5 Key Details For A Better Cape Cod Kitchen Remodel


We're doing lots of kitchen remodeling here on Cape Cod. Especially on houses built in the 80's and 90's.  When it comes to kitchen remodels and makeovers, there are lots of details to consider and so in this post, I'm going to key in on 5 details that anyone looking to remodel their kitchen should consider.

1. Cabinets. Wood or Particleboard?  Some showrooms will tell you that you can save thousands and that particleboard has gotten so much better than in years past.  In my experience, the actual savings are quite small. In addition, I have found that installing the cabinets to be more difficult as you are fastening cabinets to the wall through sawdust embedded glue.  And to top it off, I have seen new cabinets that use particle board, swell particularly those located near the sink, or next to the dishwasher. 

2. Hardware.  Would you like to be able to open your drawers fully so you can see and access the contents?   Be sure to request full extension hardware on all of your drawers and roll-out trays.  In addition,  ask for the hardware that has a soft-close feature.  Also request the adjustable cabinet door hinges that feature the self/soft close option.  This hardware is included in all of the cabinets we sell and install.  Some cabinet dealers may not specify this hardware unless you ask for it.  A favorite brand of hardware we like to use is Blum (Made in USA) which can be identified by the bright orange clips on the underside of the drawer.

3. Lighting.  LED's are hot! In the last couple of years, LED's have taken over the lighting market in a big way.  Thanks to improvements in brightness and color rendering that is more  natural, LED's are here to stay.  In our kitchens, we specify and install LED bulbs in every lighting fixture.  Our under cabinet lighting consists of LED tape lights that light up every corner of your counters for great task lighting.  We're also shifting away from recessed lighting towards thin LED disks that provide superior lighting.  LED's reduce energy consumption and have less heat output which reduces loads on cooling systems.  

4. Drawers or Roll-Out Trays?   In most kitchens we design, we prefer to specify drawers rather than cabinets that have doors with roll-out trays behind.  Why?  The drawers provide more storage area as they are wider than the roll-out trays.  Plus you can open and view/access the contents of a drawer in one motion. With cabinets that have doors with roll-out trays behind, you will have to open one or two doors and then reach in to roll out the tray. That's 3 steps vs one.   For a number of reasons, having all drawers (vs doors/roll out trays) does come in at a higher price point. They are well worth the additional cost for the ease of use and added room.

5. Flooring.  Choices abound when it comes to flooring!   Tile is often an excellent choice for kitchens due to it's durability to stand up to years of daily use.   Pre-finished wood is also a great choice for kitchens especially if you have wood flooring in adjacent rooms to match or meet up against.    Another type of flooring that is fast becoming a favorite, is vinyl planks that snap together as you lay them.  What is amazing about this product is that it looks so realistic that even my experienced eye has been fooled into thinking it was real wood.  The better quality vinyl planks are backed with cork or a similar substrate.   This type of flooring needs to be laid as a floating floor rather than fastened to your existing floor. Because it is a floating floor, it should not be installed under cabinets.  This is actually a plus, because you can change out the flooring if you ever wish to do so in the future.


