Monday, December 5, 2011

Technology Would Be Hilarious ...

... if it weren't so bleeping frustrating. Here's a note I tried to send to the entire d5R readership late this afternoon, following the discovery of one site problem after another. Unfortunately the note didn't go out. That part of the site was broken too. Here's to Tuesday.

Tuesday update: Today's issue features yesterday's content because yesterday's issue didn't go out. And then today's issue went out twice.

Dear d5R Community:

You may have noticed a conspicuous absence in your email this morning. My apologies. Today’s d5R didn’t go out, and in fact the site was down for most of the working day. Our web-hosting company switched to a faster server -- and “something broke” in the process, as the tech people say.

Thankfully, after hours of research and testing, the problem has been fixed, and the site is up and running with the latest stories. Tomorrow’s d5R will re-feature these stories to give you time to read and respond, in the event that you don’t make it over today.

Two more quick notes:

The site outage delayed the start of voting on the November Snapshots contest (“Our Favorite Clients”). Voting is now open and will remain so through next Monday. Click here to go directly to the voting booth and here to review all the entries. Thanks again to GuildQuality for sponsoring the contest and providing an iPad 2 for the winner.

And … a collective thanks to all of you who have upgraded to d5R Premium under the new price structure announced November 18. Woefully, there was a glitch in that system as well, and I hear that many of you did not receive your receipt or an automatic email explaining how to take advantage of your awesome Premium benefits. If that’s the case with you, please shoot me a note. I’ll send you those two items asap.

Thank you for your patience, and fingers crossed that we all have a much better rest of the week!

Leah Thayer

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's a Little Painful to Admit, but ...

a letter sent to all d5R subscribers on 11/19/11 --  
getting nice feedback from the best remodeling community in the world!

Happy Saturday, remodeling pro.

Lots of remodelers tell me that selling is the least favorite part of their job. Well, I have to tell you that I’m probably worse at it than you. It’s amusing to recall my dad suggesting at one time that I go into sales, because after 14 months of wearing almost every hat in the tiny, exhausting, fun business of daily5REMODEL, I still squirm each time I even look at the sales hat.

On the other hand, I seriously like to help remodelers. That’s why I started d5R, and why I’m only squirming a little as I encourage you not to miss another week of life without d5R Premium. In other words, I’m asking you to upgrade your subscription if you haven't already.
  • For starters, I just lowered the price to $99 a year. Maybe I’m crazy, as d5R Premium is better than it was when it cost twice as much, but my new iPhone is worlds better than my first-generation iPod, and it cost less too. Hey, if it worked for Apple...
  • Second, like the iPhone, d5R Premium keeps getting better. It’s a solid business investment. There’s more great info in the Premium Library (including 13 fantastic webinars that can help your business now). More huge savings from more top-notch advisors (no kidding, you can save many hundreds of dollars -- even thousands -- on training in sales, construction accounting, SEO, performance benchmarking, more). And dare I say more to come?
  • Third, I want you to get as much from d5R as does John MacDougall, founder of JMC Development. Thursday night, John sent me a note that read, in part: "Thank you so much for your sincere efforts and the impact you have made on me and my business.” And that was after I told him that others would get d5R Premium for less than he paid several months ago (nice guy, eh?).
  • Fourth, if you and enough other pros upgrade, you’ll help ensure that d5R can continue to publish -- and evolve and improve, for the benefit of my favorite profession -- for another 14 months. Or, preferably, 14 years.
Finally, another note I got yesterday from another d5R Premium subscriber. He said I can share it with you:

"Your insights and support for those of us who need to go to one source to get our daily information, and quickly at that, make your service stand out above the others out there. Keep up the great work you are doing."

I’d love to. Heck, maybe I'll even be able to hire a proper staff!

So, thanks for getting d5R and hearing my, um, “pitch,” dear readers. Please know that regardless of whether you decide to upgrade, I’m genuinely delighted to have you on board. Wishing you a great weekend and a safe, happy Thanksgiving.

