Why Are Designers’ Fees So Frightening? 5 F-A-Qs Answered

Why are designers' fees so frightening?
 

We Can’t Afford To Pay Designers’ Fees!

Bath and Kitchen Designers’ fees can be frightening. “Sticker shock” is not uncommon for homeowners. So I’ve answered five frequently asked questions about how much a designer may charge you for their services and how they calculate their fee.

 

 

Has This Happened To You?

You call a designer to help you with your kitchen or bathroom remodeling. They tell you their fee is “X” amount per hour, but you don’t know how much you’re going to pay that designer in total. They may tell you that their fee starts at $2,500 and goes up from there. Or they’ll say to you that their fee is a percentage of your investment. It’s confusing and frustrating. If you’re thinking of spending only $10,000 to remodel your bathroom or $20,000 to remodel your kitchen, you don’t know how much you’ll need or want to pay for a designer to help you.
The first question is critical for helping you decide how you want to proceed with your project.

 

Do you need someone to help you design a bathroom or kitchen?#1: “Do I Need Someone To Help Me?”

That’s a great question! You may not need a bath and kitchen designer if you’re:

        • Thinking about freshening up with a new color scheme
        • Painting your existing cabinets
        • Installing a new countertop and backsplash
        • Installing new flooring
A contractor can accomplish these types of projects without a designer. But they cannot advise you about the color and style, other than their personal preferences. So you’re on your own to make these decisions. Or you’ll have to hire a decorator.
The second question is a good follow-up:

 

#2: “Can I Hire A Decorator To Help Me?”do I need a decorator or a bath-kitchen designer

Not necessarily. Unfortunately, most homeowners (and many contractors) don’t understand the difference between:
  • Decorators: People who can help with colors, furniture, window treatments, and accessories. They do not have the education, training, and experience with building systems to draft plans and specifications. They need specific technical knowledge to make the best recommendations for you and your budget.
  • Designers: People who have education, training, and experience. They can draft plans for a project. But they may not have the specific knowledge of products and codes to prepare detailed plans and specifications for your remodeling project.
  • Kitchen-Bath Designers: People who have education, specific training, and experience related to remodeling. They can draft detailed plans and prepare specifications for contractors’ estimates and permits. Some kitchen-bath design specialists have become certified to prove their knowledge and dedication to help you. Get more information about these designers at the National Kitchen & Bath Association website.
  • Architects: People who have the most education but may lack the training and experience to help you with specific details for your kitchen or bathroom remodeling project.

 

Kitchen plan created by a bath-kitchen designer#3: “When Do I Need A Designer?”

You should hire a professional bath and kitchen designer if you want to:
  • Do more than freshen up — new cabinets, new appliances, new plumbing fixtures, etc.
  • Change the layout within the same footprint.
  • Enlarge your bathroom or kitchen.
It’s reasonable to pay a designer to help you if your target budget for a bathroom remodel is $20,000 or more or if your budget for a completely remodeled kitchen is $45,000 or more. Why? You’re going to need someone to:
  • Help you select the right products for your budget and lifestyle.
  • Create detailed plans that follow building codes. Design plans should show all your decisions.
  • Refer you to qualified contractors and suppliers.

The third question will help you refine who to hire.

 

What's a designer going to cost me?#4: “Okay,” you say, “I get it. But what is a kitchen-bathroom designer going to cost me?”

People ask the fourth question most frequently. It’s frustrating because there isn’t much specific information about fees. But keep reading! You will need more information to understand how designers calculate their fees. There are three basic systems that designers use:
  • Hourly rate
  • Flat fee
  • Percentage of the project cost

$ Hourly Rate

Jill Geisdorf of Chic on the Cheap was quoted on houzz.com, “No two projects are the same, and no two designers charge the same.” Bob Vila says, “Most independent kitchen designers charge by the hour with rates that can range from $65 to $250 an hour, and $125 to $150 is typical. If your designer charges by the hour, you’ll want an estimate of how many hours the designer expects your project will require.”

 

$ Flat Fee

This system gives designers the most flexibility because they can charge whatever they want for every project. You must know:

  • When the designer will expect payments.
  • What percentage of the fee they’ll expect you to pay for each interval.

$ Percentage Of The Project Total

The percentage system is a percentage of your total investment. The problem with this fee structure is that it’s in the designer’s best interest to increase your investment. Who’s going to be your advocate? Unfortunately, it will be you.

 

There are hidden gotchas with some designers' feesThere’s A hidden “Gotcha.”

Some decorators, designers, and kitchen-bath designers may charge a lower fee. But they’ll want to sell products to you so they can mark up how much you pay for those products. Also, they may receive referral or finder’s fees from contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers. Selling products and receiving finders’ fees increase their bottom-line income. You have a right to know how much the designer makes on products and referral fees. Of course, you should get a written agreement that states:
                • What services they do include for the fee they charge.
                • What services they don’t include for the fee they charge.
                • A description of how they calculate their fee.
                • Their maximum-not-to-exceed total fee.
                • How they will invoice you for their services.
 
Now, the fifth question:

 

Why are designers so secretive about their fee?#5: “Why Are Designers’ Fees So Secretive?”

I understand your dilemma. Everyone cites a range, but no one wants to be locked into a specific fee — publicly. I hear your frustration. But there are two reasons for the secrecy:
  • Designers do not want their competition to know what they charge homeowners.
  • Months or years after the fee is stated, someone may demand that fee, creating a potential dispute.

You’ll have to call candidates to gather information, including how much they charge, so that you can make an informed decision. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what and how they charge and be able to write it down on a comparison list? I will give you a free chapter from my award-winning book to help you! You can get a copy of the chapter immediately by simply filling out the request form below. Filling out the form will also subscribe you to my informative Newsletter filled with remodeling hints, tips, and special offers.

Variable Remodeling cost factorsVariables That Will Drive Up Your Investment

There’s one part of any remodeling project that will increase designers’ fees and the overall investment. It’s the complexity of the project. Here are some examples:

  • Non-standard cabinets loaded with storage accessories
  • Imported appliances, plumbing fixtures, and tile
  • Custom backsplashes and tile layouts
  • Changing your mind after the designer has finalized your plans

Up-front, honest communication about expectations is the best way to prevent problems. For example, if a designer has quoted a maximum fee based on what you’ve told them, you may have to re-negotiate their price if your project becomes more complex during the design phase.

Ethics, Honesty, IntegrityYou Ask For Total Honesty and Transparency. Here It Is!

Now I’m going to share my information with you. You deserve it! Here are the guarantees you get when I work with you:

  • I never sell products. Never! My responsibility is to help you find the best value for the products you buy. 
  • I have never received nor paid referral fees and never will. You’ll get the results you want for the lowest possible investment. I am transparent about what you’re paying for my services and provide a detailed written proposal immediately after a meeting with you.
  • I’ll help you select all the products for your remodeling project.
  • I’ll recommend contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers to you who I know are honest and ethical.
  • I’ll be available to you every day during the process! Yes, from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., I’ll be available to answer questions and reassure you. Yes, we always answer the phone — unless we both happen to be in the middle of a call already.
  • I’ll reply to email within a 24-hour period.
  • I’ll provide detailed plans that include all of your decisions.
  • I’ll create Virtual-reality “photographs” of your finished project starting early in the design process, so you can make informed decisions about how it looks, feels, and functions.
 
Here is how I calculate my fee: After seeing your home and talking with you, my total fee is calculated compared to other similar projects I’ve had recently at my hourly rate of $135 multiplied by the number of hours I estimate your project will require. Here are two projects that are great examples:

 

A Master Bathroom that was 168 square feet (11′ x 14′), with the following features:

Designer Fee for Master Bathroom in Vancouver was $3,645

  • Minor changes to the layout
  • A private toilet room
  • Two sinks
  • Storage for all personal-care items and linens
  • A whirlpool tub
  • A large, separate tiled shower with fixed and personal showerheads, a shampoo niche, and a bench
  • Dimmable LED lighting
  • Powerful, quiet exhaust fans
I devoted about 27 hours to that and similar projects. At $135 an hour, my total fee for all my professional services was $3,645.
 