Choose High Quality Products for Your Whole Home Remodeling Project

Whouse House Remodel FalmouthEveryone has heard the old adage you get what you pay for; it’s true in most situations from electronics to homes. A cheap laptop may last six months where a high quality laptop will likely still be running strong a few years down the road. The Formica-covered particle board countertop will eventually absorb water and look horrible, but the granite or marble countertop will look amazing for many years. These are the types of things we’re going to cover in today’s post.We are homeowners as well. We understand the desire to save your hard-earned money where you can. But we also wholeheartedly recommend that you do not cut corners for the sake of money during your home remodeling project. Let’s take a look at a room-by-room analysis of places you should never go cheap for your whole home remodel. Kitchen Remodeling – The kitchen is the number-one remodeled room in the home for a variety of reasons. It’s often referred to as the heart of the home because this is where meals are cooked, families share dinners, and where we entertain family and friends on special occasions. This very important room in your home deserves the absolute best we can give it. We often tell homeowners to splurge on the kitchen and cut corners somewhere else during the remodel, because it has so much to offer the entire family. Bathroom Remodeling – The master bathroom is the second-most remodeled room in the home. Many homeowners are turning their small master bathroom into a luxurious getaway that rivals some of the nicest spas throughout the Cape Cod area. Your bathroom should be designed to help you relax after a difficult day, not have you cramming yourself into a tub that’s too small without any jets to massage your tired muscles. Invest in an oversized tub with jets so you can truly relax. Bedroom Remodeling – The master bedroom is much more than just a place to sleep, it’s your sanctuary. Create an amazing master suite that includes a bedroom, sitting area, luxury walk-in closet, and amazing bathroom. Add a few extra large windows to enhance the area and make it feel much larger. Quality Workmanship – Don’t overlook the importance of high quality workmanship. Our craftsmen at @designREMODEL are dedicated to providing the absolute best in overall design and workmanship. We work hard to ensure that your remodeling experience is as pain free as possible. The quality of our workmanship has nothing to do with the quality of the materials you choose. We will provide top notch work whether we’re working with high quality woods or particle board. Quality materials will cost more initially, but they will ultimately provide a much better finish and long-lasting beauty. We invite you to call us or text us any time at 508-477-9003 to get the scoop on the latest progress on your home remodeling project or to schedule an appointment for a consultation. We will work with you to design the perfect kitchen, bathroom, or whole home remodeling project, and then build it out for you in a timely manner.

Make Your Cape Cod Kitchen Island The Center Of Attention

Over the past few years an island has been one of the most requested features that people ask for in a kitchen. According to the National Association of Home Builders 80% of home buyers consider an island amust have. An island can fit into many kitchens, even small ones, coming in an endless array of styles and with features you may not have considered. Kitchen islands expand counter space, storage, and function. I’ve never once heard a cook say they had too much counter space.

Designing an Island

A kitchen is often the heart of a home so put a lot of thought into your island design before you build it and you won’t be sorry. Don’t be afraid to consult with a kitchen designer or a very experienced builder to help you fit one into your existing space and your lifestyle. They have a lot of experience helping you decide what will work and what won’t. Nothing is worse than an island that doesn’t function well. If it creates a bottleneck in traffic flow, doesn’t have the extras you need, or even worse, interferes with the kitchen work triangle, your island can cause more problems then it solves.

Proper clearance between the island, cabinets, and appliances is critical for your island to work well. Some of the standard clearances are: 42 inches between your island and surrounding objects to ensure traffic flow. Work station and dining table height should be 36” and 42” high for bar-style casual dining. These numbers are the ideal but rules are meant to be broken. I’ve seen islands with less then 42” between the island and kitchen counters and they have worked fine if well designed. Double check that you can open your appliances like a dishwasher or oven, and still have enough room to move around.

Kitchen Island Function

Many islands act as dining areas, but they can be so much more. Put in a wine refrigerator, ice maker, and warming drawer and you’ve got a terrific buffet/party area. Add a drawer style microwave, stove top, and an oven and you have a fully functional cooking area. A marble top, storage for baking pans, and a elevator shelf for your mixer and you’ve made the family baker happy. Add a butcher block countertop, a sink, and hide away trash and recycling and you have extra prep space. An island can be anything you want it to be!

Once you’ve made the decision on how you will use your island then the island configuration is easier. If your island contains your main sink then it will function better if it also has your dishwasher and pull out trash and recycling bins. If it’s a cooking area you will need ventilation and consider pull out drawers for your pot and pan storage. Think long and hard about how your island will function.

Kitchen Island Size

A recent trend in larger kitchen is two islands, one as a prep area with a sink, perhaps a marble baker’s countertop and a second island that acts as a dining area and a divider for open concept living spaces. However, bigger is not always better. An island shouldn’t be more then 4 feet wide otherwise the center becomes unreachable.