Leah Thayer

p.s. Click here to upgrade your subscription. If the system doesn't recognize you, please take a minute to log in using your email and password. Can't remember your password? Shoot me a note and I'll find it for you.

p.p.s. Are you an American Express cardholder? Then you might want to wait to upgrade next Saturday, Nov. 26. It's Small Business Saturday, and AmEx will offer a $25 statement credit to registered cardholders who use their card at a participating small business. I’ll be supporting my favorite small businesses that day, and I hope you will too. Click here for details and tips for promoting your own small business!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Good With Remodeling Details? This iPad May Be for You

Greetings from a rainy Saturday. I come bearing good news for remodeling and design pros:

If you're still eyeing Apple's new iPad -- or want another one for a member of your staff -- take a few minutes to enter the October Snapshots contest on daily5REMODEL: "It's All in the Details." The sponsor is Crown Point Cabinetry, which also sponsored the Old Home Renovations contest in July.

The prize for the winner is an iPad 2.

As always, entering the contest on d5R is simple and free:
  • Crown-Point-Cabinetry-Linea-SystemAssemble up to three great “after” photos of one of your company's best construction details. This can be a porch, a built-in, columns or brackets, a staircase, a historic restoration -- whatever you'd like to showcase.
  • Include a brief narrative indicating the project location and challenges, the age and style of the home, and why you’re proud of this particular detail. Provide a contact name at your company and your website address.
  • Email the photos and narrative directly to me (leah@daily5REMODEL). Type "It's All in the Details" in the subject line.
  • We'll feature entries throughout October in the Snapshots section of d5R, and then hold an open vote to select the winner in early November. We'll also help you promote your entry to your clients and community.
Thanks to Crown Point Cabinetry for this generous sponsorship. That's their Linea System shown in the photo.

Send me your detail shots! Have a fantastic weekend.
By the way: Voting is now open for the September contest! Click here to vote.

P.S. Speaking of details, learn about Crown Point Cabinetry's Remodeler Appreciation Program. "Their quality is outstanding, but that's the starting point," said a remodeler on d5R.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Great Opportunity for Remodelers with Team Spirit

Happy Labor Day!

I hope your summer has been as much fun as mine. After taking off most of August for travel and R&R, I look forward to resuming daily5REMODEL's regular publishing schedule on Tuesday.

To that end, it's high time I announce the September contest in d5R:

Team Spirit!


The prize:


A seat at an upcoming "Master Your Remodeling Business" workshop, hosted by Remodelers Advantage. (Choose either San Francisco, November 17-18, or Baltimore, January 24-25.) This hands-on workshop brings together remodeling business owners and key managers for two intensive days focused on building and sustaining a strong, consistently profitable business. Learn more here.


The value:


Priceless, of course, but the regular price is $520. This includes meals, welcome reception, presentations by top industry strategists, unlimited networking with remodeling peers from the U.S. and Canada, and terrific take-home gifts. Does not include airfare or hotel.




Any remodeling business of any size whose team works together exceptionally well, gets lots of kudos from clients, and has processes and systems that run extra smoothly. You do not have to be a member of Remodelers Advantage to enter. No purchase necessary.


How to enter:


Email a photo or two of your team, along with a list of who is shown and a brief explanation of what makes your team one of the best in the remodeling industry. Send this package as soon as possible to In the subject line, write "team spirit!"


Selection process:


Space permitting, all eligible entries will be featured in the d5R Snapshots section throughout September. At the end of the month, we'll hold a popular vote for the best team. We will help you promote your entry through a special "featured on d5R" button that links directly to your entry. 


Please submit your entry as soon as possible. 


I've been fortunate enough to be a guest at several Remodelers Advantage events, and I'm always dazzled by the energy, intelligence and incredible sense of community. The Master Your Remodeling Business workshop will change your business and your life for the better. 


Best wishes for a healthy and successful fall.

Leah Thayer
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

How the iPad Was Won: an Old House Story

In our most competitive contest ever on daily5REMODEL, the prize in July was an iPad 2. The subject? Old Home Renovations. The winner, after a seven-day voting marathon that brought 2,952 votes and ended only this afternoon, was this remodel and small addition in Wilmette, Ill., by Blank & Baker Construction Management.