A Kitchen that was 250 square feet (15.5′ x 16′) with the following features:

Why are designers' fees so frightening?
  • Minor changes to the layout
  • New appliances (range, hood, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave oven)
  • Quality plumbing fixtures
  • New custom cabinets
  • Stone countertops and custom backsplashes
  • Dimmable LED lighting
  • Ventilation that complies with current codes
  • Wood flooring
I devoted about 39 hours to that and similar projects. So my total maximum-not-to-exceed fee for all my professional services was $5,265 at $135 an hour.
 
I send invoices at least once a month. I calculate my fee to the nearest 15 minutes. You’ll pay only for the time I devote to your project. My total price remains the same unless you request more services or the scope of your project changes. My goal is to help you achieve your goals. Get information about my creative design process.
I hope that what I’ve written in this article answers your questions. Call me today if you still have questions or want to talk with me about your project.

 

In Conclusion

How much you pay a professional designer will be an essential part of your total investment. Their fee is only one aspect of your decision about who to hire. Your relationship with your designer will last from the day you meet until after finishing your project. Therefore, it should include:

  • Mutual trust and understanding.
  • A common goal.
  • Stellar communication.

You can call other designers and ask questions about how they work and how they charge for their services. Will you get honest information? Maybe and maybe not. Do they understand (and care) about your situation? Maybe and maybe not. Will they have similar guarantees to reassure you that you’re getting the best value? Maybe and maybe not. So why take a chance? Call me today and discover the positive influence I will have in your home and in your life!

Free download How to find and hire a professional designerGet a FREE Book Excerpt About Designers

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Photo of Diane Plesset, Bath-Kitchen DesignerDiane Plesset, CMKBD, CAPS, NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate specializing in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane wrote the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and has won many design awards.

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Tired of Frustration? 5+5 Outstanding Tips To Help You Plan For Your Home Remodeling

Frustration!

Are you tired of feeling frustrated during the pandemic? Are you feeling “pandemic overwhelm?”Frustration and Fear About Remodeling during the pandemic

Are you frustrated about how your home looks and works for you now? Is your home:

  • Cluttered, hard to organize and keep clean?
    • Is the pantry overflowing because you’re fixing at least three meals a day?
    • Are you buying and storing more snack foods?
    • Are there computers on the dining table with wires everywhere?
    • Is the entire family crowded around computers on the dining room table, leaving no place to eat?
    • Are school supplies and hobby paraphernalia everywhere except where they’re supposed to be?
  • Showing its age?
    • Have you been noticing all the deferred maintenance that you need to do?
    • Paint chipping and stained?
    • Appliances working poorly?
    • Old countertops and flooring showing years of wear?
    • Broken hinges and permanent stains on your dark wood cabinets?

Here you are, wanting or needing to freshen up your home. But you don’t know what to do or how to do it. Frustration has got you stuck! Maybe you were thinking about remodeling your kitchen, but the pandemic stopped you. Now you have to wait for the pandemic to end, right? Maybe and maybe not. More about that later.

First, I want to talk about what frustration is.

Exactly What Is Frustration?

Here’s a great definition: “The feeling of being upset or annoyed, because of an inability to change or achieve something. It’s the prevention of the progress, success, or fulfillment of something we want.”

We always have options, but we don’t see them.

Fear and Frustration Are Connected

First, fear takes over. It’s like a curtain drops in our mind, hiding all our options. We play the “What if?” game in our heads. When this happens to me, I envision the worst possible outcome.

Fear prevents us from making the right decisions about the present and the future. Then frustration enters the picture because we feel stuck and uncertain. I felt uncertain about the future until a friend helped me. “Fear and frustration are like a jumbo loan, with compound interest that accrues daily. This leaves us feeling stuck.

Here and Now

We are in the middle of very uncertain times. The pandemic is controlling everything in our lives. You know how your life has changed, and you don’t like it. You’re frustrated because you can’t have what you want:

  • To go back to work away from home and talk with co-workers in person.
  • To have your children back in school.
  • To go shopping without fear.
  • To fix and renovate your home so you can invite people to be with you in a comfortable environment.

You want everything to get back to the familiar normal. You’re not alone! So do I! But there may be a new normal when the pandemic ends. Not knowing, not being in control, becomes the fuel that feeds our frustration.

Conscious Decisions To Reduce Frustration’s Hold

I decided that fear and frustration weren’t going to control my life when the pandemic became a reality in February. Instead, I decided to take classes. I’m learning how to work on my business rather than working at my company. I’ve read more books in the past nine months than I have in the past several years. All the books have one thing in common. The stories are about people rising above whatever it was that was holding them back. They made conscious decisions to move forward and try new things.

5 Tips About How To Control Frustration (And Other Negative Feelings)

There are many ways that we can control our negative feelings. Here are some helpful tips from experts that will take about five minutes:

  1. Breathe. Take deeper, slower breaths for one or two minutes. I’ve learned to count to four as I inhale, then hold my breath to a count of four before exhaling while counting to four. I also use the phrase “I am at peace” when inhaling and “I let go” when I exhale. Here’s another breathing technique I use. I take in a very deep breath, hold it as long as possible, and then exhale forcefully like I’m blowing out a candle several feet away. During the pandemic, I’ve been breathing a lot!
  2. Take a couple of minutes to stop what you’re doing and look outside. Notice the light and shadow in the trees, or birds flying from branch to branch. Listen to your breath and notice your body relaxing. This has gotten me back to the present and “out of my head,” where frustration lives.
  3. Before you go back to what you were doing before, think of something — anything — that fills you with gratitude. For me, it’s the sky, no matter what the weather is. Nature has a calming influence on me. So do my cats when they’re not asleep in the other room.
  4. Gratitude opens the door to accept or at least acknowledge that the situation (pandemic) will not last forever. Change happens every day, even if we’re not aware of it.
  5. The next step is to say an affirmation in the present tense. What worked for me is: “I choose to transform my [feeling name] into positive action.”

I’ve been lucky to work with clients during this time. One couple is actually planning a new home to help them simplify their lives! The other homeowners want (and need) to remodel their homes. There’s one major similarity between these homeowners. They’re all planning now, so they’ll be ready for construction when the pandemic no longer controls their lives.

The other side of fear and frustration

It’s true! Everything you want is on the other side of Fear — and Frustration!

Here is how they’re preparing. This is something that you can do, too!

Planning For The Future

  • We met virtually, and they told me about their goals. We talked about what they don’t like and want to change and the specific details they want.
  • I asked about their budget for the entire project. I also asked when they’d like to start construction and when they want the project finished.
  • We talked about the options to begin the design process. I asked if they want me to take measurements of the areas they want to remodel. Or do they feel comfortable taking measurements and providing pictures? When I take measurements during the pandemic, I always follow guidelines. CDC and State regulations protect everyone’s health. Only one couple wanted to take their own measurements. They provided electronic copies of the sketch plus photos of the existing conditions.
  • Then I explained how I work. I gave them an estimate of my fee for preliminary plans only. This would allow them to get rough budget estimates from contractors. I also gave them an estimate of my fee for the entire project to end any surprises.
  • After the virtual meeting, I prepared and sent the homeowners a proposal. It included what we had discussed and verified that I had listened to them to remember what they said.

No one wants to remodel their home during the pandemic unless they plan to be living somewhere else. I agree with people’s reluctance about having strangers in their home now. A general contractor and his crew should perform a kitchen or bathroom remodeling. This can take several months. Now isn’t a good time for exposure to the virus.

Everything has proceeded very well with my clients. We’re all looking forward to the end of the pandemic! I’m excited about working with my client who lives in Clark County, Washington. It’s a master bathroom project. I’ve prepared two alternative plans for him and sent links to manufacturers’ websites. He’s selected most of the plumbing already. As soon as plumbing showrooms are open, we’ll make an appointment so he can see and touch when he’s chosen. Then we’ll visit other showrooms to look at countertop options and tile for the shower and floor.

Remodeling projects can be smooth, but there can be unforeseen problems. If homeowners aren’t familiar with the remodeling process, it can cause problems.

Fears and Frustrations During A Home Remodeling ProjectBiggest fears in home renovation graphic

In the past 36 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of homeowners. They’ve had different lifestyles, needs, and budgets. But many of them share two common feelings: fear and frustration.

Here are common fears I’ve observed that were confirmed in a recent online survey:

  • They won’t get their desired results or the products they want.
  • They’ll hire the wrong contractor.
  • They’ll hire the wrong designer.
  • They’ll spend more than they want. Several respondents decided to do the work themselves, D-I-Y. I’m going to check back in several months to ask questions about their projects and the results they got.