You can still put an island in a small kitchen. They don’t have to be solid, massive structures; think about a tall free standing kitchen table or a console table, long and narrow. To avoid it looking too substantial for a small kitchen think open shelving on the lower portion. That way it still adds counter and storage space, but it looks lighter visually. You can use wicker or wire baskets on the lower shelves to add interest and more usable space.

What if you really want an island but just don’t have enough space in your tiny kitchen? Think rolling cart. It can add valuable counter or serving space and can be rolled out of the way when not in use.

Kitchen Island Extras

The list of things that can be included in your island is endless. Many companies now make drawer-style appliances; refrigerators, dishwashers, warming drawers, microwaves, ice makers, and trash compactors. You can put in restaurant quality features as well; a grill, a fryer, wok area, steam trays, and more. Put book shelves at the end of your island for your cookbook collection, or hang your wine glasses from a rack. I’ve seen flat screen TV’s built into islands that act as a room divider between the kitchen and family living space. Always remeber: good lighting is imperative for your island and so are multiple electrical outlets.

Island Style

Your island doesn’t have to be rectangular so think out of the box. Islands now come in L- shape, curved, round, and everything in between. A straight side on the work/prep area is nice and curved on the seating side helps facilitate conversation for your friends.

There are so many choices for countertops. Granite is great for cooking areas. It’s easy to clean and you can put hot pots and platters directly on the stone. Marble is a favorite of bakers, it stays cool and dough doesn’t stick. Wood on the other hand is great for a dining area of an island, it’s warmer and more cozy looking and it’s softer on your elbows and china. Don’t feel you have to pick a single surface many larger islands have two different surface materials depending on their use.

Today even ready made cabinets come in various sizes, so don’t feel locked into the standard base of 24 inches. Of course, you can always have your builder make you a custom island. I’ve even seen a wine barrel used as an island base so again, be creative.

Another popular trend is the “unfitted” island, which looks more like an individual piece of furniture instead of a standard kitchen cabinet component. They have a distinctive look and furniture detail, often with a different surface then the adjacent kitchen counters. Unfitted islands many times are a different, but complementary color, than the rest of your kitchen.

So have fun with your kitchen island, keep the above considerations in mind when you are planning your island. The end result will be not only a great looking island but a very functional one as well.

Dual Kitchen Islands - A Fitting Design?

Double Kitchen Island in Cape Cod Home Remodeling Recently we were provided with an opportunity to design a new kitchen in a space that is double what we normally have to work with. Most kitchens here on Cape Cod are small, have too many doors and windows and provide numerous design challenges even in houses that are less then 10 years old.

In this upcoming kitchen remodel located in Centerville, we may move some walls as well as a door and two windows increasing our design flexibility. Going forward, I've been kicking around the idea of creating a kitchen with two large islands rather then the traditional galley or L-shaped kitchen. Having two islands, will meet the homeowners desire to have more reachable storage and avoid walls filled with banks of cabinets.

More to come...

Stainless Is Over

Stainless Steel Appliances in Cape Cod Home RemodelingMove over stainless steel. Your time in the kitchen is done. Whirlpool  recently rolled out at the 2012 Kitchen and Bath show it's brand new Ice Collection of appliances which is a fresh take on classic white. This updated version has a glossy sheen that is almost glass like in appearance. In addition, Whirlpool is also releasing a Black Ice Collection. So if you are getting ready to remodel your kitchen here on Cape Cod, should you dump the stainless look and go for the new look of the Ice Collection?  Consider that not surprisingly in Europe, opaque glass-fronted appliances with an elegant whitish or black hue are trending high on most remodeling to-do lists. When it comes to choosing stainless or the new Ice, it will depend upon personal tastes as well as what your choice are in cabinets and counter tops.  If I was doing an all white kitchen, I would go for the White Ice, not so much however if my cabinet choice was maple or similar light color.  Stainless can be a great neutral color that goes well with many colors.

