Pump up your Home Remodel with a Renovation Coach

Browsing the news, a phrase caught my eye – “Renovation Coach“. What a marvelous idea! Personal coaching & training has been all the rage. So now you can get a coach for your home improvement projects?

I imagined a “Renovation Coach” as someone who calls you early on Saturday morning to get you back on the renovation horse when you’ve fallen off or have an unpleasant maintenance job to do. Or gets you up at 6am to go to Home Depot for those needed materials. Or trains you with that nifty new nail gun before you hurt yourself.

Well … not really. A Renovation Coach is the same as a “Renovation Consultant”, which although less catchy is every bit as useful. In 2007, the Renovation Coach or Consultant is an idea whose time has come.

Previously, I wrote posts about the rising number of DIYers needing to be bailed out by professionals. And interviewed online “Electrical Coach” Wayne Gilchrist. But it’s not only the DIYer using and needing this type service. People who are going to hire someone to do the job are also discovering the benefits of a little “renovation coaching”. This Old House goes so far as to call them “a new breed of therapist “.

“The thing about home renovation is that very few people have been able to practice for it,” says Irving, who honed his skills working on 33 whole-house projects in his 17 years with the show. “They get wound up and ner­vous, facing this potential money pit, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”

I second that emotion. An experienced Renovation Coach can help with …

  • setting goals or developing a vision for your large home renovation
  • determining the return on your renovation investment – Cost vs. Value or Move vs. Remodel – to help you decide
  • identifying the professionals you will need (like an Interior Designer) for a quality renovation
  • giving you a ballpark figure against which you use in evaluating quotes from contractors
  • navigating the building permit maze
  • a wealth of experience about products & approaches, pros and cons
  • negotiating or communicating with contractors during the process
  • planning and project management
  • Quality Assurance to ensure a job well done and up to code
  • mediation in disputes with contractors

And yes, he or she can even go shopping with you for building materials and supplies if need be.

Although they work on an hourly rate, and they usually don’t come cheap, the benefits of using a Renovation Coach or Consultant are numerous. They bring planning, project management and experience to both flesh out and ground your renovation ideas. The result? More understanding for you the homeowner. More control over the process and your budget. A successful project. An empowering DIY experience. And of course, a beautiful renovation. All you need to be “home improvement happy”. And put in that context, well … maybe they are therapists after all.

New time, money or energy saving products for your home

Interesting review of new products for your home from Newsday. Some I’ve seen, some I haven’t. The products highlighted are:

Read the full story 8 hot household helpers by Gary Dymski on Newsday.com

Biometric Deadbolts – Kwikset SmartScan Resources

KwikSet SmartScan, as profiled on The Arizona Republic

Curious about the new fingerprint deadbolt coming out in June from Kwikset? Kwikset bills it as the “world’s first residential biometric keyless entry system”. “Right now it’s the only one of its kind for residential,” said Leo Hancock, a sales manager for Black & Decker. “It’s the wave of the future.” Consumer Reports has a video demonstration, taped at the recent International Builders’ Show in Orlando, FL. Highlights from the Consumer Reports advance product review and other research:

  • easy to use
  • swipe to open
  • tap 3 times to lock
  • sub dermal finger scan – works with dirty fingers
  • programmable for 50+ fingerprints
  • lock out feature – temporary access at specific days and times
  • backup key
  • replaces a standard deadbolt
  • standalone – uses AA batteries
  • RF Technology
  • Grade-1 security

From the press release:

“Consumer acceptance of biometric technology is accelerating,” says Eric Lundquist, director of brand marketing for Kwikset. “It is currently available on portable hard drives and IBM ThinkPad computers, as well as in grocery store checkouts, gas stations and automobiles. Biometrics is an emerging technology that gives consumers an increased level of home protection and peace of mind.”

