Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Screen Addition for Cats

This custom screen porch addition was designed with the owners and their cats in mind. 
They wanted a screen porch that would be accessible to their cats, but didn't want to block the sun from their inside living areas.  Check out our solution!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving...Brought to you by the Kitchen Remodel


Apple pie, mashed potatoes, all those things we typically avoid like the plague, for one day, and one day only (yeah right), they're back in play.

Your family comes stomping into the kitchen entrance, ooh-ing and aah-ing about the aroma of turkey and stuffing. You crack open the oven and peek in on your perfectly browned bird. The leftovers will be phenomenal. So much for one day.

Aunt Elsa waddles into the family room and plants herself on the sofa--it's where she'll spend the majority of the holiday. The kids run "the circle" around the kitchen, dining, and living room. Someone breaks out the Euchre cards, while grandma whisks the gravy into liquid gold. Over the background sounds of the Macy's day parade, your cousin leans on the new island to dish on her latest love interest. It is here that you realize none of this would have been possible if you hadn't made the decision to remodel your kitchen.

It's almost impossible to remember yourself in that previous place with the orange counter tops and dark wood cabinets. Your old stove had only two working burners (because you knew you would eventually remodel), and your noisy, energy-hogging refrigerator occasionally leached water onto the floor. You had to juggle around just to pour a bowl of cereal. You look around at your new, functioning appliances--it seems like a lifetime ago.

Aunt Elsa calls from the family room. She wants a stuffing sample. Your cousin rolls her eyes but grabs a fork-full with a smile. You hear your teenager laugh from the rooms upstairs. Suddenly, you realize you are right where you want to be: standing in your kitchen, cooking and entertaining for your family in your home.

It was a good decision, and the added bonus? You get to watch the game you want to watch.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Horrors

The phone rang earlier than usual that morning. It was still dark outside.

The voice on the other end crackled to life. “I’m not sure if you can help me…we seem to have a problem with our house.”

“What type of problem?”

“The ceiling upstairs is cracking and the windows on the level below won’t work.”

“Do you have any idea what might be the cause?”

“We just bought the house not that long ago. We found a leak in the basement, but that can’t be it…can it?” I could feel her uncertainty from where I sat at my desk. Nothing is scarier than having a problem with your house and no idea of the source.

When plumbing leaks, the plumber points to it and gives a price to fix it. When a light stops working, the electrician gives the homeowner a price to fix the wiring. When a ceiling cracks, it could be any number of things.

“I’ll dispatch someone right away,” I said, hanging up the phone to call our carpenter.

I called the homeowner back, “He’ll be right over.”

The homeowners watched from their window as he pulled the truck into the driveway. He grabbed his clipboard, camera, and a few tools. Before walking to the door, he looked up at the towering house. A modern construction of gables and pricey trim, the expensively crafted rooflines complicated the picture. A gust of wind swirled dead leaves around his feet. It would snow soon. The front door eased open, and Mr. Homeowner stepped out to explain the situation.

The family walked our carpenter through their beautiful home: floors carpeted with the highest quality coverings, granite countertops, and glossy bathroom fixtures right out of a magazine. Everything seemed in order. No, it seemed better than in order. Everything was perfect. But something lurked underneath it all-- something waiting to cost the family and untold price.

“You said there was a leak in the basement?” Our carpenter asked the fidgeting homeowner.

“Yes,” he admitted. “I don’t think it could be the problem though. That’s all the way in the basement.” He met our carpenter’s eyes, hope leaching out of his expression with each passing second.

“Let’s take a look.”

They eased into the dark unfinished space. A fluorescent light flickered to life. The homeowner pointed to the dried evidence: a ring on the floor.

Our carpenter bent, reaching down, testing the concrete for dampness, the wall for fissures. He ran his hand up along the rough, unpainted, poured wall and felt his way into the dark cavity above. The insulation melted between his fingertips. He brought his hand back, rubbing the mildew laced water onto his jeans. The homeowner took a step back.

“What’s that?”

“Not sure.” Our carpenter grabbed a flashlight out of his tool bag and shined it into the dark, cavernous space. He pulled out the obscuring insulation. Accompanied by a sodden slap, it dropped to the floor in a soggy, pink heap. He reached in again, glancing back to the homeowner before pulling his hand out.

The support structure of the house crumbled, wet, into the palm of his hand. The towering home above was disintegrating, deteriorating to a pulpous sludge. The ceiling on the second floor was cracking because the house was sinking.

The homeowner paled knowing the fix would cost him dearly. His wife called from the top of the stairs.

Our carpenter had to say it. He had to say the one thing every homeowner dreads. He could fix it, and he could give him an estimate, but the final bill would be based on Time and Materials.

Mrs. Homeowner covered her mouth and turned away. She busied herself with the children, coloring at the kitchen table, blissfully unaware of the horror brewing just a few feet away.

“I guess we don’t have a choice,” Mr. Homeowner said. He closed the door behind our carpenter who promised to return the next day.