Personally, I think stainless will always have it's fans, certainly amongst those that prefer the look of a professional kitchen. However, I do think that new choices such as Whirlpool's Ice Collection will quickly gain a following.  For me, I like the idea of having appliances that blend into a kitchen, show no fingerprints and are less vulnerable to  scratches. I'm also keen on the smooth and crisp edges of the white ice.

Over the next year, I believe that you will see other manufactures rolling out their own versions of the Ice Collection.

Click the link if you want to learn more about the Whirlpool Ice Collection

4+ Reasons Our New Cabinet Line Is Perfect For Your Upcoming Cape Cod Kitchen Remodel


1. Bead Board Wainscot:This is a timeless look that when done right lends an air of elegance to a bathing space. Notice the emphasize on done right? I've seen far too many bathrooms with cheap bead board paneling from the big box stores slapped up on the walls and finished with a flimsy molding. To be blunt, it's cheap to install...and looks it. We use a product made by Nantucket Beadboard for our wainscot. (At some point in the future, I will put up a post about installing and finishing beadboard.)

2. No Middleman. No Overpriced Showrooms. Leveraging the power of the Internet to bring you quality cabinets for your kitchen, bath and laundry room.  We buy direct from the manufacturer and handle every aspect from design to installation to final clean up.

3. Fast Turnaround Time.  We can be installing your kitchen in as little as 2 weeks from the time your order is placed. Many other cabinet lines are running 8 weeks or more.

4. Touch and Feel in the comfort or your own home. We'll bring door and finish samples for you to review. This will help avoid the feeling of been overwhelmed in showrooms filled with far too many options and choices.

+. Relax! We handle the details from beginning to end. No salesman handing your project off here. We'll work with you every step of the way to create the Cape Cod kitchen of your dreams: Installed right, as quoted and on time!

designer-paint-collection-carbon     storage_large_pc

Cape Cod Kitchen Design & Usability Idea: Lighting

Lighting The Way Many of the Cape Cod kitchens we remodel, usually need lighting upgrades as the existing lighting is insufficient. I've seen kitchens lit by a single fixture located in the center of the ceiling and complimented by a small light over the stove. Lots of shadows in those kitchens! Even worse, are kitchens lit up by industrial florescents that flood the space with blindness inducing bright, sterile, white light.

The right lighting in a kitchen can make it safer to work in, easier to see (especially as we get older) and can create a warm, welcoming feel for everyday use or while entertaining family and friends. With forethought and good planning, this is easily accomplished in any size kitchen.

Let's review the types of lighting typically used in most kitchens.

Types of Lighting Overall This type of lighting is the most common, it can be a simple centralized fixture mounted on the ceiling or multiple fixtures either recessed or surfaced mounted and placed at different locations around the kitchen. Properly selected and placed, these fixtures can provide for most of your lighting needs.

Task When you really need to shine light on your workspace, task lighting is the way to go. In a kitchen, this will usually mean lights mounted on the underside of the upper cabinets. Having lights properly mounted as such, will flood the counters and workspace with lots of light. For task lighting, I would recommend that LED lighting be installed as it provide multiple benefits in reduced energy use, less heat shred then other types of fixtures and LED'S provide bright and dimmable lighting. It's interesting to note that the Starbucks coffee chain recently retrofitted their stores with LED lighting which significantly reduced their energy usage and costs.

Also, task lighting can be a overall lighting fixture placed in a specific location. An example of this, is installing a light over the sink area with a high wattage bulb that floods the sink with light.


If your kitchen is large enough to function as a entertainment space, then the right mood lighting can create a warm inviting feel that may make it difficult for guests to leave. It's possible that the right lighting, will make food look and taste better. Although some dishes will be beyond rescue! We often create mood lighting in a kitchen by simply replacing standard switches with dimmer type switch's which will allow you to control the intensity of the light.