Thanks to the sponsor, Crown Point Cabinetry, and to the dozens of remodelers who shared the stories of some of the old homes they've helped to restore. 

I asked Chad Blankenbaker how he rallied his supporters behind his project. His answer is below.  -- Leah Thayer, editor

Very exciting. I can't believe we won, I was just happy you chose our project to be one of the featured projects.
I don't think I did anything revolutionary, it just seemed to gather momentum on its own.

So I started off by posting it on both my personal and business facebook pages as well as RemodelCrazy.

Then I sent out an email to all my friends and family. Next thing I know I started to get emails back from everyone saying they voted and that they forwarded the email to their friends and coworkers. I never asked them to do that but it was flattering.

So then I started sending it out to all my vendors and subcontractors and I got the same response. People were excited for us and wanted to help.

Then after much contemplating, I decided to send it out to all my past clients, past prospects that didn't materialize, to current clients, to prospective clients, to architects that I've worked with and the response was overwhelming. 

Even all these people were passing it on to their friends and coworkers and some of them cc'd me on the comments they were posting along with my email something along the lines of this is the contractor that did the work to our (enter project here) and he is the greatest blah blah blah. To my surprise those emails resulted in two leads for projects I need to go and look at so that was a huge bonus.

Then to wrap it up, I then posted it on LinkedIn and Twitter as well.

So it was nothing that required much work. I think the reason the email campaign worked so well was because for one I was asking for help. I think generally people like to help people if you ask for it and it doesn't take much effort. I've been asked many times before to vote for things online and I usually will but once in a while you get the request for a vote that requires you to sign up on a website and give out personal information and I hate voting for those things so I think you voting system that makes it so easy for people to vote helps a lot. 

I spelled that out in my email how easy it was to vote, just 2 clicks of the mouse! is what I said. People like that. I also had many people email to tell me they voted using their computers, cell phones, ipads, for these people to be able to easily get onto the website using their mobile devices helped a lot I'm sure.

Anyway, I think that's about it. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of it. It forced me to reach out to a lot of past contacts and ask for help, something I've never been comfortable doing before and it felt good to get such a supportive response in return.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

9 Questions About: Green Building Litigation

Chris Cheatham
from d5R 7/25/2011. click here for comments

Chris Cheatham is a construction attorney in Washington D.C. and a principal at the Law Office of Christopher W. Cheatham LLP.
Chris is a LEED Accredited Professional and has advised numerous companies regarding green building and renewable energy risks and contracts. He is also a frequent speaker for private companies, public agencies, associations and groups on the topic of green building risk management, as well as the publisher of Green Building Law Update and Blueprint Claims Blog.

d5R: When did you coin the term LEEDigation?

Chris Cheatham: I will always remember the moment. It was spring 2009, and I was tying my tie in preparation for my grandfather's funeral. My mind was wandering, probably because I didn't want to think about the task at hand. Suddenly, the word just popped in my head and I knew I had something. I bet that's not the answer you were expecting!

Here's my first blog post about the concept. It was amazing to see the word appear in ENR a few years later. 

d5R: At the time, did you anticipate an increase in litigation involving USGBC's LEED program specifically, or regarding green building certifications generally?

CC: I always anticipated an increase in litigation involving the LEED program because it had such a large market share.  But there is no reason the use of other certification systems could not result in the same type of liabilities and lawsuits. 

d5R: Has that happened? If so, mainly in commercial development, or in residential as well?

CC: There has been very little pure LEEDigation -- i.e. disputes involving certification. It's important to remember that construction litigation takes many years to develop (usually five to 10 years). LEED Certification did not hit critical mass until 2007-2008. We are just now starting to see some examples of LEEDigation emerge and I expect this trend to continue.   

d5R: I understand that green building disputes sometimes stem from a project's failure to get an anticipated level of certification. Please provide an example.
CC: I think your readers would be interested in the Bain v. Vertex Architects case. According to attorney Stephen Del Percio, a homeowner filed the lawsuit in part because the architect “failed to pursue and obtain for the Project certification from the USGBC LEED for Homes Program.” I would suggest reading Del Percio's entry regarding this lawsuit: 

d5R: You have cited construction defects as another source of green building litigation. How is this risk different with "green" projects and products than with any construction projects and/or products?

