Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Post the 9nth- What to Expect When You're Expecting : How Communication (or lack thereof) can impact the project at the beginning stages

It's not easy to see the finished product when nothing is there. Drawings, sketches, crayon-on-cardboard, can all help, but until all finished items are installed/painted/grouted/caulked etc, there's really no way to have the full visual impact. The last thing I ever want to hear from a client is: "I thought it would different, more like this",(then picture the client holding a picture taken from a magazine). This is why communication with your renovator, and vice-versa, is important right from the start (I will discuss Designers next post). A great renovator should be, from the very first visit, asking what overall "look" you'd like, an example of materials you'd enjoy, as well as how you'd like the space to function. This goes for bathrooms, kitchens, basements, decks, fences, etc. At the same end, you should have an idea of these same issues before you have quotes done. Take pictures, check out websites, rip out magazine pages, etc. Not only will this help to design the space/functionality, it will help in putting together an estimate, ie different materials can require different installation practices and materials, and all can have various costs associated. For example: ceramic 12x12 wall tiles for a shower is easier and cheaper to install than 12x24 granite brick-pattern tiles. A great renovator should also know current styles, general colours, and materials being used. I am not saying that they are designers, but a renovator that does more than one bathroom a year will be seeing trends and noting them for the next client.

The time to inquire, email, text, and meet with your renovator, is more important PRIOR to any work beginning, rather than during, or after. Samples of materials, colours, finishes, etc, should be discussed, on site, and decided.  What will go where, at what height, what pattern, how will things tie together, how to merge existing with the new, are all examples of things you should consider, and discuss, during the selection process.

Now, in saying all that, it's very difficult to have all the i's dotted and t's crossed when you are considering which renovator you will be hiring, or even during the project itself. So keeping in mind that materials and designs all impact the overall cost, makes it easier to drink that bottle wine if your renovator comes to you with an additional charge, because you decided on granite tiles vs ceramic, for example.  Ask why there would be an additional charge, so you can know what it is about that material/design that impacts the budget, so you can be prepared for the next renovation, or a change to the current one.

Changes are common, don't be afraid to inquire, but try and do so in opportune times, for example, before tiles have been grouted, or before drywall has been installed. You should be taking a walk-through everyday on your project to make sure it is what you want, and what you are paying for. Ask questions when you have them, learn about why processes go in which order, and know what the next phases are.

A renovators job is to be 5 steps ahead, and it is good practice for the client to be on the same page. You don't have to know every little detail, but you should have a general idea. For example, you should know that after the framing is the rough-in plumbing, so where the toilet and vanity will be situated should already be planned. You, however, should not have to worry about things like how far from the frame should the 4" sewer line be, or how high the supply lines for the vanity should be. That's for the renovator to worry about. If you are curious though, ask away.  It's our job to keep you informed, much as it is for you to keep us informed. If everyone is on the same page, the work environment is a very calm and manageable one for everyone :)

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Post The 8th - Sticky Situations

Post The REAL 8th
Sticky Situations - Is the Honeymoon Over?

Yes, it can feel that way sometimes, even for me, let's be honest, we're all human, we all make mistakes, I certainly have in the past. Maybe it was forgetting the proper tool needed, a general "what-else-is-going-to-go-wrong" bad day, Tim Hortons was closed, an unsatisfied employee who simply doesn't care anymore, or your toddler puked into your open tool bag that for some reason you left at the front door, and open.  For whatever reason, mistakes happen, however, the specifics of a mistake, in the end, is not the real issue: how the problem is dealt with, is the issue.

When you undertake a larger project, such as a kitchen renovation, there are an incredible amount of details, and only very seasoned renovators are experienced enough to handle one from start-to-finish. Sure, it sounds easy, you know, take out old cabinets and counters, install new ones, throw on a backsplash and you're done. Right? Definitely not. Proper space design, precise measurements, exact fixture location, incorporating new appliance specs, upgrading electrical, sizing venting requirements, are just the tip of the iceberg in a full kitchen reno. There are also, in conjunction, many ways to make mistakes, and one simple measurement flaw, can literally change everything.