Types of Fixtures Recessed Light

Ceiling Recessed is the most popular type of fixture used for overall lighting. They come in multiple sizes and style of trims. (Trims are the decorative surround that the bulb sits inside.) You can also install low voltage lights especially if you want a small, low profile light fixture. Usually you can use a flood type bulb or a focused beam bulb in these fixtures depending upon where and what you want to illuminate.

Be sure to install IC type recessed fixtures (As shown right) anywhere that they will come into contact with insulation. This allows for the insulation to be installed up to and over the fixture. Do not use non-IC fixtures below a non-heated space such as an attic. Doing so, essentially creates holes in your ceiling for heat to escape and will increase your homes energy usage and costs.

Blue Surface Mounted. We have had kitchen renovations here on Cape Cod where we have specified the use of surface mounted fixtures. In some cases, the period style and age of the home made it an appropriate choice and other times, high ceilings allowed for hanging fixtures. Surface mounted fixtures can create style and bring color into your kitchen as shown in the picture to the left. If a kitchen has an island, we usual install pendant lights over it and then install recessed lights in other areas of the kitchen.

Wall Sconces. Although rarely used in a kitchen, if you have the wall space and it's in an ideal location, a wall sconce can add style and set a mood. With a dimmer, it can also function as a nightlight for those late night raids on the fridge!

Under Cabinet lighting works great in really lighting up workspaces and we often use dimmable LED lighting under our cabinets. One tip: Make sure the fixtures are mounted in the front of the cabinet not the back. Installing the fixture forward, brings more light out over the countertop and makes the fixture it's self less visible.

In Cabinet Lighting can also create a fabulous backdrop while showing off your Waterford Crystal collection. Typically we use dimmable "puck" style fixtures mounted on the ceiling of the cabinet. Another tip: Replace the wood shelves in the cabinet with glass shelves to really allow the light to shine through!

Here are some links to some of our favorite light fixtures.

Rejuvanation.Great period fixtures and fabulous quality!

Hubbington Forge.Very elegant old world fixtures.

Restoration Hardware.Love the mix of old and new.

Hopefully, I've lit the way forward in helping you select the right lighting for your new kitchen! Feel free to comment or ask questions.

West Falmouth Kitchen Remodel: Start to Finish

This month finds us remodeling a kitchen in West Falmouth. This kitchen remodel will replace a typical eighties builder grade kitchen which primarily consisted of laminate cabinets and counter tops. The redesign of the kitchen improves the look, layout and provides for more storage. The Homeowners selected a frameless cabinet in a natural maple finish manufactured by Dewils.. The countertop will be granite and the apron front deep stainless steel sink will be a focal point in this kitchen.

Follow along as we document the progress, the challenges and the final outcome in this soon to be fabulous makeover! IMG_5442

Demolition of the old kitchen was tacked by the homeowners. They did such a good job, that I asked if they wanted to hire on as my demo crew! When we arrived to start, the space was clean and ready for us to take over. The old cabinets and counter tops were recycled into storage/workspace in the garage.

IMG_5450One of the first things we did, was set up a dust wall with a zipper door as shown in the picture at left. This dust wall will help keep the spread of dust to a minimum.

IMG_5462 As shown in the picture above, our first task was to remove a section of the drywall so the Electrician could update the wiring and placement of assorted electrical devices. We also needed to provide a new backer or substrate for the tile back-splash to come. If you look at the picture closely, you will see that the seams will be hidden by the base and upper cabinets. We also removed just over the width of a standard drywall width of 48" This will allow for faster and neater installation of new drywall.

We also removed some of the plywood on the floor as it was damaged and weak in some spots. Unfortunately at this point, we discovered that the sub-floor consisted of 1/2" plywood which is insufficient to support the new tile. A typical-sub floor will have at minimum, 3/4" thick plywood supported at all edges.

It was decided to install an additional layer of 1/2" plywood laid perpendicular to the existing sub floor to provide more support under the large/substantial tile that is going to be installed.