Homeowners can feel frustrated about time and money. Frustration happens to everyone, as we discovered earlier, if there are unrealistic expectations. Here’s what I’ve observed:

  • They want everything, including expensive luxury products, but their budget limits them.
  • They want the project to end by a specific date, often for a special occasion. But these tasks take months until completion:
    • Homeowners have to make decisions about the scope of their project and all products.
    • The designer has to get the plans ready.
    • Contractors have to prepare estimates.
    • The plan-check process for permits can take a month or more.
    • Construction from start to finish requires much longer.
  • One mistake can turn a remodeling project upside-down: Homeowners hire the contractor with the lowest estimate. But they’re frustrated by the workmanship that doesn’t meet their standards.

Yes, this is a simplified overview, but the similarity is pretty remarkable!

I’ve experienced fears and frustrations myself, so it makes me sad when it happens to other people. I try to help homeowners avoid fears and frustrations with honest communication.

We create our own frustration with unrealistic expectations and how we react to reality.

When we take responsibility for our lives, it reduces the chances of frustration.

Writing about fear and frustration reminds me of a project I had several years ago.

Case History

My client, “Barbara,” had a 1600-square foot home with three bedrooms and one bathroom. During our first appointment, Barbara told me about her kitchen remodeling project. It happened five years before we met. Her voice quivered, and she often paused when she talked about her kitchen remodeling. “The original kitchen didn’t fit my needs. I hired a contractor referred to me by neighbors who were very happy with what he did for them. The contractor said that I didn’t need a designer to help me.”

Her mouth became contorted, and her eyes squinted with anger. “My contractor did an excellent job but didn’t give any advice about details. He sent me to different showrooms to find the products. I was responsible for making all the decisions by myself.”

I asked, “Did you make any changes?”

“Yes,” she said, pounding her fist in the air. “It started when he asked me if I wanted to expand the kitchen into the family room to have an island. If I didn’t do that, he suggested a peninsula. First, I had to choose between a range or a cooktop with separate double ovens.”

Her frown softened, and she looked at me, like a child who’s lost their favorite toy. “I felt so alone, making all those decisions. I was afraid of making a mistake. I didn’t know what the project would cost.”

I knew that she was talking about feeling overwhelmed. Every kitchen remodeling project involves hundreds of choices. Here’s a shortlist of kitchen products that homeowners need to select:

  • Appliances
    • Type?
    • Manufacturer, model, and features?
    • Color (white? black? stainless steel?)
    • Size?
  • Cabinets
    • Wood and finish?
    • Style?
    • Storage?
      • Deep drawers?
      • Rollout shelves?
      • Corner lazy susans?
      • Pantry?
      • Utensil drawers?
  • Flooring
    • Wood?
    • Vinyl?
    • Tile?
    • Color?
    • Pattern?

Barbara said the work proceeded better than she expected. But two product decisions caused her to lose sleep: the countertop and backsplash. “The contractor got frustrated because it took so long for me to decide. He didn’t understand or care how overwhelmed I was. He wanted to get the job finished so he could move to his next project.”

Five years later, she was still enjoying her remodeled kitchen without any regrets. Now she was thinking about converting the smallest bedroom into a master bathroom.

“Are you ready to do this project?” I asked.

She answered with hesitation. “Yes, but I’m nervous about how much it’s going to cost. I’m fed up with my daily routine. I have to cram my skin-care products and makeup into a small drawer. I have to store my dryer, curling iron, brushes, and hairspray in a basket under the sink. I hate taking a shower in my tub. I’ve slipped several times, getting in and out, stepping over the tub.”

I reassured her that I’d be there for her during the bathroom project, beginning to end. I’d help her make all the decisions and communicate with her contractor. I’ll share the rest of Barbara’s story later. I want to lay a good foundation for your home remodeling.

Your Proposed Project and Overcoming Fears

Here you are, during the pandemic, anxious to embark on your home remodeling project. But you’re fearful. Are you ready, or are you still stuck in some ways? I understand and care how you feel. There are several essential questions that I want to ask you to think about:

  • How has the pandemic affected you and your lifestyle?
  • What makes you feel afraid?
  • Is your fear one about making an expensive mistake, or something else that has you stuck, unable to move forward?

Your project is unique. Your needs, lifestyle, and budget are individual, unlike any other homeowner I’ve known. But like I said earlier, there are similarities. I discovered that the best way to end negative feelings like fear is to be proactive.

Break your project into logical steps. Here are five significant steps that will help you. Each step has many phases that will help you achieve remodeling success.

“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Step 1: Do Some Homework About Your Goals

  • Figure out your goals and what you want to achieve.
  • Family members’ input is essential.
  • Buy two or three magazines containing articles and pictures relating to what you want to do. Attach a “post-it” note to pictures and write what appeals to you about the image.
  • Visit the Houzz website (https://www.houzz.com), set up one or more portfolios, and start adding pictures. Contact the designer to ask questions about products, etc.

Step 2: Set A Budget

Figuring out how much to invest in your project is challenging! 87% of homeowners wanting to remodel don’t know what their investment will be. They don’t know how to establish a budget. They don’t have a clue!

  • I recommend the Cost vs. Value Report (https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2020/). Remodeling professionals create the report for specific cities all over America. It’s easy to navigate. Don’t be upset because they ask you to register. No one has ever complained about sponsors contacting them.

Step 3: Interview Design Professionals and Hire The Best Candidate

  • Get referrals from neighbors, friends, and business associates. If no one can help you, you can contact the following organizations for referrals:

National Association of Home Builders (https://www.nahb.org)
National Association of the Remodeling Industry (https://www.nari.org)
National Kitchen & Bath Association (https://nkba.org)

  • Interview design professionals.
  • Talk about your expectations and listen to their advice. Communication is the only way to get what you want. Or the way to discover different (or better) results.
  • Ask for and call all references given by the candidates.
  • Hire a design professional who listens to you and understands what you want. S/he should be someone who:
    • Has experience with similar projects to yours.
    • Understands building codes for your area.
    • Offers virtual meetings.
    • Uses Computer-Aided Drafting and creates virtual-reality “pictures” of your project.
    • Will prepare many preliminary plans for labor and materials estimates.
    • Will help you make adjustments to stay within your budget.
    • Will help you define your project’s scope.
    • Will refer you to qualified contractors.
    • Will prepare final plans and specifications for permits and construction.
    • Will communicate and work with everyone.

Step 4: Interview Contractors and Hire The Best Candidate

  • Ask your designer for referrals to contractors. Or get referrals from neighbors, friends, and business associates. You can also contact the professional organizations above.
  • Contractors may be busy, unavailable to help you. You may disqualify them if you sense a disconnect in communication.
  • Interview contractors and communicate about your project and your expectations. Verify that the contractors respect your designer’s role in your project’s success. (Unfortunately, many contractors don’t understand how to work with a designer).
  • Ask about the candidates’ ability and willingness to communicate daily, as needed, and their preferred tool (phone, email,  text, or a combination).
  • Ask for and call all references given to verify the candidates’ qualifications.
  • Verify that the candidate is licensed and bonded for the work they’ll be performing.
  • Hire a contractor who listens to you and understands what you want. Trust your “gut” and avoid hiring someone who guarantees to do your job for less than everyone else.

Step 5: The Design Process

During the design process, you’ll be making important decisions. Your project’s scope and your products need thought and consideration. Here are tips to help you:

  • Stay in touch with how you’re feeling. Be honest and share your feelings with your designer. Your designer should understand and help you.
  • Make timely decisions. Delaying decisions might create artificial anxiety. Products you want may have a long lead-time or have unexpected freight costs.
  • Order your products immediately. Arrange to store them until your contractor is ready for them. Access to installation manuals included with products is essential. The crew needs to read manuals so they can prepare the job site for the products.

The next step is construction. I’ve prepared a separate whitepaper that covers this.

There are many more steps until you achieve a finished remodeling project. With the designer and contractor working as a team, your project should be successful. I’m not going to deny that there may be challenges. Almost every remodeling project has unexpected challenges. To reassure you, I’ve never seen a problem that didn’t have many solutions. But the result has to be right for your circumstances. The goal is to make informed decisions during your remodeling journey.

