Bathroom Remodel with Walk-In Shower in Yorktown Virginia

Our clients in Yorktown were ready for a change with their Master Bathroom.   They had originally designed the bathroom they had when they built the house in 1988, but over the years found that some of their needs had changed.

"Before" Picture showing vanity, soaking tub and shower
“Before” Picture showing vanity, soaking tub and shower

They no longer seemed to ever use the large soaking tub.  The shower was small and after 27 years the large step up into it (and out of it) seems a bit more precarious than it used to.

"Before" shot of shower that was too small with a large step to get in and out of
“Before” shot of shower that was too small with a large step to get in and out of

They had encountered the idea of a walk-in shower when on vacation while staying at a premium resort.   They asked us if we could build them one.

We removed the shower, the wall and the soaking tub and  went to work. The results speak for themselves!   The new shower is 7 feet long and 3.5 feet wide – that’s a foot wider than the standard home’s shower and 2 feet longer!  The controls are just inside the opening so that the owners can turn on and adjust the water without having to walk down to the end and get wet.  It has both a rain head and a multi-function hand-held shower head on a slide bar.  There is a half wall with a glass splash guard to allow the light to enter the bathing area.  The glass sits on a granite cap that was cut from the same piece of granite that the vanity top was cut from.

"After" Picture of walk in shower
“After” Picture of walk in shower

In addition to tiled niches in the walls for shower accessories it has two seats cut on a radius from the same piece of granite that the new vanity top and the cap on top of the half wall came from.

"After" picture of tiled walk in shower, half wall with glass and granite top on vanity.
“After” picture of tiled walk in shower, half wall with glass and granite top on vanity.

The floor was re-tiled.  A small custom made set of shelves was made for linen storage and placed at the opening of the shower area under the window.  The vanity was replaced.  The new vanity sports a new granite vanity top with undermount porcelain sinks.  The owners decided to change the one large vanity mirror to two smaller framed one with their own vanity lamps.  Only the toilet was re-used.

"After" Picture of new vanity with granite top, half wall with glass sitting on granite cap
“After” Picture of new vanity with granite top, half wall with glass sitting on granite cap

After the bathroom was painted, the owner changed her mind and had us repaint with another color.  It’s an owner’s prerogative to change their mind 🙂

"Before" Picture of worn vanity with acrylic top
“Before” Picture of worn vanity with acrylic top
"After" Picture of new vanity with granite top, new mirrors and new lamps
“After” Picture of new vanity with granite top, new mirrors and new lamps
"Before" Picture of vanity with acrylic top, toilet and tile floor
“Before” Picture of vanity with acrylic top, toilet and tile floor
"After" picture of toilet that was re-used, new tile floor, new vanity with granite top, new mirrors and vanity lamps
“After” picture of toilet that was re-used, new tile floor, new vanity with granite top, new mirrors and vanity lamps

 

 

Friends Don’t Let Friends Buy Flip Houses

Once again, the ever intrepid Brad Brinke of Pro Craft Inspection Services brings us another cautionary tale of horror and woe from inspecting a “flipped house” that a homeowner client wanted to buy and hired him to inspect in Virginia Beach!

A flip house is a house that someone (usually an investor) bought with the intent of selling and making a profit.  The usual method is to buy a house that is in poor condition and then make repairs and sell it in good condition.   However, that’s where the problems start.  If an investor wants to maximize his profit when he sells, then he is motivated to put the least amount of money into the house when fixing it up.  This oftentimes results in poor workmanship and the use substandard materials.

In today’s case, Brad found some pretty sketchy things when he inspected the Virginia Beach home’s electrical panel.

Brad writes: “Usually just see a double tap. This one wins the Internet. A quadruple tap and a triple tap in the same panel!”

We agree with Brad’s motto: “Friends don’t let friends buy flips”

flip house electrical brad brinke electric

It’s Better to be Better

“The word “better” has fallen out of fashion in America. It makes people uncomfortable. Ranking some things as better or worse is divisive and controversial. Saying that certain values are better can become a slippery slope to thinking groups of people are better, particularly one’s own. I am sympathetic to these arguments.