The picture above shows the exterior wall where we are preparing to open up and install an additional window while replacing the window on the left with a new Andersen gliding window. We will need to relocate wiring and carefully measure placement of the new windows, as we plan to install several receptacles and switches between the window bottom and the top of the counter top. Space will be at a premium here!


Meanwhile on the exterior, we have constructed and set up staging over the stairs. In this picture, we have carefully removed the existing shingles for reuse around the new windows. Soon this wall will show two new Andersen gliding windows!

Next up, is framing the window opening and preparing the flashing system for the windows. As you can see in the photos below, we have added an opening for the new window and now we are preparing the openings with flashing on the sill and around the edges.

IMG_5490 IMG_5489

The windows are now being set in the openings. At this point, we make sure the windows are level and square before securing them permanently in place.

Here is a picture of the exterior with the shingles that were saved during removal, now reinstalled around the new windows.


On the interior, the window framing is complete, the electrician has completed his rough wiring and new insulation has been installed as seen in the photos below. At this point, we have gotten the inspections we need from the town and are now ready for the installation of the sheetrock.


Just before the sheet rock is installed, we cover the insulation on the exterior wall with 4 mills plastic which acts as a vapor barrier. You can also see on the floor, that we have installed new plywood fastened with screws. This additional layer of plywood, will provide strong support for the new tile.

Coming up: Mud-time! The seams on the drywall will be coated with mud-aka Joint compound which will hide the seams. We'll also be slapping mud or thinset down on the floor as we install new tile.


In the above picture, you can see that the team from Spooner Drywall has worked their magic in patching the walls. They also worked magic on the the ceilings which have the dreaded popcorn finish on them. In fact you cannot see any evidence where the ceiling was patched at all!

On the floor, the bright orange covering you see is a product called Ditra which is a provides great support under tile and also isolates the tile and grout from the movement of the wood below. Ditra is used by professional tile installers the world over. Here, the Ditra is has been dry-fitted and is awaiting the tile setting to trowel down a layer of thinset mortar over the plywood. He will then embed the Ditra. The tile setter will trowel more thinset onto the Ditra and set the tiles. Going through this multi step process will ensure a strong floor that resists movement and cracking.IMG_5583-1 Here is a snapshot of the cabinet install in progress.

IMG_5577-1 The space above is for the sink base and you can see how planning ahead avoids many problems later. 1. We left out a section of tile to make it easier to install the water piping. If we did not, the plumber would have to drill through the tile inside a very confined space. 2. We drilled the holes for the water piping ahead of time. 3. These cabinets require a site built base and in building the base for the sink cabinet, we created a chase for the piping for the dishwasher to be threaded through in the right hand corner.

IMG_5579-1 As shown above, the sink base is now installed and you can see that multiple holes have been made to accommodate the plumbing, electrical and the new sink.

IMG_5580-1 The picture above shows the stainless steel sink now installed. Coming up. Bumps in the RoaAs you can see in the

As you can see in the pictures below, all of the cabinets are installed and the granite has been carefullly put in place and then we hit a couple of bumps in the road.Dunphy-Stove

Turns out the interior finish on this stove was defective. The homeowner decided that they wanted to replace it with another brand which in turn required returning the over the stove microwave. This delayed installing the backsplash tile.

On top of this, the weight of the refrigerator punched a hole in the tile as we were shifting it in to place. If you look at the photo below, you can see a round hole punched through the travertine tile which is somewhat a delicate tile. The kicker was, that the damaged tile was partly under the refrigerator side wood panel which would have to be removed so that the tile could be replaced. This in turn held up the completion of the upper cabinet moldings...

Tile_Punch Fortunately, replacing the tile was a relatively simple if a bit messy task that was done quickly and efficiently by the tile installer.

At the start of the tile install for the backsplash, it was found that the varying thickness of the different tiles did not work well together. The homeowner decided to go with a different look as you can see in the pictures below.



All Wrapped Up and Done!


Dunphy3 Dunphy2

Cape Cod Kitchen Design & Usability Idea: Storage

This is the first in a occasional series of tips about designing and making more user-friendly your new kitchen. Storage for pots and pans.

