The Klebs have an active family, which means they have boys who are athletes. These boys are athletic all over their home in the Running Man subdivision in York County! Mrs. Kleb needed a room, besides the living room, for them to “recreate”. So what’s the most cost effective way to add 252 usable square feet to one’s home for the purposes of a “rec room” or a “game room”?
In the Kleb’s case, the answer was in the top 8 feet of their two story living room ceiling. Here’s what it looked like before we started:
By converting the living room ceiling back to a one story ceiling, the space above was available to become …. wait for it…….the new 22 foot x 12 foot game room!
What was originally a balcony on the second story that gave a view of the downstairs living room became the doorway to the new game room:
But how did the downstairs turn out? Could anyone tell that the living room had not always had a single story ceiling? You be the judge:
Mark Lownik grew up in the the Running Man Neighborhood of York County. After College, his career took him to Connecticut where he met Jennifer and they started a family. In 2015, with his parents desiring to downsize, Mark found himself contemplating moving his family from New England back to the very neighborhood and to the very home that he had grown up in. We were referred to them in a quite round about fashion by a friend of a former client that had since moved to Florida. The circuitous route by which they found us proved to be a perfect introduction to a great family who proved fun to work with when we helped to bring their vision of their new home to life!
Mark & Jen Lownik had a unique opportunity to move back in to the house that Mark had grown up in but remodel it pursuant to a whole new vision. Jen envisioned removing a wall in between the kitchen and the den, remodeling the kitchen, installing new hardwood floors, removing and replacing the textured ceilings with smooth ceilings, re-designing the guest bathroom, laundry room and storage room and removing and replacing the stained trim in the house with new white trim.
Always Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing:
The key element to the entire project was the kitchen.
The cased opening between the existing kitchen and the dining room was so close to the corner of the kitchen that it did not allow for enough cabinet space. The doorway to the laundry room at the right end of the cabinets also limited how much cabinetry could be on the adjacent wall.
The existing kitchen in the house had a wall that separated it from the den (click on thumbnails for full size) :
Remove the wall to create an open floor plan, move both the opening to the dining room and the door to the new pantry area to maximize the amount of wall space that was available for cabinetry.
Where the wall had once existed, the view was now opened to the entire den:
Moving the openings allowed for much more base and wall cabinets:
(click on thumbnails for full size)
Rethinking the Garage Entry:
Another area that the Lownik’s wanted to reconfigure was the entry from the garage to the main house. The current entry was into the laundry room that also had a spare bathroom and a storage room off of it. (click on thumbnails for full size)
The existing floor layout looked like this:
We redesigned it to look like this:
Here are some of the pictures from during construction of the new pantry cabinets looking into the new bathroom area (click on thumbnails for full size) :
The Vision Realized
The final result was nothing short of a stunning transformation resulting in a completely different house at the same address.
Contrary to what Thomas Wolfe once wrote, Mark & Jen proved that you could go home again.
Oftentimes I am asked, “What is your process for Estimating, Design and Contruction?”
So I decided to outline for you (because I only want to be a blessing…)
I. House Call and Free Estimate
I meet with the owner at their property and listen to their vision for the project, take measurements and pictures.
I then develop a “conceptual budget” with a written scope of work to detail what I have priced (because the faintest ink beats the best memory).
II. Budget Presentation
Once the owner receives the estimate, they then have a good idea as to what the project is going to cost with the scope of work I have provided.
Oftentimes the owner will increase or decrease the project size to meet their budget.
The owner decides if they want to move ahead with a more formal agreement.
III. Written Agreements.
The initial deposit of any Agreement (contract) will be 1/3 of the entire Agreement amount.