But that doesn’t mean “better” and “worse” should be eliminated from national discourse.

I believe that learning is better than ignorance. Right answers are better than wrong ones. Thoughtful engagement is better than unquestioning belief, and genuine understanding is better than blind regurgitation.

I believe reality exists independent of our perception of it. Critical thinking and the scientific method are the best ways humanity has to uncover its secrets.

I believe people have lived with great minds and great ideas. We are better for knowing them.

I believe running a mile in nine minutes is better than running it in 10. Running a mile in 15 minutes is better than not running one at all.

I believe hard work is better than sloth. Kindness is better than selfishness. Freedom is better than slavery. Duty is better than purposelessness. Responsibility is better than entitlement. Truth is better than mendacity. Flourishing is better than misery. Hope is better than despair.

Some values are better than others and, dare I say, no one creed or group has an exclusive claim to them. They are part of our human nature. They belong to everyone.

How many of us can say that where we work and what we do aspires to these ideals on a regular basis? I can. I do. I am proud of it.”

– excerpt from Barry Fagin, Professor of Computer Science at The United States Air Force Academy. Recently named Colorado Professor of the Year
full article here: http://gazette.com/fagin-air-force-academy-profess…/…/147359

A Letter to a College Classmate: Thoughts on Insurance Repairs

Tim,

I’m sorry I don’t work in your State, I would be more than happy to help you out with your recent “kitchen flood”.   Hopefully, I can answer some of your questions about the process you are going through from the perspective of a Professional Remodeling Contractor that has been involved in his share of insurance restorations over the years (Four Hurricanes to date, not to mention all the other things that “happen” to homes)

All flooring and drywall had to be removed because of water heater failing in attic
Water Heater in Attic Failed – all materials that could not be dried were removed

I’d like to start this discussion with a saying that my very close friends who are in insurance and I share: “99% of insurance adjusters and contractors give the rest a bad name”.  I have great friends in the insurance business who are ethical and honorable people. We all have very strong opinions on the matter and theirs are every bit as valid.  I hope they don’t get too mad at my opinions, here.

Insurance adjusting is done by an entirely separate department of the insurance company.  The agent has little to no interaction and the personal relationship between the agent and the customer is usually not in play.  The “Adjustment” or estimating the value of insurance losses has become “a game” in the home repair world.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the game stinks.

This is what your house looks like after all the moisture damaged materials are removed
This is what your house looks like after all the moisture damaged materials are removed

Insurance Adjustment for repairs is a silly game that some contractors refuse to play.  I know of ZERO Award Winning Professional Remodeling Contractors who specialize in insurance restoration or repairs.  All of us have to do them from time to time because crap happens to people we care about and we want to help our friends and neighbors.  The insurance “game” is so tedious that most of us contractors run from it.  Unfortunately, homeowners are the ones who suffer.   Here are a few of my thoughts from my experiences with insurance repairs:

There is no "refurbishing" a fireplace insert that has been damaged this badly. Replace it.
There is no “refurbishing” a fireplace insert that has been damaged this badly. Replace it.

I. Insurance Adjusters and Professional Contractors Estimate Projects Using Different Methods.

The insurance companies all use a program called Xactimate to estimate the cost of repairs. Without going into a long, boring explanation, suffice to say a legit pro can’t do the repairs for the amount that Xactimate allows for.  No builders or remodelers I know use Xactimate for their estimating  (I know a few contractors that specialize in insurance restoration that use it). Therefore, the homeowner is left with a few options:

  1.  Use the contractor the insurance company recommends. This is a contractor that has agreed to “choke down” the slop that the insurance company will feed them.  They believe they can:
    1.  Make it up on volume of work that the insurance company will graciously bestow upon them or play games with the Xactimate program to find hidden charges that the insurance company must eat.
    2.  Cut enough corners that they can lower their labor and material cost on the job in order to make a decent margin under the “fixed” price they have agreed to .
    3.  Needless to say, I am often called in afterwards to fix what the other contractor fixed…of course it’s a year or so later, out of warranty and out of the owner’s pocket.
      1. Case in point, here are the my office’s notes for my 4pm appointment today – “needs structural, electrical, and plumbing repairs. had a full renovation under insurance and it was not done correctly. needs it redone up to proper codes and standards”
  2. Get their own contractor and pay for the difference between what the insurance company will allow for and what the contractor will do the job for.
  3. Get their own contractor and fight with the insurance company to pay the right price for the right job with their choice of contractor.
    1. This happens to be the law by the way: The homeowner has the right to chose the contractor they want.
    2. But the insurance adjusters are adept at pulling the wool over the homeowner’s eyes. It usually sounds something like
      1. “We are committed to paying you for your full loss, Mr. Jones, but this contractor’s prices do not appear to be in alignment with the current market. I can bring in another contractor right now to do it for what we are allowing”
      2. Or my favorite: “It’s no problem, Mr. Jones. If you find that the repairs exceed what we’ve allowed after the job is complete just file a SUPPLEMENTAL claim.”  (Read: pay for it out of your pocket, go through this whole nightmare claim process again and we’ll send another guy out here to start all over.)
        1. The only way I’ve ever seen this work is when the homeowner stands firm about their choice of contractor and says “THIS is my contractor, I’m not using ANYONE else. THIS is the price. PAY IT.”
        2. Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t have enough trust & confidence in one contractor to stand up for themselves to the savvy insurance adjuster.
Flood damaged home's electrical panel
Flood damaged home’s electrical panel

II. The biggest problem: Adjuster and Contractor are not on same page as to the Scope of Work:

  1. For what it’s worth, I have learned a technique that works quite well when I have to compare an insurance adjuster’s estimate with mine.
  2. If you can imagine the two estimates usually come in quite far apart pricewise, which usually prompts the less “seasoned” adjusters and contractors to call each other “crazy” – basically because each of them are confident that they priced their project very carefully and how could anyone in their right mind be that far off??
  3. So, what I’ve learned to do is sit down with the insurance adjuster and say “let’s put price aside for the moment and just focus on:
    1. Scope of work – exactly what work is being performed in each of our estimates.
    2. Specifications – to what standards & quantities the work is being performed. (i.e. “install soaking tub”  vs. “install 6 ft porcelain on cast iron 89 gal tub”)
    3. Selections – what fixtures are being used for plumbing? What fixtures are being used for electrical? What type of tile?
    4. I have found that when the two estimates are lined up with those three things, the prices are almost dead even every time.
      1. How does this happen? Xactimate doesn’t work this way – it takes time and effort to develop an estimate with this detail.
      2.  Therefore, I know in the beginning, if the prices are way off, the two estimates are not pricing the same job (scope, specifications & selections).
        What kind of bathroom vanity will the insurance allow for?  What kind of sinks? What kind of fixtures? How do you know?
        What kind of bathroom vanity will the insurance allow for? What kind of sinks? What kind of fixtures? How do you know?

         

        III. Moisture –

        1. The good thing is that you had a remediation company come out to do the demo and dry-out and they probably documented the areas that had higher moisture levels. That documentation is critical towards getting the insurance company to agree to the scope of the work that is performed.  Anytime you need some leverage as to the adjuster agreeing to what moisture damaged areas should be removed and replaced, merely say “I’m fine with not replacing that as long as I get in writing from you that you are liable for any mold that may develop in the future.”
          1. The word “mold” strikes blind fear in the hearts of insurance adjusters. They will never take a chance on it.  Any liability to the insurance company because of their negligence will mean their job.
        2. If you had a flood and you have to demo the kitchen floor, it would be in your best interests to have an independent person get in the crawlspace and ensure that there is no additional hidden moisture damage or mold growth on subflooring, framing or any standing water.
          mold growth on AC ducts in crawl space due to water heater flood
          mold growth on AC ducts in crawl space due to water heater flood

           