Kwikset’s SmartScan is specifically designed as an effective, yet stylish alternative to the bulky, undistinguished industrial biometric security systems currently available. It delivers a sleek, attractive designer look and feel, with its biometric fingerprint reader stealthily integrated into the overall design. SmartScan is available in a variety of finishes, which carry a lifetime anti-tarnish warranty. SmartScan…it puts security and convenience right at your fingertips.

More preview information can be obtained directly from Kwikset’s website, www.kwikset.com.

DIY Part 2 – Doing It Right & Avoiding Mistakes

Ok, so you’re ready to do it yourself. And do it right. As noted in DIY Part 1, DIY success depends on a lot of things, the most important being knowing your limitations. Remember, you are replacing a professional contractor who brings knowledge, skill, experience, planning, project management, the right tools and the right materials to the job. If you don’t have these things, then you need to figure out how to get them – fast – before you start.

Step 1 – Do Your Research

What does the project involve? Get a book or read articles on the internet – there’s tons of free stuff online. Videos too if you’re not a big reader. Talk to friends and acquaintances who’ve done it before. Or consult a professional. Or help out on an experienced friend’s project before taking on your own. Make notes.

Step 2 – Planning

What products & materials will you need? How do you use them? Again, research is needed. Maybe a day seminar or two at your local big box store. It’s important not to skimp on materials. Don’t use 1/4 ” drywall instead of 5/8 “. Use at least 3/4 ” plywood for subfloors. Cheap tile will probably crack. Don’t plan to finish your plumbing repair with duct tape – it will probably leak.

How much will it cost? Don’t underbudget. Figure out how much you think it will cost then multiply by 3. Include all the incidental items (nails, staples, tape) because they do add up. Plan on 15% waste on materials. The extra padding will give you a little room for the unexpected …

Do you have the right tools? Will they stand up to the punishment if the work is heavy duty? You may have to beg, borrow, rent or buy. This is a big one; if you don’t have the right tools, it can take you a lot longer to get the job done, and undermine your self confidence.

Do you need a building permit? This would be something you’d need to ask if you’re making structural changes to your home. You’ll may have to phone your city government’s building department if it’s not available on their website. It’s better to err on the side of caution and get the permit. An inspector can help you by ensuring the work is done correctly and to code. Also, if it is discovered later on work was done without a permit, you might have to rip it all out and start over.

Do you have a written work plan? Put together a checklist of everything you’ll need at the various stages to ensure your renovation keeps on track. You should also write down step by step the tasks you’ll need to do to complete your DIY project, including the specific order and “wait periods” (for things to dry, etc.).

Do you have a backup plan? Or resource to ask for help? Another big one. Make sure there is someone you can contact for help if you get in a jam. This could be a handy friend or family member, or a professional Renovation Advisor.

How long to finish? You need to set up a timeline or schedule, especially if it’s a longer project.

Step 3 – Prepare your Job Site

Do you have everything you need? Make sure materials are protected if you will be working outdoors. Make sure all the materials have arrived before starting.

Are you ready to work safely? Take all the necessary safety precautions. Don’t wear loose clothing or jewelry. Wear goggles when cutting or sawing materials. Turn off the main breaker when working with electricity. Don’t stand on the top step of the ladder. I know it sounds obvious but 164,000 people end up in hospital emergency rooms for ladder-related injuries every year for a reason.

Step 4 – Prep Surfaces (if needed)

If you are doing any kind of surface refinishing, you will need to prepped properly. Walls need to be cleaned, patch, sanded, and primed before painting. Wood floors, decks, driveways – same idea.

Step 5 – Work Your Plan

Follow the steps in your work plan. Make sure you take your time. Measure twice, cut once; it’s better for something to be too long (you can always trim it again) over too short.

Step 6 – Clean Up & Disposal

Dispose of any hazardous materials responsibly.

Step 7 – Relax and Enjoy

No instructions needed here :)

Home Improvement tips for 2007 from the WSJ

Read Strategies to make 2007 a little easier for problem-solving around nuisance home improvement projects and recycling electronic equipment in your community.