CC: Frankly, construction defects on green building projects are the same as construction defects on standard projects in that the causes are the same. Construction defects occur when inappropriate materials are used, or the design or construction is not properly completed.

Green buildings do create additional risk for construction defects because new or untested green products are often incorporated and anything new or untested has a  higher likelihood of failure. Other times, designers or builders may not have experience with green buildings and problems occur as a result. 

d5R: In the residential realm, a lot of builders and remodelers make green claims about their projects -- e.g., energy-efficiency, sustainable materials, waste-management, etc. -- but their projects do not necessarily have green certifications. Are they thus exempt from green building litigation?

CC: Absolutely not. If anything residential builders and remodelers face more liability arising from "green" claims. Most states have enacted a Consumer Protection Act that makes it easier for homeowners to bring lawsuits if they are confused by a contractor's claims. If residential contractors make promises about energy efficiency, materials or waste management, and fail to deliver, they could face liability under these Consumer Protection Acts. 

d5R: So, setting LEEDigation aside, what types of risk-management strategies should remodeling contractors and design professionals practice when it comes to green building?

CC: First, I would avoid making energy-efficiency guarantees. Contractors do not control how a home will be used. If the homeowner leaves windows open, and the home is an energy hog, what is the contractor going to do?

Second, using new or untested products can create problems down the road. For example, the Cheaspeake Bay Foundation built the first LEED Platinum building in 2000 and incorporated exposed wood products treated by a fairly new, environmentally-friendly preservative. The building is now reportedly at risk of collapsing because the wood rotted.

Finally, contractors should avoid making promises tied to rebates or incentives provided by federal, state or local governments. If the government entity fails to deliver the incentives, the contractor could be on the hook. In Washington, D.C., this scenario arose after the city reneged on solar rebates to residents.

d5R: What about contracts? I recently asked a green remodeler if his contracts have any language that speaks to the company's commitment to green principles -- e.g., only low/no-VOC paints, locally sourced where possible, etc. His response: "No green language in contracts. That is dangerous territory." He said you can explain why. Why?
CC: I am not sure I agree with the green remodeler. When a customer expects a green home, I think it's important to clearly define the customer's expectations and document these expectations through a contract.

For example, if the homeowner expects LEED for Homes certification, then the two parties should have a clear discussion about what it means to get certification and what will be required to do so. The contractor should then explain the costs tied to certification and incorporate appropriate contract language. 

d5R: A growing number of jurisdictions are now implementing green building codes. What should remodeling contractors and designers (and manufacturers, for that matter) be on the lookout for locally?

CC: Back in 2000, LEED certification was the new kid on the block. Now in 2011, LEED certification has widespread market penetration throughout the country. 

I equate LEED certification in 2000 with green building codes now. The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) is currently under development. Despite the fact that it is in draft form, many jurisdictions have already adopted it as a "voluntary" code. 

Green building codes mostly focus on commercial developments.  But I think you will see a push for green building codes to expand to the residential sector very soon.

We are starting to cover green building codes more in Green Building Law Update. These new codes will shift the standard of care for contractors and designers alike.  Hopefully, our readers will understand and address these new risks going forward.

Chris Cheatham, LEED AP, is a construction attorney in Washington D.C. and a principal at the Law Office of Christopher W. Cheatham LLP as well as the publisher of Green Building Law Update. Contact him at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Near Santa Barbara, a Home Performance "Horror" No More

Music to a parent's ears:
"Dad, it's warm in my room!"

We hosted a fun contest on daily5REMODEL in June called Home Performance Horrors. Sponsored by the Building Performance Institute, its goal was to show how skilled home-performance auditors and contractors are solving all manner of problems in homes related to health, air quality, efficiency, safety, comfort and more.