The entire Agreement can include both the Design Phase & the Construction Phase or each can be contracted separately.
a. 90% of the time they are both included as part of the same Agreement
3. If the initial Agreement is the Design Phase only, the Agreement is Titled “Design Agreement”.
i. Design Phase
1. Drafted Construction Plans
a. During this phase our architect (designer) and I meet at the property with the owner and discuss the project as it now stands with the budget.
b. The architect (designer) will generate computer drafts of the project and email them to the owner.
i. This starts a back & forth revision cycle until the owner is seeing in the designs exactly what they want.
ii. This is all done under my supervision so that I am ensuring that all design changes can be accommodated within the stated budget.
a. During this time, we are introducing the owner to our suppliers so that they can make selections with the allowances in the estimate.
b. These allowances used in the initial estimate are now converted to actual prices.
c. That is, a $250 allowance for a toilet may become $180.43. The budget is adjusted accordingly.
i. Some selections that will have to be made during a typical project: Flooring, Cabinets, Paint, Plumbing fixtures, Lighting fixtures, Floor Tile, Shower Tile, Siding, Roofing.
3. Confirming Budgets for Construction Trades
a. Once the design and construction plans are finalized, I hold a team meeting on site for all the construction tradesmen that will be involved in the project (example: Plumber, Electrician, HVAC, etc.)
i. I provide each of them a scope of work, copy of the construction plans and a budget of how I estimated their trade.
ii. They are expected to view the plans, scope and spec, ask me and the owner any questions (electricians always have a lot of questions about light fixtures and receptacle placement) and send me confirmation or adjustments (with reasons) to their budget within 1 week.
4. Conclusion of Design Phase.
a. At the conclusion of the design phase, the owner has the following:
i. A design and set of construction plans that can be submitted to the City for a permit
ii. As many selections as have been made, allowances have been converted to hard numbers.
ii. A confirmed price from the Contractor to build the design with the selections the owner has made.
ii. Construction Phase
1. Pre-Construction Meeting
a. Director of Production conducts pre-construction job review and briefing on site with owner.
b. Topics covered will be communications, job site access, owners work hours, safety, scheduling, payments, customer expectations.
a. Each project will be unique, but as a rule, the jobsite will be left in broom clean condition at the end of each work day.
a. We collect 1/3 deposit upon approval of any agreement. Progress payments are invoiced on a bi-weekly basis on a standard AIA (American Institute of Architects) Percentage of Completion spreadsheet.
b. This allows us to show and discuss exactly where we are in the process of the project with the owner so that they understand what is going on at all times.
4. Job Conclusion
a. At a point we call “Substantial Completion”, the Director of Production will conduct a thorough walk through and inspection of the project with the owner.
b. Any and all incomplete or unsatisfactory items will be written on the Final “Punchlist”.
c. Once all the items on the Final Punchlist have been satisfied, the Project will be considered “Complete”.
These are screen shots of how the application screens will look and instructions on what is required for completion.
1. Under “New Application” : Enter Merchant #81052389 and Plan#: 3128 (NOT 9999 )
2. Select confirm when asked if you are a representative of Jim Hicks Home Improvement.
3. The requested loan amount and reference number is not required to proceed with the application. The customer can select continue to move forward to the next screen. Only fields marked with a red asterisks is are required to be completed.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.
Each week I go out to Joust Windmills! and by that I mean, meet with homeowners that have called and requested a free estimate for Home Improvements. We are making a better world, one home at a time!
Hopefully, the homeowners I meet will see us as the best value for their hard earned money, select our firm to perform these services and in them we acquire a client, a raving fan, and a new friend!
Sometimes my efforts are rewarded, sometimes I refer them to another firm that can serve them better, sometimes I get used and abused. No matter; I still go. I am reminded of what Don Quixote sang:
“And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star”
Foundation Repairs Needed in Hampton
Monday I went to Hampton to meet with an 88 year old gentleman that was concerned about major cracks going on in his ceilings and walls in his home. I asked him when the home was built he thought it was built in the 1930’s. I guessed 1968 when I checked Zillow later I saw that I had been built in 1969. He was very concerned about the structural stability of the home. I saw that this was probably a job for the good guys at FSI: Foundation Systems Incorporated. I called them on the phone and told them about what I was seeing and set up a time for them to come out and see the gentleman to evaluate his situation and give an estimate. He was concerned about the cost and if insurance would cover foundation issues. I told him I didn’t know about insurance but I answered all his questions about foundations and framing and how it would affect the cracks in the walls and ceilings. Nice guy, I hope everything works out for him. I know I left him in good hands with FSI!