Home Improvement Zeitgeist – Managing Your 2007 Resolutions

Zeitgeist: “the spirit (Geist) of the time (Zeit)

Do you have Home Renovation Resolutions for the New Year?   According to myGoals.com, about 7% of us do.  This is up from last year and reflects an increased interest in improving our homes over buying them.

The home improvement and real estate category’s share of resolutions jumped from 5 percent for 2006 to 7 percent for 2007, according to myGoals.com. But for 2006, 30 percent of all real estate-related goals were to buy a home and 45 percent were to improve a home. For 2007, that has shifted to 9 percent focusing on buying a home and 64 percent on improving a home.
Greg Katz, Desert Morning News

So how do you stay on track with your home improvement and other resolutions?  According to myGoals.com, planning is the key.  You need to:

  • set & record your goals
  • create your plan within the next couple of days
  • record your plan
  • stick to your plan (work that baby!)
  • be ready to deal with unplanned events as they arise

Now that’s not news, that’s just common sense.  But why do so few of us succeed at something that seems so simple?  It’s because most of us don’t record them or come up with a concrete plan.  Without the recording and planning in the next few days, you won’t  remember to “revisit” those goals and work the plan on a regular basis, you’ll likely just forget your resolutions entirely.  This is where a service like myGoals.com can help you stick to your resolutions by providing pre-built planning templates to get you started and by “providing email reminders that arrive when it’s time to work on a given task”.  The service is not free but it’s a lot cheaper than the project management software I use routinely (BaseCamp) to basically do the same thing.  The question you have to ask yourself is “What is the value of achieving my goals?”.

Are there any alternatives?  Well, there’s 43things.com, the fab free Web 2.0 / Generation Y version of this concept.  I couldn’t find any lovely (read: boring) stats about home improvement goals but the related tags on the home page were “buy a house” or “buy a home” and they were pretty small, proportionally reflecting the concerns of the younger demographic overall.  As for the service, you get the reminders but the planning ability is limited in terms of organizing and ordering your tasks under your goal.   I am also concerned about the presentation of a straight list of “43 things” which is a bit much from a managing complexity point of view.  2 words people:  “Mickey Mouse”.

The most telling thing about this site?  The link to “Share insights about how to use 43Things to best advantage, how it can be an aid to accomplishment, not a distraction”.  The key word here is distraction.

In looking at the options out there, as much fun as 43Things.com could be, a service like myGoals.com is the better bet for getting results with your resolutions, especially if they are complex and require multiple steps.  myGoals.com offers planning templates, constructive advice, practical tips, and few distractions.  If anything, I think the site would benefit from a social networking / support angle but it isn’t necessary.  Social networking may be trendy, but if you’ve got enough on your plate balancing home, work and family and plenty of friends in real life, it’ll just get in your way.

Happy planning (not Best of Luck) in 2007!

Automate your Home Maintenance To Dos in 2007

Ah the holidays, a time relax and reflect.  On Boxing Day, I was so relaxed it dawned on me that I had not shut off the water valve to the tap outside.  I was stunned.  Visions of frozen pipes and blow dryers danced before my eyes!

Now how did that happen?  I think it’s the speed at which we live our lives.  There’s always more to do, more to remember, and not enough time.  So what to do?  Well, I found some pretty nifty home maintenance planning tools at ServiceMagic.com to help you manage your home throughout the year.  I hear you.  “Who wants another To Do list?  I’m not going to remember to check the site etc.”

Ah well – that’s the beauty of it, you don’t have to go check the website or remember much of anything.  This is (almost) 2007 and you can sign up for an rss feed to the calendar.   So significant Home Maintenance To Dos and reminders get sent to your news reader or browser desktop “just in time” – automatically.  Service Magic’s, Calendar of Home Improvement To-Do’s

Check it out.  Not all the tips are going to apply to everyone (and some sound like thinly veiled attempts to generate leads for ServiceMagic) but even so, it’s still a valuable service that will help keep your home renovation & maintenance efforts top of mind throughout the year.

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