, making it increasingly difficult to offer these services at a price point a customer will pay. I have come to a place where I understand that this is not a part of the business that adds value enough to charge accordingly. So, as my last look towards Home Maintenance, I leave it in the rear view mirror for someone else. Oh, and free up time to run and grow my business.

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Oh those stubborn sump lines

I went to an appointment recently on a sump pump drain line that continues to break at the fittings even after gluing. So was the callers problem.

After seeing the offending pipes, it was very clear what was happening.

OK stop reading. Cover up the rest of the page. Think about the sump lines in your yard, spewing water back at your foundation. Know what it is?

Good, because the homeowner had a handyman coming to fix it and he didn’t know what the problem was either. Made clearer through the description of his fix.

It gets cold around here. Dayton, Ohio is not northern Michigan, but you have to build like it is. We get frost heave and freezing pipes here too. Sump lines are like your water supplies inside; they freeze below 32 deg. too.

So two things have to happen right? One, you need to protect the pipes from freezing or two, you have to give the water a place to expand. When it comes to sump lines, the amateur use 1 1/2″ pipe outside. “We’ll, the pipe coming out is 1 1/2″ so I’ll just continue it. Thru the elbows, down into the ground and into my French drain in the yard ( bad idea also, but that’s another post).

The issue becomes one of middle school science. As water freezes it….expands! Except in an 1 1/2” pipe there is no place for it to go. I know my path of least resistance would be that annoying fitting! Bang! Ahhhh.. 100 gallons a minute fills that pipe pretty fast.

So, what’s the fix? Bigger pipe. The pro who does this everyday in a freeze prone climate already new the answer back when I said “stop”. 4″ schedule 35 PVC pipe is the pipe of choice. Schedule 40 inside DWV is over kill and a bit more expensive, but wouldn’t hurt. Don’t use plastic drain tile as it can get crushed from settlement.

Piping should be 4″ right up to the 90 deg. stub out at the house. They actually make a nice transition cap for the pipe that the 1 1/2″ pipe slides into. Allowing room for water to back up if it ever actually hardens the middle of the pipe with out destroying all your hard work. Make sure there is plenty of fall to the open end of the pipe to discharge and drains water. If you can’t pipe to the street, get the discharge end out of the ground so it thoroughly drains water. The French drain thing with gravel is a temporary fix, but they fill with mud and silt and don’t drain after a while either.

So, get to work on the water in your yard and make sure it is far away from the foundation. This is your best strategy for a dry basement and a happy sump pump!

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The scary building stuff when you help a friend


I was recently asked by a friend to help sort out an electrical short in a piece of property he owns. I am not divulging their name or location…. Suffice it to say, it required a bit of trouble shooting. Ultimately what led to, said plug to the left, was a short that we were looking for. After shutting down the breaker box and removing the device we went about figuring out the wiring. First thing I discovered was aluminum wiring. everyone’s scariest stuff when dealing with electricity. Not that it’s any more difficult to work on, but the fear is someone else did not due diligence and replaced old devices with CU

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What To Think About For Spring Remodeling

January and February are great times for me to think about my business. Closing out

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Green Remodeling is a Hot Trend now, but don’t forget the basics!

Water pipes unprotected from drywall screw

The hot trend today is “Green” or “Sustainable” building. This can include a wide variety of things like tight building envelopes to low emission finishes and cabinets (which incidentley should go hand in hand) to higher efficient heating and cooling systems. All great things to do. But why do builders and remodelers spend so much time focusing on these and miss the basics?

The photo on the left is a recent repair I worked on. The black stuff is mold, not burn damage, although they both are black and both are destructive. While busy charging for upgraded heating systems and more sustainable flooring, the builder forgot (as did the plumbing inspector) to look at the basics. No nail plates on these pipes, that were strategically placed within a 1/2″ of the edge of the stud. Bam! Drywall screw through the pipe, and the destruction begin.