Moving Walls in Williamsburg
Later that same day I met a great couple who wanted to remove some load bearing walls and make their kitchen and living room and open floor design. They had attempted quite a bit
of remodeling work themselves and were finding it just a bit more difficult then they make it seem on HGTV.
They wanted to replace all the ceilings in the downstairs with a flat untextured drywall because the previous owner had used a heavy stomped ceiling texture that made it look not unlike a Baked Alaska cake.
Heavy texture on ceiling can look like “Baked Alaska”
They also wanted to replace all the floors in the downstairs area which would include demolishing a mud set tile floor in the foyer, hardwood floors in the living room and dining room & a laminate floor in the kitchen
In the den, they had some faux beams across the ceiling that they wanted removed and new recessed lights put in, ceiling drywall repaired and then painted.
Upstairs the owner had tried to do some drywall finishing work in the bathroom until he realized that the extent of his skills did not include the “artwork” that is drywall. He wanted us to redo the drywall in the master bathroom.
On the rear of the house they had a balcony coming off of the master bedroom that they had previously removed.
Because of the Tudor style of the house the stucco was very damaged where the balcony had previously existed. They wanted a price for re-siding the rear of the home with Hardieplank lap siding.
My estimate for all of the above: $17,532
They also had a problem with their air conditioning ducts being extremely dirty and they wanted the air conditioning ducts cleaned.
This is the inside of an AC Duct
One of the problems that we noticed with the air conditioning ducts is that there was a commercial style insulation inside the ducts so I referred them to Chuck Worley with The House Call Company.
Leaking Windows in Norfolk
I went to Norfolk to take a look at a rental property that we had previously worked on in the past. We had found a roof leak in the past and that was due to a bullet that had lodged in the roof and created a leak. We also replaced the rear patio door that had been leaking on this home in the past. This time the leak was coming from a large window assembly and the master bedroom on the second floor. There was a large half round window that was mulled to two 3 foot wide single-hung windows beneath it. The mullion that attached the half round window to the single-hung windows was allowing water to come in during rainstorms. The permanent fix to this would be to replace the entire assembly (due to the fact we had no idea who the window manufacturer was or how to get replacement parts for the mullion). However, because of our long-standing relationship with the property owner, I was willing to try a “gamble repair” of just caulking the mullion in between the half round window and the single-hung windows on the chance that that might solve the leak. I told them it would definitely be a maintenance item and there be no warranty on it, but the cost savings would definitely be worth the gamble. They agreed.
Front Porch Addition in Hampton
I went to the Chesapeake Avenue area of Hampton to meet with a young Coast Guard man who was interested in building a front porch of his house. After discussing the different designs for the front porch, looking at what his neighbors had, talking about what he wanting to do and discussing his budget constraints, it quickly became apparent that he was not anywhere near the point where he really knew what it was exactly that he wanted. I referred him to David DiSpirito of Homesite, Inc. so that he could hire David to develop a design that he could then have priced. Otherwise, I could see us wasting a lot of time going back and forth and him never getting something that both he and his wife could agree on. He was pleased with that idea and then he asked me to come inside the house and look at some of the other remodeling ideas that he had that he wanted to do himself. We looked at the kitchen, we also looked at removing a load bearing wall in the 1940s era house and some of the opportunities and constraints that the current layout of the house had. It was a good meeting and we parted on good terms. Hopefully he pursues the design idea with David DiSpirito and we get a design in the future that we can price and get the opportunity to do some work for him
Vinyl Siding and Paint in Carrollton
I went to a siding estimate in Carrollton Virginia. A very large house that the owner’s husband had done a lot of work on. He had passed away just 18 months ago and it seemed like they were taking some of the life insurance money and doing a lot of repairs to the house. They wanted to install new vinyl siding on the house which is currently all stained cedar siding.