The winning entry came from Allen Associates, in Santa Barbara, Calif., with this account of a young family struggling with comfort issues and indoor allergies in their Craftsman-style home.

Wrote Lucas Johnson of Allen Associates:

"Everything looked well maintained (landscaping, building exterior, interior design, etc.). That is, until we started exploring behind the walls and in the attic.... 

"The furnace was more than 25 years old, in horrible condition (with cracks in the heat exchanger) and connected to extremely leaky ductwork, which was wrapped in asbestos insulation.... 

"Lastly, the attic had dirty and poorly installed insulation on the attic floor, insulation entirely missing from the knee walls, and a significant amount of air leakage through can lights, bath fans, Solatubes and framing interfaces."

That was the "before," of course.

Click here to read the story. Congratulations to Allen Associates for winning the $550 BPI certification exam, and thanks to everyone who entered.

You can see all entries here, along with entries for the many other contests we've held on d5R, including the current Old Home Renovations contest.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Delighting Clients, Winning the "Kitchen Sync"

We ran a little contest last week on d5R, asking remodelers to share how they deliver on what are arguably the three top priorities held by most remodeling clients:

  • good communication
  • a clean jobsite
  • an on-time schedule

The remodeler with the best answer would win a copy of Kelly's Kitchen Sync, just published by kitchen designer and remodeling blogger extraordinaire Kelly Morisseau. (Here's my interview with Kelly from early June.)

Kelly reviewed all the answers last night and selected her favorite. Correction: her favorites. From her email to me:

Everyone had such great answers and all come from such positions of strength in their companies that it was tough! I loved that everyone stressed the importance of a clean jobsite, and how some followed up after the projects were over, which is important. I liked the personal touch with the owners thanking clients for their business and staying in touch. 
I eventually narrowed it down to two of the comments, so they will each get a copy of the book: 
CA309 Jane Regan with this line: "We have one point of contact to support the client in the office, and one point of contact on the job." 
If the line of communication is not clearly set out, then the client might mention something important to a trade or a crew member which could be missed, or worse, the message could become garbled as it is passed through the multiple chains of command. I've found that clients feel better knowing that the message they're passing along is in the hands of those overseeing the project, rather than those who don't have the same overview. 
CA1452 Phil Vanderloo - "...regular meetings throughout the project to address any concerns, and most important of all-LISTEN!" 
Even though we're all good at maintaining clearly defined scopes of work that all of our trades and company are set up for, sometimes clients have concerns that might not even need to actually be addressed. They do, however, need to be HEARD and sometimes simply truly listening, and/or responding (sometimes not always necessary) can go a long way.

Click here to read the full discussion, including the rest of the answers from Jane, Phil and others. Thanks, everyone -- and enjoy your books, Jane and Phil!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Celebrate Independence, Celebrate the Month

This year's 4th of July card from Wentworth Inc.
Happy Independence Day!

We've got a fun month planned at daily5REMODEL, so be sure to take advantage of these and other opportunities. All are free, fun, and good for you and your business:
  1. Free webinar July 19: How to Use Energy Audits to Reduce a Home's Cost of Ownership and Make the Sale, presented by Scott Pusey of Everyday Green. Guaranteed to be one of the most info-packed hours of the summer. Click here to learn more and reserve your spot (space is limited).
  2. Free iPad 2 for one lucky winner of the July Snapshots contest, sponsored by the fine folks at Crown Point Cabinetry and starring old home renovations. Guaranteed to be one of the free-est and most easy-going design awards contests of the year. Click here to see the first entry and learn how to enter one of your own projects.
  3. Free logo redesign for one remodeling company from the creative geniuses at Blue Ocean Ideas. And really, who wouldn't benefit from a little freshening up? (You know who you are.) Click here to learn about the company's design process and eligibility.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Remodel Old Homes? Brag a Little on d5R -- and Win an iPad 2

"Old" is a relative term, especially when it comes to houses. My home is 93 but will easily withstand another 100 or so, assuming the world doesn't end first. We've all seen homes built 10 years ago that should have been condemned yesterday.