Now, The Rest Of The Story — A Synopsis

Barbara’s bedroom-to-bathroom conversion project finished on time, within 2% of her target budget. It was a significant undertaking! I helped her select every product for her new bathroom and closet. Then I prepared several preliminary plans showing her the options. Her contractor provided estimates, and she made the right decisions for her budget. Yes, there were challenges, but we resolved them to Barbara’s satisfaction. I’ve attached a copy of the preliminary plans, elevations, and perspectives. You can see that this was a large project.

–o0o–

Now you know a little about how I work. You’ve learned about my philosophy. You’ll learn more when you read my newsletters. When you are ready to remodel, I want to be the design professional for your project. Call me so that we can talk about your goals, your concerns, your anxiety, and fears.

As-built plan eliminates fear and frustrationProposed Plan eliminates fear and frustrationElevation 1 eliminates fear and frustration

Elevation 2 eliminates fear and frustration

Elevation 3 eliminates fear and frustration

Elevation 4 eliminates fear and frustration

Elevation 5 eliminates fewar and frustration

Bathroom remodel eliminates fear and frustration

New master bathroom eliminates fear and frustration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LED Lighting — The Highest Impact on Your Life

How and Why Does LED Lighting Affect Your Life?

Vancouver-peninsula and table

LED lighting has the highest impact on you and your life other than sunlight. I’m going to share facts that you may not know about lighting:

  • Insufficient lighting contributes to seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder) and vitamin D deficiencies.
    • Up to 90% of vitamin D comes from exposure to sun – diet alone isn’t a good enough source.
    • Vitamin D can prevent or slow down the growth of tumors and even boost survival rates for cancer patients.
  • Light, especially blue wavelengths, plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythm, commonly known as our body clock.
    • The Harvard Health Letter suggests that sleeping rooms should not have sources of blue light (clocks, TVs, and computers).
    • Red lights are more soothing in sleeping rooms, relating to the melatonin in our bodies, reported by health.com
  • Health effects associated with poor lighting include:
    • Headache and eyestrain.
    • Neck, back, and shoulder strain.
    • Falling, tripping, slipping.
  • Blue light can increase confidence and boost happiness levels, research suggests.
  • Without the Sun’s heat and light, the Earth would be a lifeless ball of ice-coated rock, like many of the moons around Jupiter and Saturn

LED Lighting Replaces Incandescent Sources, Better Than Fluorescent

LED Strip Lighting under Cap lights backsplash and countertop

January 1, 2014 marked the official ban on the manufacture of 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs, after Congress passed a law in 2007. It took 7 years for people to understand that LED lamps were better than the filament incandescent bulbs invented by Thomas Edison in 1879.

One hundred years later, in 1979, California started tightening its energy laws, requiring that fluorescent lighting must be the dominant source of artificial light in kitchens. To pass final inspection, contractors and homeowners used non-dimmable compact fluorescent lamps in fixtures. As soon as they could no longer see the inspector’s tail lights, they removed the CFL’s and replaced them with dimmable incandescents they’d known and loved all their lives.

Manufacturers made it easy to use small-tube fluorescent fixtures for task lighting under wall cabinets, which made working in the kitchen safer. We all hated the artificial “cool white” and “warm white” colors produced by the early fluorescent lamps that made everything look salmon pink or green. We hated the flickering. There had to be a better alternative! But that didn’t start to happen until 2006, when manufacturers started making LED lamps.

The History of LED Lighting

We think of LEDs as new technology. But the history of LEDs goes way back. In 1907, Henry Round reported light emission from a crystal detector. It took another 20 years until Oleg Losev noted that silicon carbide crystal diodes used in radios glowed when excited by electrical current. And in 1939, two Russian scientists patented a silicon carbide electro-luminescent lighting device that’s probably the predecessor to the LEDs we know today.

In the 1960s, LEDs produced a low-efficiency red light that was used widely as indicators on lab equipment. A partnership between Monsanto and Hewlett Packard formed to make LEDs on a wide scale, but it didn’t work out, so Monsanto continued to develop LEDs until General Instrument bought the business in 1979.

I’m surprised about how long it’s taken for manufacturers to adopt LED technology in the lighting industry. Today’s LED technology is used extensively for commercial, industrial, and residential applications. LEDs’ capabilities have improved across the board: increased lifespan, increased brightness and performance, and increased energy efficiency. Now all LED lamps have warranties. National and state government agencies adopted programs and standards that ultimately led to the demise of incandescent lighting.

What’s The Major Upside to LED Lights?

]Corner range and hood in remodeled Vancouver kitchen

There are many advantages to LED lighting:

  • LEDs have an extremely long lifespan relative to every other lighting technology. LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours, and they don’t fail in the same way as older technology. The typical lifespan for a halogen bulb, by comparison, is about 1,200 hours, or 1-5% as long, at best.
  • They are extremely energy efficient relative to every other commercially available lighting technology. There are several reasons for this: they waste very little energy in the form of heat, and they emit light directionally. This means that there is no need to redirect or reflect light.
  • LEDs have faster switching with no warm-up or cool-down period.
  • They have very high light quality. Manufacturers have listened to engineers, and have improved the color that LEDs produce, in temperature and wavelength.
  • LEDs can generate the entire spectrum of visible light colors without having to use the traditional color filters required by older lighting solutions.
  • They are much smaller than other light sources.

Is there a Downside to LED Lights?

When I first began touting LEDs in 2006, the major argument against buying and using them was the up-front cost of the bulbs. Yes, they were expensive, for sure! A non-dimmable replacement for a standard “A” lamp was at least $35 each. But the technology of LEDs has followed the pattern established by other technology. As soon as people started buying the bulbs, manufacturers took notice and figured out how to produce the diodes at a considerably lower cost. Consequently, this made the investment in LED bulbs more acceptable.

There’s an unlimited selection of LEDs available to replace all kinds of lamps. Incandescent lamps are no longer available. We can buy halogen, CFL, and LED lamps only. There are differences between them, shown in the chart below. What gives LEDs the advantage is that they’re dimmable (like halogen lamps) and they save you money on the annual operating cost.

Comparison chart Halogen - LED - CFL

Light and Color: Why It’s Important

It’s impossible to have color without light!  There are two aspects to the color of the light and how we see colors:

  • Color temperature
  • Color rendering

All of the colors we see are a byproduct of light waves, as they are reflected off or absorbed into an object. An object that reflects back all of the rays of light will appear white. An object that absorbs all of the rays appears black.

Warm, yellowish light, what incandescent lamps typically produced, intensified and enhanced warm colors like red, orange, and yellow, and muted cooler hues. Cool, white light, what fluorescent and halogen lamps produce, works best with blues, violets, and greens.

Color Temperature

Color Temperature ChartYou’ve probably heard and read about color temperature developed by British physicist William Kelvin in the 1800s. He discovered the color change that occurred when he heated a block of carbon. Starting from a dim red, through shades of yellow and up to a bright blue at the hottest temperature. When you buy a package of bulbs, you’ll be able to tell how warm or cool the light is, which will affect all the colors you see by the Kelvin color temperature.

Color Rendering Index

Color Rendering Index examplesAnother reference you may see is the CRI, or color rendering index. The numbers go from 1 to 100. According to Wikipedia:

“A color rendering index (CRI) is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source.”

What this means to us is the ability to match colors. Hundreds, maybe thousands of times in the past 35 years, I’ve known frustrated homeowners who went shopping in showrooms lit with fluorescent or other light sources. They thought they found a product with the perfect color to match their interior, only to discover that the light in their homes is much different. Of course, the products weren’t what they wanted.

Watts and Lumens

Lumens - Watts ChartThere are two more numbers on light bulb packaging, the watts, and lumen output. We’re all familiar with watt reference, the amount of energy that a light source consumes. We’ve associated a certain level of brightness with 60 watts of incandescent light. We can’t do that anymore, because we have LEDs that give us more light with fewer watts. Instead, we need a measurement for visible light energy – lumens. Lumens per watt is a measure of how well a light source converts energy (watts) into light (lumens). Tungsten filament incandescent bulbs produced about 15 lumens/watt. LED technology can produce about 60 lumens per watt. In other words, LEDs are about 4 times more efficient at producing light than incandescent bulbs. This 4-1 ratio is a rough guide of how to calculate what LED bulb to use when replacing an incandescent bulb.