I caught this damage recently when a customer of mine asked me to come back to do more work on their home. I had finished the basement last year and thought I should do a quick walk through of that project to make sure everything was in good order. The basement project was fine, but I had noticed a rust spot and bubbled paint on my way down the basement stairs. When I asked how long that had been there the homeowner responded, “I think I noticed it just after you left last summer.” Coincidentally, the screw rusted through around the time we had finished the basement last year.

OK, fair enough. But she had thought it was a paint issue, not a leak issue. I knew nothing about either. Note to self, “Do follow up walk-thru or call on all projects.” Another one of the basics I forgot…(sad emoticon).

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It’s fall, what remodeling projects are you thinking must get done?

As I zipped through the Labor Day weekend, I was thinking of all the stuff that will need to be done this fall. I looked around my yard. Oy! One less project though: I don’t have to clean up those pesky leaves from the ash tree in the front yard. It blew over in the wind yesterday, again…. Yes it started to grow back from the last falling over episode a year and half ago, then my daughter said calmly yesterday, “Dad, look out the front window..” Yeah, OK.

I have a lot of ideas on projects this fall. My kids bath: REDO! Probably won’t get done because I’ll be working on your bath. Kitchen: new tops! Nope, but you’ll have them. Oh yeah, “Incidentally, they look look fab!”.

Actually my wish list is that YOU do get those things. When you’re happy, so am I. It is, after all, what makes the economy go ’round and God knows we need the wheel to start rolling again!

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It’s late…

Summer has long hours of sunlight and infinite hours of time to work, which I’m currently doing a lot of. I have not had much time to update lately so bear with me, “I’ll be back!” (T2).

If there is something you’d like to know more about, let me know. There’s a deep well of knowledge with a choke hold on time to disseminate it. Happy Renovating!

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Leaks are the demise of your home. Fixing them early is key.

But unfortunately you don’t find leaks until it shows up in your living room walls or ceiling.

I recently got a call to look at some rotted exterior trim on the front of a garage. I met with the homeowner and we agreed, “yep, it’s gotta go.” I also told him there might be more problems when we remove the old trim. There always is, but you never really know the extent of damage until you get it off. The question always is, “How much will it cost?” My answer, I don’t know until we get it all off and look at it.”

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As the remodeling and home repairs heat up, so do my work hours

And so does the weather. Heat is good. I can take my road bike out (bicycle) and pound pedals, sweat, lose weight pump up my heart. Daylight lasts until 9:30pm and there seems to be and endless amount of work people want done on their homes. All good for this remodeler in Dayton!

But I also work 7 days a week. Yes Seven. Laying tile or putting up trim or tearing out a bath, that’s 5 days a week. Saturday and Sunday I reserve for the good stuff. Writing contracts, following up with customers, doing bids and yes, reading. I do get in a little bike time and time with my family, but it just seems when your self employed, the job is always turned to the “on” position on the dial. “ON” means “ON”.

Some of the things that are turned “on” include: reading on the installation of new products I’m going to install. All manufacturers have very specific ways to install their products. Stray from the direction and you have no recourse but to tear it out and redo it, at your expense, when it fails. And it is always a “when” question, not a “if” question.

Trade publications come to our mailbox like dogs drawn to steak. And yes, I read all of them. There is a lot of knowledge base articles, new products and design ideas that helps my wife and I to be as creative as we can with the budgets people seem to have right now. They also pile up like small cities on every horizontal surface. So in an effort to clean up the barn, so to speak, my wife and business partner, Cindy is making a design portfolio of different design styles, colors, cabinets and countertops to help people understand what their needs are and what style best expresses their sense of form and function.

Great Job Cindy!! WOOOHOO! I just don’t have the time to do this, though I should help out at some point…..

So these are the remodeling things on my mind. What’s on your mind?

Oh wait, there’s another contract to write over there… Hold that thought, or shoot me a response. Sign up for RSS feeds and you’ll get me in your inbox every time I write or follow it on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Centerville-Building-and-Design/211357052236995

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The Kohler Tub Before and After

In my last post, I was so excited about posting the video of the Kohler

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