But I digress. What I mean to say is that between now and the end of July we're considering any house built before 1960 to be old for the purposes of the Snapshots contest on daily5REMODEL:

contest name:
Old House Renovations

contest sponsor: 
Crown Point Cabinetry

contest prize:
an Apple iPad 2

Entering is simple and free:
  • Assemble up to three great “after” photos of any part of an old house renovation by your company, and email them directly to me (leah@daily5REMODEL). Type "old house renovation" in the subject line.
  • The photos can feature any part of the home, or even one or more small details. If you like, you may also (optional) include one or more “before” photos showing the same areas prior to your renovation.
  • With your email, include a brief narrative explaining the scope and challenges of the work, the age and style of the home, and why you’re proud of the finished product!
  • Indicate the home’s location as well, along with a contact person at your company.
We'll feature entries throughout July in the Snapshots section of d5R, and then hold an open vote to select the winner -- a chance to rally your clients and network -- in early August.

Thanks to Crown Point Cabinetry for this generous sponsorship.

By the way, if you like old house stories, you'll love reading these accounts of what remodelers have found behind old walls. Missing a revolver, a corncob pipe, the book (published in 1889) on buiding?

Good luck!

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Something that people can get excited about..."

Given that it's late June ... it's high time I announce the winner of the May Snapshots contest on d5R. 

For his transformative remodel of this basement in Springfield, N.J., Brian Nevins Jr. of Innovative Remodeling Solutions is getting an Apple iPad 2 from WoodTrac by Sauder, the contest sponsor and provider of the panelized ceiling solution featured in Brian's project.

How does it feel, Brian? 

"I was pumped when I heard the news that I won the iPad 2. What's better than that? Beautiful job thanks to a beautiful ceiling by WoodTrac, another award-winning project and a free iPad ...  Awesome!"

How do you expect to use the iPad 2 in your work? 

"The iPad is great for holding a large collection of different types of project portfolios. It's a great ice-breaker to hand an iPad to a customer to browse beautiful pictures while I'm measuring and getting set up to sell.

"It's also great to read the d5R on it when I stop for lunch." 

Excellent answers! What do you like about WoodTrac's ceiling systems? 

"It's perfect for a homeowner who's looking for something beyond the typical look of a finished basement. It looks great, people that choose it love it and it's affordable.

"When I'm consulting with homeowners about remodeling I believe in showing them the difference. The WoodTrac ceiling system fits in well with how I like selling. Talking to homeowners about the same old stuff that all my competition is selling is boring! I like showing something that people can get excited about.  

"Now after we have sold and installed a few WoodTrac systems we have those stories of happy homeowners to tell to the next prospect, and that builds value on the next presentation. It's easy to install, too, so the production guys still love me, and that's important!!"

Way to go, Brian. Enjoy your iPad 2. 

And thank you again, WoodTrac, for sponsoring the contest!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

End a Home-Performance Horror, Save $550

We just finished remodeling our basement, and one of the top priorities involved insulating the exterior walls. Between the existing pine paneling -- apparently installed circa 1960, when home heating costs were negligible -- and the home's block foundation was ... nothing! Hence the wickedly cold winters in that basement, and our wickedly high gas bills.

With luck, our home will be much more comfortable next winter.

In June on daily5Remodel, we're teaming up with the Building Performance Institute to celebrate home-performance happy endings in other North American homes. Our June contest is called "Home Performance Horrors, and the winner will receive one BPI certification written and field exam, valued at $550, administered by one of BPI's affiliate organizations. Cost of training is not included.

The credit may be applied to any BPI certification, including:

  • Building Analyst
  • Envelope
  • Heating
  • Air Conditioning and Heat Pump
  • Multifamily
  • Residential Building Envelope Whole House Air Leakage Control Installer
  • Residential Building Envelope Whole House Air Leakage Control Crew Chief

Here's how to enter:

Email one or more "before" photos or infrared images illustrating a home's desperate need for energy-retrofit work. The "before" pix might show moldy insulation, for instance, or a horribly dysfunctional HVAC system, or clear signs of water infiltration.

Also email one or more "after" photos illustrating how you completed the work properly.