LED Lighting Options

As I said earlier, manufacturers have been on board with LEDs since 2008. Here are the nine different kinds of LED bulbs that are available on one of my favorite sites, 1000 Bulbs:

  • Remodeled Vancouver Kitchen and Family Room with LED lightingStandard Shape A19 – Designed to give the appearance and pattern of a standard incandescent bulb. Standard and A-shape LED bulbs fit the same sockets and fixtures as your current household lights.
  • 3-Way LED – A three-way bulb is a light bulb that has three brightness settings instead of the standard on or off. If your lamp or fixture says it requires a three-way bulb, this is the category for you.
  • Vintage LED Bulbs – Vintage reproduction bulbs are now available with LED filament. They have a warm orange glow with lower light levels to mimic the style of a vintage bulb on a dimmer as it transitions from yellow to orange. These Edison-style and Victorian-style bulbs make great collector items. Order yours today to make your own steampunk lighting.
  • Wet Location LED Bulbs – A wet location UL rating means these LED light bulbs can be used in humid indoor areas or outdoors where water may drop or flow against the bulb or fixture.
  • Decorative LED Bulbs – Browse LED globe lights ranging from 3 in. to 1.5 in. diameters or find LED replacement bulbs for your chandelier light bulbs. The long life of LEDs means less time on the ladder changing burnt-out bulbs. Many LED chandelier lights are dimmer switch compatible and come in a range of color temperature so you can still enjoy the ambiance of traditional bulbs but the energy savings of LEDs.
  • LED Tubes – LED tubes are the emerging standard for commercial and household lighting. Ranging in size from T5 to T12 and a variety of color temperatures, these LED tubes are an easy way to upgrade to energy-efficient lighting. Some of them work with or without an existing ballast, making the transition to LED lighting easier than ever. These LED tubes emit the same amount of light as fluorescent T8s while using a fraction of the power and lasting up to three times longer. LED tubes are especially effective in cold areas like refrigeration lockers where fluorescent tubes are less efficient at producing light.
  • LED Tape Lights – For accents, alcove, and backlighting, LED tape light is a fantastic choice. More flexible than rope light and bright enough for accent illumination, a strip of LED tape light can bring any place to life. There are countless uses and applications for this easily installed new light source.
  • Shatter Resistant LED Bulbs – Dipped in a special coating, these bulbs may still break if dropped, but they won’t shatter into pieces and fly across your floor. We recommend not dropping them, but if you do, these make cleanup quite a bit easier.
  • LED Night Lights – Keep the monsters away with LED night lights. Motion-activated, and battery-powered, these LED bulbs will light the way to the bathroom or give reassurance that nothing is lurking under the bed when your child needs to reach for a dropped retainer or teddy bear. Mounted using tape or screws, light only the area you need without waking sleeping babies.
  • Reflectors – From the powerful flood and spotlights to home-bound recessed or track lights, reflectors find excellent use indoors or out. LED reflector lamps can provide the same brilliance for less energy and will create far less heat than an incandescent or halogen lamp. As a bonus, they have a higher CRI than fluorescent reflectors for better colors. – Vintage reproduction bulbs are now available with LED filament. They have a warm orange glow with lower light levels to mimic the style of a vintage bulb on a dimmer as it transitions from yellow to orange. These Edison-style and Victorian-style bulbs make great collector items. Order yours today to make your own steampunk lighting.

A Personal Testimonial About LED Lighting

Frank  Lloyd Wright-inspired living room with LED lightingWhen we built our dream home 11 years ago, I wanted to use dimmable indirect lighting in the main hallway, the dining room, living room, and kitchen. At that time, LED strip lighting was prohibitively expensive, about $40 per foot. So my “techie” husband figured out how to build the strips using individual LEDs on “perf” board. The electrician installed switched outlets in each of the recessed coffers to make installation easy for us. Eleven years and about 35,000 hours later, the lights are still working perfectly. When we decide to replace the LEDs, we’re going to use commercially-available strip lighting that sells for about $2.50 per foot! You can see pictures of our home in my portfolio.

In Conclusion

Lighting technology can impact your life. The technology really isn’t difficult when it’s explained in terms that we can learn and understand. The bottom line is by exchanging all of your existing fluorescent and halogen bulbs for LEDs, you’re getting the following advantages:

  • No mercury, a cleaner alternative to fluorescent and CFL lamps.
  • A lifespan that is 20 times longer than traditional lighting products.
  • Light quality equal or superior to traditional lighting products.
  • Energy consumption that’s lower than any lighting product to date – you save money!

Listen to the “Today’s Home” Podcast: LED Lighting — The Highest Impact On Your Life

See Before and After Pictures of the Kitchen featured in this article.

Call me today to talk about remodeling your home that will include improvement of your lighting!

Headshot of Diane Plesset

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is an Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling,” and the recipient of many design awards.

© 2016 D. P. Design – All Rights Reserved; Rev. 2021

 

 

Gratitude for Awesome Awards and Accolades

Top 50 Innovators Award

The phone rang at 7:15 am on October 4, not an unusual time for a client or contractor to call. My husband answered then said, “It’s a lady from Kitchen-Bath Design News.”

I thought, “They probably want to renew my subscription.”

“Hello, this is Diane.”

“Good Morning, Diane, this is Autumn McGarr. I’m an editor with Kitchen-Bath Design News. I’m calling to tell you that you’ve been included in this year’s ‘Top 50 Innovators.’ Congratulations!”

This couldn’t have come at a better time. I was in the final stages of a kitchen project that had taken a toll on my confidence, working with a difficult contractor. It would soon be over.  I’ve been fortunate in my 36-year career to work with great clients and contractors, to win awards, prizes, and accolades. In the few minutes after the phone call, I re-visited my very first project after establishing D. P. Design.

The trouble with most stories is that there are too many details, so I’m going to lay the foundation quickly.

Brief History — Inspiration To Become A Designer

In 1979, my husband and I bought stereo stores in San Francisco and Palo Alto. I really enjoyed working with our customers, helping them rearrange furniture for the “sweet spot” of realistic stereo effect. We’d developed a satellite+subwoofer system that people loved. They could have great sound in their homes without looking like a professional recording studio. That’s when I decided to take classes at the local college offering interior design. I knew that this would be my future, helping homeowners enjoy their living environments. I loved the architectural drafting and kitchen-bath classes the most.

Then a major recession happened in 1982 that forced us to close both stores. I continued with school and was hired by a local custom cabinet manufacturer. This experience verified that my future would be designing kitchens and bathrooms. I graduated with multiple degrees in interior design, kitchen and bath design, and lighting design. During the last semester, I hired an architect to help me hone my drafting skills because the college professor believed that all interior designers weren’t qualified.

Architectural drafting is one example of what I did to learn what I’d be using for years. For every assignment, I was compelled to work harder and longer to get what I believed to be barely-acceptable results, comparing myself to the other students.  I was continually shocked by high grades and accolades I received for the assignments and tests. In my mind, I really didn’t deserve it.

Interior Design Education, Graduation and First Award

I admired and respected all of the teachers, but there was one in particular that I’ll never forget, Hub McDaniel. I’m grateful for his impact on my professional life. He was an advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act. He advised us frequently, “Learn everything you can about accessibility and start using it in all of your projects.” His advice stuck with me, one of the major reasons I became a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. He also said, “Pass the NCIDQ examination. It’s the best way for you to prove a high level of professionalism with education, examination, and experience.” I added the NCIDQ to the Certified Bath Designer and Certified Kitchen Designer examinations and successfully passed all three. Passing tests and earning credentials is a small part of my commitment. Applying what I’ve learned to help Homeowners achieve their goals is 99.9% of my commitment. Learning about and sharing Frank Lloyd Wright’s design philosophy is a major driving force in my career.

Accolades FLW DoghouseIt was Hub’s admission about his passion for Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and philosophy that had an impact on me. He found ways to include examples of Mr. Wright’s genius often during class . The final exam for his class was to design dog houses that showed a knowledge of different types of roof styles. One of my examples had a flat roof with deep eaves. There were banks of side-by-side narrow windows on three sides, and a doorway on the fourth side flanked with two flat bowls on pedestal bases. The “architect” signed the perspective: Frank Lloyd Woof. Hub’s influence on me is the reason that my husband and I are living in our dream home, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Gordon House” in the Oregon Garden.