For example (and in my pursuit to be honest and transparent, this was a real-life examply), say your fridge is against a wall, and cabinets on the other side. It's not good enough to simply know the size of the fridge, you must also know the opening dimensions and angles, the size and depth of the handle, the interior drawer compartments and their function, swing of door, etc. It would be a terrible thing if you're so happy with the results, work had been smooth, everything looks amazing, the fridge is put into place as the finishing touch, and you come to the realization that when you open the fridge, the door only goes so far because you're hitting the wall. You can't open your vegetable drawer, and you can't take out your ice-maker fully to clean it. What now?  Who's to blame? Who screwed up? The contractor should have known to have had the foresight, the cabinet maker should have inquired, the client should have given the specs. The blame game can be played for years. If it makes you feel better blaming someone, then so be it, but that's not the healthy way to eat the problem.  Here's some tips:

1. Keep calm, take a deep breath, and realize that the fact that your fridge door doesn't open enough to function 100% is a First-World-Country problem and we should all be so lucky that this is the type of problem we deal with in our life. I know, it sounds cynical, but it's true. Only having a $100,000 budget but wanting $120,000 worth of work is really not a problem we should ever be stressing about.
2. A meeting between the cabinet maker, the contractor, and yourself is key, made in a time where all 3 parties can devote more than 10 minutes of uninterrupted discussion (I know, sounds easier than it is, but it's important). Being on-site allows measurements to be made, and full-impact decisions to the rest of the space.
3. Be open to all suggestions. Discuss each option fully (if there is more than one). Most likely, it is the renovator and/or cabinet maker that will foot the bill for at least the labour portion, so try not to go overboard with ideas that could cause a larger change to other areas, don't take advantage.
4. Remember that you are a part of the solution too, as it's you that has to live with it, so be firm in your decision, and make sure you won't be losing functionality elsewhere.
5. Be creative, and open to creativity. In the end, you may actually get something better.
6. Be nice. Renovators and trades deal with amazing amounts of anxieties and stress, it's a very mentally challenging career. The one thing that I value most in a client is the WAY they communicate, much less with WHAT they communicate. This leads to WANTING to solve the problem, rather than HAVING to solve the problem.
7. In business, the adage is that all relationships end the way they begin, regardless of the middle, so how a problem is initially approached, is how the solution will feel for you when complete.
8. It is my job to solve problems and fix things. That's what I do. If everything went perfectly all the time I would be sitting on a beach in Cannes year-round. A great renovator is one that understands that. When issues do arise, it it very hard sometimes to stay calm and cool, so keep in mind we're putting in great effort to have a smile to keep you happy, so it's good to try and do the same in kind.
9. Most important: focus on the solving of the issue as a separate entity from the overall project. There may have been little glitches along the way that you may still remember. Just like in a marriage, one of the worst things you can do during an argument is bring up past problems or feelings that are most likely unrelated to the current argument.  It doesn't solve anything and will make it worse.

Here's how the real-life issue came to a very happy ending:
When the cabinets were installed, the new fridge had been in the living room. It was designed to have the fridge at the end, with a wall on the left, and cabinets on the right. It was the clients who brought to my attention that they had a concern with how far the fridge door would swing against that wall, and what affect it would have. They were correct, that although the door would open 90 degrees, the storage shelves on the door made it difficult to take out the vegetable door or ice-maker to clean properly. So we met with the cabinet maker to discuss options. The solution was to shift the cabinets 6" to the right, which would now allow the fridge door to open farther to achieve the goal.  But now we'd have a 6" gap, what to do? Just put in a filler piece? Sure, that would work, but now there's 6" of wasted space, and in a kitchen, that's a mile. Now, because of the layout, there was not much option to have a nice storage space for flat baking trays and cookie-sheets. So instead of a filler piece, we built a 6" wide pull-out pantry style cabinet, floor to ceiling, that had enough room on the inside to place as many sheets as one would have. This was not the first idea or solution offered, but after a few days of review, this was the best one all-around. The important aspect of the entire process was that the clients approached me in an amazingly calm and relaxed way. At no point did anyone feel stressed about the situation, which lead to a very good, creative meeting which made the cabinet maker and I WANT to solve the problem, which is why the pantry idea came to fruition. This was a perfect representation of numbers 4,5, and 6 above.

Hope this will help you in the future! Lots more to come! Remember to always comment, like, share, tell everyone you know! :)
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