It makes me crazy to see kitchens with nothing but marching rows upon rows of doors. Why? because it usually means that the cook is wasting time and steps every time they want to retrieve cookware from the cabinets below.

In many kitchens, the cook will stoop down, open a cabinet door, reach in and roll out the tray within to select a piece of cookware. Then they have to roll the tray shut and close the door. Not a big deal, yet multiply that many times over the course of cooking meals and it gets a bit annoying doing the multi-step.

A stove to die for!My solution in many of the kitchens I've designed and built, is to specify a base cabinet or two as all drawers. Usually they are at 32"- 36" wide and have one shallow top drawer and two tall drawers below as shown in the picture to the left. This set-up allows for stacked storage of pots and pans and in one motion allows you to open, view and retrieve your cookware. Plus, having an entire base cabinet all drawers will break up the rows of marching doors.

Be sure to specify heavy duty full extension hardware on these drawers as the pots and pans can add up in weight.

I also like doing this as it allows for a really wide top drawer to store cutlery and cooking tools all in one place and still keep them neat and organized.

There are a number of storage options for cookware such as pot racks and corner cabinets but just having nice big drawers appeals to my practical nature. Out of sight, out of mind, yet easy to see and use!

Wow! Something New In The Kitchen!

Recently, I came across something called The Galley and I was immediately intrigued. While the concept of Work Zones is not new, The Galley takes it to a new level in creating a better functioning and more efficent kitchen. If you love to cook and spend lots of time working in a kitchen, watch out! because you are going to fall in love with and will want to have The Galley in your kitchen. Last warning...watching the video will cause you to want to immediately remodel your kitchen...

Thumbtack- Finding a Trusted Service Provider

While perusing the web the other day, I came across a very sharp and well styled website called Thumbtack. This site was set up to allow anyone to search for service providers. What I liked beyond the look and feel was the ability to add my own content as well as a link back to my own website. Click on Bath & Kitchen Bath & Kitchen Remodeling to see my listing in action. I think with it's clean look and ease of use, Thumbtack will give some of the other listing services a run for their money!

Secrets of a Well Crafted Bathroom or Kitchen

Communication.Listening and understanding your needs. Accountability. You work with the same person start to finish.

Resources. To build your project.

Experience. Knowing and understanding the big picture.

Note above that the first letter of each sentence when you look down spells the word "CARE" and that is a good place to start when considering someone to work on your home. Do they care about you? or they simply see you as another job to "Bang Out" and move on. Do they care about how the project will affect you while it's taking place? Do they care about how your project is built? About the best way to do things?

Let's take a look at the above and really, they are a way of doing business rather then "secrets".

Communication- Of all the things that can go wrong on a project, lack of communication- both ways can really have a detrimental impact on a project. A well versed contractor will keep you in the loop even when there is a problem. Folks get annoyed when they are constantly having to ask "What's going on with my project?"

Communication is not just been reachable by phone or email. It's have a start and finish date for the project, it's having a clear readable contract. Having specifications for the project. It's telling the client regularly about what's happening and what's going to happen next. Yes, it takes work to do this, however it makes for a smooth project that glides over the bumps that will occur.

Accountability- Simply put, clients should be able to know who to go to and have assurance that things will be taken care of when there is a problem.

Resources- It's not just about having bodies to do the work. Rather it's about having trade partners who have a depth of experience to tackle just about any project. It's also about working together as a team and thinking ahead for the next craftsman so that his job is made a little bit easier. Having the right tools will also go along way towards building a better project efficiently.

Experience- With today's increasing specialization, it's rare to find a contractor or craftsman who has worked across the trades and has built a project from foundation to finish. It's critical to have someone who can step back and understand the big picture. From knowing how to control moisture in a home to building bathrooms with universal access. Being able to identify potential problems in a kitchen before anything is built. Working for years in whole house remodeling has provided me with the ability to see and understand the big picture.