Every year, teachers and students in the Interior Design Department selected one person to receive the “Henry Adams Award,” for exemplary skills and talents. There were many students who I felt were top contenders. All of them had way more talent and ability than I did. When they chose me for the award, I was sure they had made a mistake, or I was having a dream. When Clarellen Adams announced the award, she said that the person receiving the award had proven a higher commitment to being a professional interior designer than other students. That’s when it sunk in that attitude and effort guarantee better results. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

I was lucky to have a few minutes of a private conversation with Mrs. Adams, who had developed the famous Design Center in San Francisco with her late husband, Henry. They were dynamos in the interior design community, and masters of marketing. She gave me advice that I followed immediately, “Send out press releases about your award to all local newspapers and magazines. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.” She was absolutely right!

The Birth of D. P. Design and First Clients

It was hard to believe how many people read the articles and called me to help them redesign a kitchen or bathroom. It was time to quit my job at the cabinet shop and establish D. P. Design. One lady who called reminded me about meeting with her and her husband when I was still employed with the cabinet maker. “I saw the article about you in the Mercury News. We haven’t remodeled our kitchen yet, and we’d like you to help us.”

Accolade kitchen beforeThe original kitchen felt like a dungeon. It had dark stained cabinets, olive-green carpeting, and olive-green tile counters. The only light source was a glaring fluorescent fixture that encircled a large skylight. We worked together to achieve a well-lit kitchen where they could display their collection of Red Skelton clown figurines and plates. The couple also collected original Red Skelton clown paintings which were used as inspiration for colorful accessories.

Accolade kitchen in magazineThe remodeled kitchen included a custom induction cooktop, a commercial wok, a gas cooktop, Sub-Zero refrigerator, and a Thermador micro-thermal oven. Induction cooktops are popular now, but at the time this kitchen was created, there was only one manufacturer of induction cooktops, “Fasar.” The couple hired a local artist to paint the hot water heater door in the walk-in pantry. It was a portrait of the wife, who was pregnant at the time, a golf enthusiast, dressed up like a clown. She’s sitting barefoot on a stool, in front of a window, with a frying pan in one hand and a golf club in the other hand. The bottom of her apron reads, “I’d rather be golfing.”

I was lucky to find a Brunshwig fabric that had a circle of flowers for window treatments in the adjoining eating nook. The same fabric was the inspiration for hand-painted 12×12 “Fasar” tiles and a mural behind the gas cooktop and wok. The same fabric provided inspiration for three-dimensional custom stained-glass doors in the wall and pantry cabinets, created by an artist in San Francisco. He duplicated the flowers and butterflies beautifully! This kitchen was remodeled over 25 years before LED strip lights, so I devised a way to light the stained glass with automobile dome lights.

I had an itchy-twitchy feeling about this project, a feeling that I’ve had many times since that often precedes an accolade or award. A well-known architectural photographer took 4×5 pictures of the kitchen. Again, remembering Clarellen Adams’ advice, I sent press releases to local newspapers and magazines. No one was interested. Then I remembered a discussion with the editor of Kitchen & Bath Business magazine at a seminar I’d attended. She said, “We’re always interested in projects. Send us copies of photos and detailed information.”

First Major Accolade

Accolade Kitchen PantryI sent everything about the project to the magazine in April 1986. Five months went by and I was ready to give up until one of the editors called in mid-September. “We’re thinking about including your kitchen project in an upcoming issue. Do you have time to answer a few questions?” That phone call lasted for over an hour. I anxiously anticipated the arrival of the October issue. Nothing about the project. The November issue didn’t include my project either. “Okay,” I thought, “this project wasn’t good enough for such a well-known publication after all.”

In December, the first west-coast Kitchen-Bath Industry Show was being held in Long Beach. The huge convention hall was packed with hundreds of exhibits featuring the latest technology and design elements. Thousands of attendees from all over the country and several foreign countries played “bumper bodies” in the aisles, trying to see the exhibits. Kitchen & Bath Business magazine had a large booth at the center of the exhibits. As we approached, I saw a continuous row of their December issue displayed on every inch of the countertop. Then I saw the cover. There was my kitchen project!

The Impact of Awards, Accolades, Medals, and Prizes

Ever since that wonderful day in December, receiving third-party acknowledgment for a job well done, I know the gratitude that athletes feel when they win gold medals at the Olympics. Or how medical researchers feel when they discover a cure for an insidious disease. The pride and gratitude that Nobel Prize winners feel. How performers feel when they are given a lifetime achievement award. The over-the-moon joy that new parents feel.

This is how I felt when Autumn McGarr called in October. The inclusion in the Top 50 Innovators doesn’t mean that I’m better than anyone else in my profession. It’s an acknowledgment of commitment to excellence in all ways, at all times. An accomplishment, award, prize, or medal for one of us is a major achievement for all of us — inspiration and motivation to be better and do better. And use everything I’ve earned and learned to help my clients achieve their goals. It’s a wonderful upward spiral!

See a pictures of all Awards and Press that D. P. Design has received.  If you want to update your home with a home addition, a remodeled kitchen or bathroom, call today! I’d love to chat with you about your goals!

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.

© Copyright 2019 D. P. Design — All Rights Reserved. Rev. 1/21

How Can You Avoid Construction Horror Stories?

How can you avoid construction horror stories? You can do it! These are not the typical ghost stories you hear around a campfire. But you may have heard your family and acquaintances talk about construction horror stories at social gatherings.  Exceeding the budget. Not meeting the deadline. Contractors not showing up, or doing lousy work. D-I-Y disasters. In 35 years, I’ve heard and read about and experienced similar horror stories. What makes me sad is that most of the problems encountered could have been avoided.

Avoidable Horror Story: Wallpaper That Ended Up On the Floor, Not The Wall

I worked for a custom cabinet and remodeling company after finishing design school. It was fall and business had slowed down from the peak summertime projects. A couple in Half Moon Bay, California had been saving for years and hired my employer to remodel their master bathroom. I helped them make all the product decisions which included heavily-textured vinyl wallcovering. The husband worked swing shift at the San Francisco Airport and normally got home between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. Knowing that the project was winding down, he went into the bathroom to see what had been done when he got home from work. Later, I found out that he sat on the toilet for over four hours, watching the wallpaper slide down the walls like a slithering snake. When he called me at 6:00 a.m., it was easy to tell that he had a hard time controlling his anger.  What had happened?

I learned later that my boss had sent two of the cabinet manufacturing employees to install the wallcovering. They assumed that it was prepasted, and soaked it in water then applied it to the walls. The only thing that made the wallpaper stick to the wall was the heavy texture that acted like tiny suction cups! My boss had to replace the wallcovering, and hire a professional wallpaper hanger to redo the job that his employees had botched.  The homeowners were satisfied with the results, but not without frustration and hassles. They had done absolutely nothing wrong, assuming that my employer would take care of them in every way.

How to avoid this nightmare: Unfortunately, there’s no way for homeowners to know who a contractor has hired, unless they ask for a list of everyone who’s going to be working in their home. The important lesson is — whether it’s a contractor or a homeowner — don’t let the lure of saving money cloud an important decision that has a high probability of negative results.

A Ghoulish Tale About Lack of Communication

With my first client after establishing D. P. Design, I learned the importance of communication among the remodeling team members. The homeowners had a general contractor who they wanted to hire. They demanded to hire an independent electrician for their project instead of letting the general use one of his subs.  I didn’t realize until later what a problem it would create. The G.C. and the electrician refused to communicate. Everything seemed to be progressing smoothly until a heavy storm system rolled through our area. The day before, the electrician was penetrating the roof and running wires into the kitchen and didn’t tell anyone about the holes he’d created. The contractor called me to report that the new custom cabinets were all wet. He demanded that I call the electrician and the homeowners to report what had happened, to let them know that he wasn’t going to clean up the mess.

The homeowners were caught in the middle of a dog fight.  They demanded that the electrician pay the G.C. for cleaning up the job site and repairing the roof. Fortunately, the cabinets weren’t damaged.

How to avoid horror stories like this: Ask questions — lots of them! Discover if the contractor you’re hiring has employees and regular subcontractors. More important, talk with the contractor about tradespeople or suppliers you know. Be especially careful about hiring friends or family members to work on your project. These relationships have a high failure rate.