          IV. Practical Money Tips –

          1. If there was ever a time you thought about improving or changing your kitchen, now would be the time to do it. However, a few tips:
            1. Settle the insurance scope of work and financial compensation with your insurance first. Don’t mix the “estimate to repair the old stuff” with the “estimate to change it”
            2. Keep the insurance company completely out of the discussion about any changes. Only speak to them about the cost to restore your home as it was with “like kind and quality”.
            3. Write a completely separate contract and detailed scope of work with the contractor about how the area will be changed, put back together and finished. It is as important to define what is “excluded” from their scope of work as it is to define what is “included”.
              wpid-IMG_20131202_202354.jpg
              This is Key

              V. Rules to Remember:

              1. “The faintest ink beats the best memory”
              2. “It doesn’t matter, until it matters”
              3. “Unmet expectations lead to friction and trouble.” (ensure all expectations are defined up front in writing)
              4. The most important decision you will make in this entire process is the selection of the contractor. The right contractor will make the process go as smoothly as possible, with the least disruption to your life and family as possible and provide you with a quality job with quality materials that will serve your family well while you live in the home and that will appreciate in value with your home and eventually pay for the job itself.
              5. Only the truly wealthy can afford the “low bid” contractor, because only the truly wealthy can afford to pay to have it fixed properly a second time.
Kitchen Remodel

The Most Popular Kitchen Picture of the Month!

Kitchen Remodel

We have a lot of fun on our Jim Hicks Home Improvement Facebook Page !   Our fans never hold back with their opinions on what they like, what they would do differently or which kitchen or bath they prefer.  We love hearing about it!

This picture was the most popular we posted in the month of February.

After a fair amount of research, we believe it was done by Greenview Homes in  Lincolnshire, Illinois. Can you guess why it was the favorite?  We think it’s because of the amazing unique perspective it was shot at!  It showcases this newly remodeled kitchen so well!  You can clearly see the hardwood floors, the backsplash,  the range and oven, the different colors of the base and wall cabinets (some with glass cabinet doors) as contrasted with the island, not to mention the different color granite countertops of the perimeter counters and the island.

Here’s another perspective of the same kitchen:

kitchen, remodel, yorktown

Many kitchens these days are installing skylights to bring natural light into the most popular room in the house, whereas this kitchen enjoys a skylight type tunnel extending down from a dormer window.  To supplement the natural light provided by the dormer window, the glass patio door and the window over the sink, the kitchen also has can lighting and a centerpiece light fixture.

If you like pictures of kitchen and other great remodels, we’ve got more than you’ve ever seen on our Facebook page!  You can visit by CLICKING HERE!

Have You Ever Felt Frustrated Comparing Two Estimates?

It’s difficult comparing estimates. I had to do it remotely once for my Grandmother in California for just a roofing project once and it drove me crazy, it was like comparing Apples & Oranges! I thought it’d be a piece of cake, after all I do this for a living, right?

My experience was, knowing more about what I was talking about only made evaluating each contractor and their proposal even more confusing. I had a real eye opener: “this is what my clients are going through??”clipart-blob-what-do-i-do-now

So, I feel your pain.

As a contractor, the only time that I really have to do this is when I am estimating a job for a client that has an insurance claim and the insurance company has sent an adjuster to estimate the project as well.

Over the years, I have developed a technique that works quite well when I have to compare an insurance adjuster’s estimate with mine.

If you can imagine the two estimates usually come in quite far apart price wise, which usually prompts the less “seasoned” adjusters and contractors to call each other “crazy” – basically because each of them are confident that they priced their project very carefully and how could anyone in their right mind be that far off??

So, what I’ve learned to do is sit down with the insurance adjuster and say “let’s put price aside for the moment and just focus on:
1. Scope of work – exactly what work is being performed in each of our estimates.
2. Specifications – to what standards & quantities the work is being performed. (i.e. “install soaking tub” vs. “install 6 ft porcelain on cast iron 89 gal tub”)
3. Selections – what fixtures are being used for plumbing? What fixtures are being used for electrical? What type of tile?

I have found that when the two estimates are lined up with those three things, the prices are almost dead even every time. Therefore, I know in the beginning, if the prices are way off, the two estimates are not pricing the same job (scope, specifications & selections).