In selecting a contractor, builder or craftsman, See if they CARE.

How do they communicate? Where does the buck stop if there is a problem? What resources do they have to ensure the project is completed right and in a timely manner. What big picture experience do they have?


6a00e54f087cd78834012876260087970c-800wi Do you watchHousehunters? For those of you who don’t, here’s the premise: a potential buyer or buyers views 3 homes and selects one of them.

Here's what I learned: I'd be a lousy potential "guest", but it'd be fun, at least in my head, which led to the cartoon this morning.

I'm interested in seeing homes from all over the continent, but the reasons why someone accepts or rejects a home truly fascinates me. Sure, there are some good reasons – the rooms are too small, or the location isn’t convenient – but the main reasons for selecting or rejecting a home seem to be:

john_quotea) Outdated or wild light fixtures b) Counter/cabinet/space (I saw one kitchen where the dishwasher was wedged against an angled corner sink and I could see the gouges in the cabinet door. Nobody noticed. Even when I was ever-so-helpfully pointing it out like they could hear me.)

c) Outdated appliances/closet doors/etc.

d) Paint colors

Dear people in the show: These things can be fixed. They should never be part of the reason for buying your home.

Choose a home with good "bones", not good "clothes"

Ironic that a designer would say that, isn't it? But it was drilled into me at an early age to always select a well-built home, a home with good "bones" -- a strong foundation, good framing, sound structure and ignore the clothes -- the carpets, fixtures, cabinets, painting, and plumbing fixtures.

"Sure", you say, "but I have good taste. I need it to look good too." Me too, and I didn't say it'd be cheap, especially fixing a poorly designed kitchen. What I'm saying is you've never seen money drain so fast as you will in a poorly built home, where the guts and structure have been compromised. (I refer you to the movie, The Money Pit, which is clearly mislabeled as comedy. It's horror and clearly NSFW - not safe for work. That would be MY work; I can't watch it. You think I'm kidding. *winces*)

Damaged bones are rarely fixed with a quick repair; they require exploratory surgery, and a fairly intrusive fix. Plus, there's not as much joy to it. As my designer mother is fond of saying, "No one ever says, 'Oh, what a stunning glu-lam you have!' "

So when the buyer walks through the home, saying, “Oh, I really don’t like those chandeliers; they’re a dealbreaker", it surprises me.

How to spot the trouble signs

Of course it’s my day job, and I'm not a contractor, but the following checklist is ingrained into my system when I visit a client's home. Here’s what I look for:


Cracks - above doorways, on walls, beams and ceilings. Slab floor cracks. Wood flooring bending or splitting. I'm not talking minor sheetrock cracks which are a part of earthquake country; I'm talking some fairly substantial cracks.

Doors or windows that won’t open (not simply a moisture issue, but doors with racked frames because the load-bearing beam in the ceiling cracked and the roof is in danger of coming down. True story.)


Dippy floors - I really wanted to write that, although I'm referring to the unevenness of the floors. I once lived in a home from 1906 – I feel slopes and dips by walking into a room. Laser levels are also your friend. Also I look for dips or sags above doorways, or on roofs.


Squeaks in the floor. (Okay not such a major issue and easy to fix, but if every area of the floor is squeaking…Eek.)


Water damage – Discoloration at doors or windows, under the sink(s). Sponginess around the toilet, or on shower or wet walls. (When you push against tile and it moves, this is not a good sign. Double points if it's crumbling off the walls.) Exteriors where poor sprinkler location or leaks have flooded the crawl space.

In one of the homes, the clients warned us the entire subdivision had been poorly built. Their house was on piers -- well, part of it was on piers – some of the posts hung in mid-air in the crawlspace. Fun. When we went outside to look at the kitchen area, we noticed a huge swayback in the roof which turned out to be poor framing in the attic. It was work that needed to be done and it unfortunately wa$n't cheap.

Something to at least consider if you’re planning to purchase a new home.

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