The Root of Most Construction Horror Stories: D-I-Y

In the past 35-plus years, I’ve heard and read about D-I-Y horror stories, and I’ve lived them firsthand. Often, the decision to tackle a project is driven by the need or desire to save money. But homeowners can also be lulled into a false sense of  “I/we can do this!” — especially after watching how easy a project seems to be on TV or videos on the internet.  My husband and I have had our share of construction horror stories. Most of these nightmares happened because we thought we could save money. We didn’t!

I’ve written about D-I-Y remodeling disasters before! Read this blog for more information! I’ve also written about the problems created by remodeling reality shows setting homeowners up for serious problems.

Floors are a BIG Challenge For D-I-Yers!

We had major problems refinishing the wood floors in our first home.  Looking back on it, we can laugh. But at the time, it was not funny. The first disaster was when we were refinishing the floors in a den adjacent to the entry hall that we intended to convert to a dining room. The oak strip floor had been covered with carpeting and needed to be freshened up. My husband did the sanding around the perimeter of the room. I decided to sand the middle of the room with the drum sander we’d rented, while he was at work.  Everything was going fine until I had to change the sandpaper and didn’t pay attention to how the metal plate held the sandpaper in place. When I turned on the machine again and started moving the sander across the floor, I noticed big chunks of the floor were being spewed out. The screws that held the plate in place were digging and carving the floor with every pass! There was nothing to do but pay a flooring company to extend the parquet from the entry hall into the dining room.  It turned out beautiful, but it was an expensive learning lesson.

Did we learn a lesson? Yes, and no. We didn’t make the same mistake when we refinished the floors in my home office, but that project turned into a horror story, too. After we sanded the floor, we decided to work together to apply the urethane. I was on my hands and knees with a wide brush intended for refinishing floors. My husband stood over my shoulder and carefully poured puddles of urethane that I then spread uniformly. So what was the problem? I noticed that no matter how hard I tried, there were millions of “fuzzies” in the finish. My husband was wearing wooly socks! We had to re-sand the floor and vacuum it thoroughly before applying the urethane. This time, my husband was barefoot! We got the results we wanted, but it cost more for extra days for the drum sander rental, plus more urethane. And it nearly tripled the amount of time we’d allotted to do this project.

A friend of ours had a floor refinishing disaster when he was doing repair and maintenance for his landlord in exchange for a lower rent. He lived in a beautiful Victorian three-story home that had been converted into apartments. Victorian homes are known for rich and ornate woodworking that includes heavily-carved wainscoting and moldings. Everything seemed to be going fine — didn’t we just read this? — until the drum sander stopped working. Dead. Then Ed remembered the age of the building and realized that he’d probably blown a fuse. So he went down to the electrical panel in the basement and verified that he had blown a fuse. Fortunately, there were spare fuses available, so he replaced the bad fuse with a good one. Immediately after the last turn of the fuse, he heard the drum sander come to life over his head. Although he immediately ran up the stairs, he was too late to stop the mess that the sander had created. It had bounced off the walls, tearing up all the beautiful woodwork, and dug a trench in the floor.

“Let’s Take Out This Wall” D-I-Y Near-Disaster

Homeowners called me to help them solve a problem they’d created. Empty-nesters with a five-bedroom home, they decided to convert a bedroom that was adjacent to their master bedroom into a sitting room. They bought or borrowed a sledgehammer, and on a Saturday morning, the husband started swinging the massive tool of destruction at the wall between the two rooms. After removing several studs, he heard the ceiling and roof creaking and groaning, and he could see the ceiling sagging. He realized that he was taking out a bearing wall! He immediately grabbed a hammer and nails and reinstalled the studs to stabilize the structure. When I met with the couple, we talked about what needed to be done: hire a structural engineer and a contractor so they could have the master suite they desired. It was relatively easy, and the end results were wonderful. They didn’t know what they didn’t know, and they hadn’t thought about everything before they started removing the bearing wall. They ended up replacing the carpeting in both rooms because they didn’t realize that there would be a gap where the wall had been.

Hints, How-To, and Tips for D-I-Yers

How To Avoid D-I-Y Disasters: Yes, it’s difficult. But not impossible! Before tackling any D-I-Y project, we need to research the logical steps involved and the tools required. We also need to read about other people’s experience with a similar project. The biggest challenge to overcome is our mindset.  What’s really driving the need to do the work instead of hiring a professional? There are many reasons why homeowners get trapped by D-I-Y projects, but the most obvious one is money, or the lack of funds to hire a professional. Before doing the work, think about how much you have for the project, and how much you think you’re going to save. Statistics verify that most D-I-Y projects end up being a higher investment than the budget allotted. Often, the actual investment exceeds what homeowners would pay a professional to do the work. Additionally, it usually takes three to four times as long for homeowners to achieve the results they think they want.

One of my first instructors in design school frequently said, “There are only two ways to pay for anything. You can take it out of your bank account, or take it out of your hide.”  Not all D-I-Y projects are disasters. Successful projects are most often done by people who know their strengths and weaknesses. My husband is an excellent tile setter. Slow, yes. But he takes his time to do it right and gets consistently straight grout joints. And he’s a master with a spray gun, whether it’s applying paint to a room or lacquer to cabinets. But I don’t let him lay his hands on rollers and brushes!  He’s also very knowledgeable about anything electrical or electronic. Because of his talents, we’ve saved a bundle of money over the years.

I’m going to be brutally honest. As a D-I-Yer, you’re not likely to achieve the same results that a professional would, in the amount of time it would take a professional to do the job. What is your time worth? Are you willing to live with a daily reminder of a botched job? My husband says this often, mostly in reply to a “honey-do” request: “If you want a professional job, hire a professional.” Here’s one of my favorite quotes that apply to virtually all construction horror stories:

The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

In Conclusion

What I shared with you is a very small sampling of construction nightmares that I’ve heard and read about. To satisfy curiosity before writing this blog, I did an internet search for “construction horror stories” which yielded millions of results. But reviewing the past 35 years in this business, the number of successes that my colleagues and I have achieved exceeds horror stories by a ten-to-one ratio.  To be perfectly honest, I believe that there are very few absolute successes and absolute failures.  The desire, the hope for success is what keeps us all moving forward.

Listen To The Podcast: Construction Horror Stories

I can and will help you with your home building or remodeling project! I truly care about helping you stay within a reasonable budget and achieve the best results possible. Contact me today! Let’s talk about your goals.

Recent Topics: An Astounding Mashup!

Recent Topic #1: Appliances

Recent Topics: Whirlpool Appliance, New ColorRecent topics are being revisited in this blog, starting with appliances. I was excited to visit the largest appliance store in Oregon, Standard TV & Appliance, to see the new Whirlpool “Sunset Bronze” appliances. They are elegant! The brushed finish is a warm gray, like nickel. I love the handles, which are a cool stainless steel color, blending the two metals perfectly! For my listeners in the greater Portland area, the Beaverton showroom at  3600 S.W. Hall Boulevard, is selling the floor models of the “Sunset Bronze” appliances at a fantastic price! The suite includes a french-door refrigerator, dual-fuel range and a microwave-hood. It’s difficult to hold my frustration at bay, though.   I really wish manufacturers would listen to professional kitchen designers and discontinue making microwave-hood combinations. They’re not safe, and they don’t provide good suction! Safety has to be the #1 priority in all home remodeling!

While I was there, my new dedicated salesperson, Christi, showed me the Dacor “Modernist” display with clean no-nonsense lines. Oh, it’s gorgeous! Their full line of products is available in black stainless steel or stainless steel. One of the many things I love about the new Dacor products is their Wifi integration. Christi showed me how the hood automatically turns on when she turned on the range. This is a wonderful safety feature!

Exhaust Hoods: Safety Features and Code Requirements

Here are safety tips I share with everyone:

  • Remember to turn on your exhaust before you turn on your cooktop.
  • Your hood should be 6” wider than your cooking surface. This gives you more area to collect steam and grease while you’re cooking, and it protects wall cabinets on both sides of the hood.
  • There should be 30” clear vertical space from the top of your cooking surface to the bottom of the hood.
  • You’ll need make-up air if:
    • You’re interested in a new high-BTU gas cooktop or rangetop
    • If your hood is rated at 400 cfm or more.

Your exhaust hood should be powerful enough to clear the air. But in today’s tight homes, you’ll have to add another source to maintain equal pressure balance inside your home. Your investment in make-up air will add $1,000 or more to your project. Make-up air is a code requirement in most states, and there’s no way to avoid it.