The next morning our carpenter showed up on time. He brought more equipment than Mr. Homeowner had anticipated. He ripped siding off, removed the window, and tore off shingles. He brought someone else to help, and they cut away the rotted wood. They jacked up the side of the house and slid new supports into place. The homeowner went to work, counting the mounting expenses, hoping for a miracle.

Later, our carpenter called me at the office. “My hours are in. Can you create the invoice?”

With trepidation, I collected the receipts, typing the numbers into the spread sheet, calculating the hours, watching the total at the bottom grow with every new line item.

The last number in, I hesitatingly scrolled to the bottom of the sheet. It wasn’t cheap. Slowly, I flipped open the file, hoping our carpenter was close in his estimate, sending a quick prayer that we wouldn’t have to terrify the homeowners with a heart stopping, Christmas destroying, surprise.

“Oh.” I flipped back to the front of the contract, checking again, comparing it to my spreadsheet.

Twenty bucks. The time and materials estimate was within twenty bucks.

I let out the breath I’d been holding and sat back. I’d forgotten. I worked for Degnan Design Builders. These people know how to estimate.

I hit print, emailed the invoice to the homeowner, and smiled, knowing the homeowners would be thrilled.

I guess there’s no horror story here…sorry. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sustainable Remodel

On April 21, 2012, we will feature one of our remodeled homes in the
2012 Sustainable Showcase.

This Madison family called us to update a home they'd recently purchased. They wanted to do so in a way that wouldn't interrupt the charm of the existing house, but would make the house more energy efficient and livable.

There were a number of items on their list, and with some design work and a little balancing of priorities, we accomplished what we set out to do--plan for a sustainable, updated house that stayed within their budget.

Some of the features they chose were:
  • A whole house fan rather than an A/C unit
  • Re-using as much of the current wood and trim as possible
  • A soaking tub rather than a whirlpool
  • CFL and Flourescent lighting
  • Ceiling fans in each room
  • A 1.28 gpf toilet in the remodeled bathroom
  • Utilizing natural light in the remodeled bathroom
The green practices we followed:
  • Lead-safe work practices
  • Removing knob and tube wiring so house could be fully insulated at a later date
  • Asbestos removal
  • Used local source for new cabinetry
  • Re-used and re-finished existing wood floors
Are you considering a remodeling project?
There are ways to stay green without increasing your budget.
Let us show you how!

Designed for Your Life

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Winter Maintenance

Inspecting your home and taking care of it with regular maintenance protects your investment and ensures little problems don’t become big expenses. Although we typically think of home maintenance in the spring and the fall, there are a few tasks that should be tackled mid-winter, along with some diagnostic checks that are best performed at this time of year.

In order to ensure your home is healthy and is performing as it should, the following tasks should be on your January maintenance list:

  • Change furnace filters
  • Clean the humidifier
  • Vacuum or dust bathroom fans, smoke and CO2 detectors, and the grilles of refrigerators and freezers
  • Check under all sinks for leaks
  • Test plumbing shut-off valves
  • Check window latches, door knobs, and cupboard hinges and tighten if necessary

When these are complete, and if you are still feeling ambitious, you may want to take on the next list.

  • Feel for drafts around doors and windows. Now may not be the time to repair or replace them, but it is a really good time to take note for when the weather warms.
  • Feel for drafts at the electrical outlets. Again, this probably isn't the time of year when the drafts are going to be corrected, but later you may want to remember where the problem places were. This fix is typically completed when other exterior maintenance is performed, so take good notes--especially if you plan on replacing siding or making future energy improvements.
  • Stick your head up into the attic and look around for signs of frost or mold. You’re only going to see frost in the winter, so now is the time. If you do see any frost, it’s a sure sign something needs to be addressed.
  • Perform an inspection of your roof from the ground. Do you see ice dams? Uneven melting?
  • Check all exterior vents to be sure they are free of snow and ice.

If you happen to find something that is not easily repaired, or something that concerns you, please give us a call. It might be something we can help you with, or it might be a task better suited for a member of our outstanding subcontractor team. Either way, we want to be your first call for any of your home care questions.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Some projects seem to go so fast, especially the ones where we are not replacing EVERYTHING in the room…which is an option we find a lot of homeowners forget is available.

Sometimes homeowners put off updating their old space because they think it might be too expensive, messy or disruptive. Worse yet, when a homeowner becomes disenchanted with the older space, sometimes they begin to put off needed repairs. This is a mistake – small changes now could save quite a bit of time and money later.

One of our recent projects was to transform a kitchen. This homeowner knew what he needed and what he wanted to spend. We knew the budget didn't have enough room to purchase new cabinetry. We offered a solution: replace the counter tops and leave the cabinets. They were still in great shape, well taken care of, and although not the newest style, they worked well. In fact, by not replacing the cabinets, there was room in the budget for a snazzy back-splash, which worked to make that not-so-new cabinetry look downright up-to-date!

The options are endless, and if you do a little something now, you might avoid having to do a lot of something later. Give us a call today, and let us show you what we can do with the budget you have. Even if it’s only repairs to your current space, why not enjoy living in your home now, without the worry and frustration of “the big project” looming in the future.