Master Bedroom Dream Closet Design for Shoes in Yorktown

This was the most popular picture on our Jim Hicks Home Improvement Facebook Page this month!

This picture of a Master Bedroom Shoe Organizer Design was the most popular picture on our Facebook Page in October
This picture of a Master Bedroom Closet Shoe Organizer Design was the most popular picture on our Facebook Page in October.

This picture is of Master Bedroom Closet that was certainly done well, but this time it’s not our work.  We would love to know whose work it is to give full credit where it is due!

When I asked my wife how this picture became the most popular of the month on our Facebook page, she responded simply “Because it’s all about the shoes.  Women know we need shoes for every outfit. They make us happy when we’re sad. When we find a pair we like we need it in every color.  They always end up in a jumble on the bottom of the closet floor and this further complicates the need to rotate them seasonally.  The only thing that rivals our affection for shoes is wine…and no, you can never have enough black shoes.”

So, for your inspiration, here are some other shoe organizing ideas!

closet shoe remodel Lazy Shoe Zen by Rev a Shelf closet stairs shes practical shoe organization for mudroom shoes remodel closet shoes shoe organizing closet crown-molding-shoe-rack Space-Saving-Shoe-Rack-Womens-Shoes-Holder-2 dec-hode-shoecloset4-435 shoes in closest pull out drawers under stairs with shoes

Bionetics gives Jim Hicks Home Improvement TWO THUMBS UP

Recently were were fortunate enough to be able to help Bionetics Corporation in Yorktown with some of their tenant build-out needs. We felt really great when we received the following review on Angie’s List from the owner.
Description Of Work:
Built a separation wall, installed interior and firewall doors, provided electrical and data components, and provided the necessary HVAC.
Member Comments:
They were professional, courteous, and paid attention to detail. They were responsive to my questions. I would certainly recommend their services.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Brinke
Photo Courtesy of Brad Brinke

Bionetics

Mission in Newport News: Create One Large Garage Door From Two Single Garage Doors

Mr. Phillips had a nice large garage. His problem was he had two normal size doors leading into his large garage. Mr. Phillips felt the size of the garage doors restricted his use of the garage. That’s when he called us and asked us to create a single opening from the two smaller openings: create one large garage door from two smaller garage doors. It was a mission we happily accepted!
How did his garage doors look when we arrived? Here are the “Before” Pictures:
Garage Newport News

garage newport news

garage newport news, virginia
Then we got to work! Brick veneer had to be removed, a new structural header had to be added with posts and footers to carry the new load. The post that had been between the two garage doors had electrical lines running through it that had to be re-routed. The exterior light was relocated as a flood light mounted on the soffit.
Garage alteration in progress

garage alteration, newport news, virginia

garage, newport news, remodel
After the structural framing was complete we added new brick to match the existing, mounted the new insulated garage door and trimmed out the opening to match the existing trim on the house!
Finally we patched the concrete driveway where the post between the original two garage doors had existed for a crisp, clean look with a nice fit and finish!
garage, door, newport news

garage, door, alteration

garage, altered, newport news, virginia

We Love Receiving Emails Like This From Roofing Clients in Yorktown, Virginia

It’s great to get emails like this:
“Hi Sharon,

Everything was fine with the work. I must say that it is apparent that Justin Foreman is a key component to your workforce. He is great to work with, as are you. You have been most responsive with communications.

I did submit the Angie’s List review. I must verify it at my home e-mail address before it is accepted. Have a great day.”

The actual Angie’s List review was even better!
“Justin Foreman was the coordinator for this job and we had the pleasurable experience of working with him on a previous job for our home. He is highly skilled, knowlegable, and professional. The work went extremely well: the workers were prompt and left the work area immaculate. We would hire this company again.”

Here are some more articles on roofing:

Selecting Shingles for Price & Quality in Hampton Roads

What will it be like when they replace my roof?

Should I get a ridgevent?

A new roof in the Kiln Creek neighborhood

How to find a roof leak

Should you replace your leaking slate roof?

Only the lucky people see the leaks

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