Recent Topics #2.1: Behr Paint Colors

Recent Topics: Behr Color Palettes 2020

Two weeks ago, I talked about color and paint. August is when major paint manufacturers start introducing their new colors for the coming year. Behr and Sherwin-Williams have announced their new color trends for 2020, and Miller Paint has introduced new colors, although they avoid the word “trend.”

The paint giant recently released a trend-driven collection of 15 shades they’re predicting will take over interiors in 2020. The collection is named Restore, Worldhood, and Atmospheric. The colors include a range of balanced neutrals and earthy greens to “lavish oranges.” In a recent press release, Behr said, “The new palette sources inspiration from the desire to engage with the world around us and restore balance in our everyday lives.”

Back to Nature delivers the most literal interpretation of the landscape around us. It includes soothing shades of green and blue, to “provide restorative qualities to encourage balance,” says Behr. Because of their calming, de-stressing effects, the shades within the Restore palette are great choices in a bedroom or home office.

If you’re looking for something a bit bolder, Behr’s Worldhood palette is your best bet that includes warm red, yellow, and burnt orange. The palette is reminiscent of electric sunsets and “natural rugged landscapes.” Try it in a room that sees a lot of guests, as the overall warmth of the shades translates to an inviting environment for hosting.

Behr’s Atmospheric palette delivers “new neutrals” in a collection that’s anything but boring. This palette is perfect for every room in your home, and you can choose colors from the other two palettes for accents.

Here’s a link to Behr’s new 2020 color palette: https://freshome.com/behr-2020-color-trends-palettes

Homes are a living example of the family that occupies them. Each family member -– each room — has its own personality, but every one complements the others, to create a unique, unified environment.

Recent Topics #2.2: Sherwin-Williams Paint Colors

Recent Topics: Sherwin-Williams Paint Colors 2020

On August 13, Sherwin-Williams announced its color palettes for 2020. There are five distinct categories for the new colors: Alive, Haven, Heart, Mantra, and Play. Here’s what Sherwin- Williams says: “The new 2020 Colormix Forecast palettes work to create restorative spaces for relaxing, recharging and inviting creativity. This forecast resonates with designers for its warm and nature-inspired palettes. In nature, it’s always right. The new palettes also bring a sense of joy. Whether your happiness comes from people, nature or spirituality, each palette evokes happiness. It’s about the balance of color and the striking shades of blue and the soft pastels throughout the color story.”

“With so much going on in the world, it’s important that we give ourselves space to escape and recharge. Using colors derived from nature provides us the connectedness and restorative powers that we need to tackle our day-to-day lives. This year’s color trend palettes foster focus and balance for mind, body and spirit — something most of the experts agree is needed in the world right now. 2020 is going to be a big year for everyone. We are starting a new decade, and it’s an election year. All of this change affects us, making us crave balance in our lives, so it makes sense that these palettes offer visual balance for our surroundings.”

It’s interesting that Sherwin-Williams created special mandalas for each color group, and defined each with positive influences:

Alive: Optimism, Authenticity, Glocalization*, New Local

Haven: Simplicity, Wabi-Sabi, Conservation, Material Health

Heart: Bauhaus, Bohemian, Fusion, Humanity

Mantra: Minimalism, Serenity, Scandinese*, Sanctuary

Play: Escapism, Humor, Joy, Energy

I love to learn new words! *Glocalization is the practice of conducting business according to both local and global considerations. *Scandinese (or Japandi) is the fusion between Scandinavian and Japanese design that are based on simplicity with a strong reference to nature, first introduced in 2017.

Here is the link where you can see Sherwin-Williams’ new 2020 color forecast: https://www.swcolorforecast.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/SW-Colormix.2020.pdf

Behr and Sherwin-Williams are large companies with big advertising budgets. By contrast, there’s a paint company based in the Northwest that’s my favorite: Miller Paint. The company was formed in 1890 by Ernest Miller, Sr., who purchased a stone mill and began manufacturing his own paint. I just learned that Miller Paint is employee owned. That’s a keystone to their success, and an important element of the company culture that’s both empowering and exciting. Love their logo: “Made here, for here.”

It was interesting to discover that Miller is the only paint company that talks about environmental commitment. They say, “Miller Paint was first in the market to convert our main line of interior products, ‘Acro,’ to a zero VOC product line in 1996. it has received rave reviews for its performance qualities. . . and demonstrate the company’s commitment to being an environmentally responsible manufacturer in the marketplace.” Most recently, Miller Paint started the move to FSC certified recycled content paper for their product literature. In their corporate offices and stores, Miller Paint recycles bottles, paper, cardboard and cans.

Miller Paint currently participates in two utility-based environmental programs: The Green Power program through PGE, which helps to fund renewable energy, and NW Natural’s Smart Energy program – a carbon-offset program that supports projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Miller Paint works directly with Metro, the directly elected regional government that serves more than 1.5 million residents in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, as well as the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area, to recycle unused or unwanted latex paint. Metro Paint is sold by Miller Paint. There is a great internal program for recycling and re-purposing latex paints into workable products. WOW!!!

Miller does have a palette of 15 new colors, the “Color Now” collection. They also feature a “color of the month” that’s in their ColorEvolution collection. Other paint companies use flowery marketing words and flashy advertising to sell their paint. But for a local gal whose family always used Miller Paint, this is what I recommend if you are thinking about updating your home’s colors. Here’s a link where you can get more information about Miller Paint colors: https://www.millerpaint.com/color-choice.html

New Topics #1: Homeowner Problems (and how to avoid them!)

Hiring A Contractor Without Checking License and References

I’m so grateful to homeowners for providing me with current topics to talk about! Last week, I had a meeting with a homeowner who told me that her husband hired a contractor to build a deck for them and didn’t bother to check the contractor’s license status or check references. You’re way ahead of me! Yes, the project went sideways, and the homeowners don’t have any way to get the deck fixed other than hire another contractor. She didn’t tell me how much money they paid for a lousy deck, but I’m guessing it was thousands of dollars. The bottom line? Always verify a contractor’s license, bonding, and insurance status. Ask for and check references!

Verbal Change Orders

Recent Topics: Change OrderI received an email from a client, telling me that the contractor verbally told her about change orders that amount to over $1,000. Change orders do happen, unfortunately. There’s at least one mystery story behind the walls in every home. Change orders (even small ones!) need to be detailed in writing before the work is done! Change orders should include:

  • Written description of the work to be done
  • Breakdown for materials with a subtotal
  • Breakdown for labor, including the number of hours
  • The markup or margin
  • Total for the change order

There should be a place for you to sign and date the change order. You should get a copy for your records and the contractor should keep a copy.

These incidents were a motivator for me to add more questions to the “Questions For and About Contractors and Designers” that’s available as a free download. Recently, clients confirmed that having and using the questions was a big help. Experience has proven time and again that honest communication and having up-front information will ultimately make your project go smoother, with fewer hassles and cost overruns.

Do you provide detailed written change orders for extra work before it’s done? (For contractors and designers)

Were detailed, written change orders given to you in writing before the work was done? (About contractors and designers)

New Topics #2: Why Hire A Kitchen Designer?

Last week, I received a link to a wonderful article in Better Homes & Gardens, “Why Hire A Kitchen Designer.” The article doesn’t specify, but the same information is true for bathroom design. If you’re thinking about remodeling your home and you’re on the fence about hiring a professional designer, this article will change your mind! I’ve been saying these same things, and more, for years. So good to read it from a reliable, trusted source!

After reading the article, I signed up to receive more information from BH&G, and learned that they have 11 sweepstakes for you to enter. The prizes are significant! For all of the sweepstakes, there are no purchases necessary, but you may get emails from the companies offering the prizes. That’s the way marketing works in today’s world!

In Conclusion:

Doing this “recent topics mashup” was fun! I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and hope that it will help you.  Did you catch the difference in emphasis between Miller Paint and the other two companies?  Behr and Sherwin-Williams use sales-oriented words and phrases in advertising to evoke an emotional response to nature, relaxation and balance. But Miller actively practices all of these concepts with their commitment to make our world a better place, starting with employee owners who really care.

Podcast: Recent Topics — An Astounding Mashup For Homeowners!

Listen now!

The topics in this blog are all an important to what I do, to help you achieve a successful building or remodeling project. I’m here to help! Call me today to talk about your goals: 503-632-8801.