The owner was getting very frustrated with the carpenter bees attacking the wood trim and the siding. The bees were definitely “out in force” the day we were out there.
It was interesting to talk about her recently deceased husband having been in the Air Force and he had also worked in the career field that I had worked in in the Air Force.
The owner was very interested in what I had to say about the siding and my recommendations as to how to handle certain details on the home as opposed to what others may have said about the siding. It was interesting that she didn’t want to share what the others had said but I had wonder… it was almost like I was there for an exam!
One of the issues was that on the side of the house the siding had been run on an angle and other contractors had told her that vinyl siding could not be run at an angle (which I knew was untrue…I have since located the specification from the manufacturer that will allow for this.) So that was a point of discussion.
She had gutters on the house and some of the fascia boards had been wrapped with pvc coated trim coil at the same time as the gutters were installed and there was discussion about having Carefree Gutters remove the gutters prior to our start and replace them after we were done.
She also wanted many of the doors repainted on the house.
This video is a slide show of the dramatic before and after pictures of a home that was ruined by the faulting electrical wiring of a hot tub on the deck. Our team put it back together better than it was before.
I made this quick little slideshow to illustrate the before & after impact that a kitchen remodel can have, even when it’s done on a budget.
Here are two kitchens we recently completed with reasonably economic lines of cabinetry, Level 1 granite countertops, vinyl flooring, and stainless steel sinks. No walls were moved. These are what we call a “pull & replace” kitchen in the remodeling business.
I put together a video slide show of the images shown below that goes back and forth between before and after to give a different perspective:
Click on any of the images below for a larger view – you’ll have to click once to select the picture and then a second time to show the large size:
This is a kitchen we just finished in the Hidenwood neighborhood of Newport News, near Christopher Newport University and James River Country Club. We absolutely loved this project and our clients! If you’re interested in the complete list of everything we did on this project it is at the end of this article.
In the meantime you can watch the video slideshow or scroll down for the larger versions of some of the pictures so that you can really see the detail in each image!
Our Scope of Work for this Kitchen Remodel Project:
Demolish remove and dispose of:
Existing kitchen cabinets
Wet bar and wall cabinet
Existing sink and plumbing fixtures in both kitchen and wet bar
Existing trim on paneled walls
Existing cooktops and down drafts in both island and wetbar
Move HVAC register under toe-kick in base cabinet near dishwasher
Run new gas line to new cooktop location
Adjust plumbing supply and drain lines as necessary for kitchen sink and hook up new sink drain, attach disposal, hook up faucet, and attach dish washer drain line
Furnish and install new customer selected kitchen sink and faucet
KITCHEN FAUCET – quoted from Ferguson $209.62
LF 1HDL PO KITC FCT ARST 1.5 GPM
Furnish and install new customer selected wet bar sink and faucet
BAR FAUCETS -quoted from Ferguson $311.50
LF ALLEGRO BAR FCT 1.5 GPM
Hook up dishwasher supply line
Re-route ice maker supply line to new refrigerator location and hook up.
Our clients came to us with a dream for a sunroom addition where they could be comfortable and look out upon their gardens in which they enjoyed investing many hours and much care.
But how did it all come together? How did our clients progresss from concept to finished product? When we first met our clients they had clipped pictures from different magazines for inspiration. Each picture had a detail or an element they wanted included in their project. The pictures were very helpful in understanding the vision our clients had.
These are pictures I took of the magazine clips.
The rear of the house when we first saw it looked like this:
We commissioned Dave Dispirito from Homesite, Inc. for the design. Dave did a fantastic job of putting to paper the images our clients had in their heads. After several revisions to get it just right, work began on the room addition. (If you liked this room addition, you might also like this one: Family Room in Seaford)
First the footers were dug and poured:
The windows were custom made from Custom Vinyl Products with Low E/Argon energy efficient glass. The room was conditioned with a new mini-split air conditioner. The floor was tile. Interior lighting included sconces and ceiling fans with light kits.