Life-changing Values Manifesto

Sometimes we hear something that speaks to us and for us. Read on to discover what happened to help me create my “Values Manifesto.”

Did you see the Grammy Awards on Sunday? I turned it on because I’m a raving fan of Jon Batiste. He was nominated for multiple awards and ultimately won 5 Grammys. His acceptance speech for Album of the Year (“We Are”) choked me up. Here’s what he said, “I believe this to my core: There is no best musician, best artist, best dancer, best actor. Music is more than entertainment for me, it’s a spiritual practice.” He ended with, “Let’s just keep going.” “Be you.”

Definition: Manifesto

Webster’s Dictionary defines a Manifesto as a written statement publicly declaring its issuer’s intentions, motives, or views.

Values Manifesto - Not the bestValue Manifesto: No Best

Doing my best always in all ways, but I never call myself the best.

 

Values Manifesto - SpiritualityValue Manifesto: Spiritual Practice

What I do every day goes beyond a job or even a career. Helping people achieve their goals is uplifting and inspirational.

Values Manifesto - Keep goingValue Manifesto: Keep Going

Challenges, obstacles, and problems are opportunities to think about where we are and want to be. Of course, we may have to pause or stop to be mindful. But the hesitation lasts only long enough for us to change our course or decide to stay on the same path.

In my 37-year career, I’ve had many challenges, obstacles, and problems. But loving what I do so much, giving up is never a viable option. I’ve made many mistakes along the path and felt like a failure. In reality, though, feeling like a failure – or “less than” is a negative narrative in my mind. It happens when I compare myself to others or believe someone who compares me to others.

Values Manifesto - Be YouValue Manifesto: Be You

Some people find their voice early in life. It’s taken me a lifetime to discover who I am. Here’s what I’ve learned: Don’t say or do things just to please other people. Instead, spend quality time discovering what matters to you – your values. Stay true to your values. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it or say it.

Recently, I read Mark Schaefer’s book “The Third Rebellion.” It’s an excellent argument for everyone — especially businesses — to be more human, compassionate, and empathetic. Technology should be a tool, not the end-all, be-all that it’s become.

While reading the book, I realized why I’d resisted expert marketing advice for years. “Experts” say I must develop a list and send emails to that list at least once a week. The messages are often called a “Nurturing sequence.” They’re also referred to as a “Sales funnel.”

I don’t like being on someone’s mailing list and receiving frequent messages. They may seem interesting, but I know the ultimate goal of the sender is to sell me something. It’s manipulation. Mr. Schaefer cites statistics about how unpopular frequent emails are for the recipients.

Why should I create and send manipulative messages frequently? Why should I follow the advice when it doesn’t align with my values?

So I decided not to send “sequence” or “funnel” messages to anyone. Instead, I am developing a page on my website that’s a newsletter. It may be a synopsis of recent blogs or a subject inspired by articles, comments, and questions. It will be short, 300-600 words maximum.

Values Manifesto: Synopsis

I intend to honor Jon Batiste’s words and Mark Schaefer’s advice:

1) I will continue to be the best and provide the best service, but I’ll resist calling myself the best.

2) I will continue my spiritual practice: Provide Homeowners with the best information about kitchen and bathroom remodeling and home additions. Offer the best services humanly possible.

3) I will be faithful to my values of listening intently, understanding empathetically, and responding compassionately.

4) I will respect everyone but reserve the right to disclaim anyone whose actions are not respectful of all people, animals, and Mother Earth.

I want to hear and read your comments, and I want to engage in open communication — whether it’s about this post or your remodeling project. Comment below, or contact me at diane@dp-design.com

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.

Leave your comments below! Thank you!

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.