Send your images, along with the location of the project and a brief narrative explaining how you solved the problem, to

We'll feature different projects throughout June on d5R -- a great opportunity to show off your great work before a fast-growing audience of remodeling professionals and homeowners.

Here's a little more about the contest, along with some sample images to get you thinking.

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to Win an iPad, Remodeling-Style

In January, your bathroom remodels competed to win an American Standard 5-Function Shower System.

In February, your kitchen remodels competed to win a $250 gift card from National Lumber.

In March, your kitchen remodels (the theme was a hit) competed to win a Delta Pilar Pull-Down Faucet.

In April, your 'exposed glulam' projects are competing to win a $250 Visa gift card from Rosboro.

In May? Send us your basement remodels -- the uglier the "before" ceiling the better -- and you'll be eligible to win an iPad 2 from WoodTrac by Sauder, whose new wooden ceiling system offers an affordable and stylish alternative to drywall ceilings. Especially in basements!

As with all d5R contests, entering is simple and free:
  • Email no more than two "before" pictures and two "after" pictures of a basement your company remodeled to
  • In the subject line, write "Ugly Ceilings"
  • Include a brief narrative explaining how you solved your client's ugly basement problem. If the basement had a hideous "before" ceiling, as many do, tell us about it!

We'll feature a different project in d5R each weekday of May, beginning next Monday (May 2). You'll get a website link and a lot of attention from your remodeling peers and potential clients, and at the end of the month WoodTrac by Sauder will hold a random drawing to select a winner of the iPad 2.

"Like" WoodTrac's Facebook page, while you're at it. This, too, will automatically enter you to win the iPad 2. But that's not as much fun as showing off a beautifully remodeled basement.

Looking forward to seeing your (formerly) ugly basements, and to sharing the remodeled results with the readers of d5R.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My 15 Minutes with Integrity Windows

The good folks at Integrity Windows (a Marvin product) interviewed me a couple of weeks ago for their BuildChat blog. It was fun -- refreshing -- to be on the other end of the interviewing line, so I'm republishing our chat here, in the viral tradition. 

Last year, you launched your site, which provides daily industry insights and a social platform for building professionals. What have you learned in the first year of operation?

We just passed six months of publishing, and I’ve learned that I love being able to communicate directly with my audience and finesse changes without having to go through a bunch of priority queues or levels of approval. Time moves too quickly -- windows open and close like lightning -- to wait for the perfect moment, at least when you’re a startup. Customers won’t wait for you!

I’ve also learned that it’s absolutely essential to have a nimble web strategy and a robust web platform. We publish at 6 a.m. just about every weekday, and I feel that my focus needs to be on developing excellent content, understanding how I can help my audience, and responding by tweaking the site and the content mix accordingly. That means I can’t be bogged down by last-minute technology breakdowns or inefficiencies, much less anything as drawn-out and vulnerable to the economy as the print process.

I’ve also learned that some of my instincts in starting this business were better than others!

I was right in sensing that remodelers want to be part of a virtual community of peers (even if they’re just ‘lurkers’ and not active commenters) and appreciate having their very own “daily” sent to them first thing in the morning, before their days get insane. We just had a brief publishing break at d5R, and one reader lamented that he “missed seeing his remodeling ‘paper’ on his virtual porch” each morning.

On the other hand, I’ve learned to it takes more time and patience than I anticipated to gain major traction within the huge but dispersed and somewhat tradition-bound remodeling industry. And that sometimes remodelers appreciate less information in their “morning paper,” not more! And that just because I enjoy talking to remodelers doesn’t mean I enjoy, or am particularly good at, selling to them.

On your site, you write, “I believe that sustainable small businesses are critical to healthy communities and national economic vitality.” What can smaller home construction and remodeling operations sustain in this unfavorable climate?

Most remodeling companies are small businesses by definition, and most remodelers, it seems, are optimistic by nature -- especially when it comes to their own companies. I actually think the climate is much more favorable to businesses that are nimble, close to their markets and not heavily burdened by debt or overhead than by those that may be much larger and deeper-pocketed but are hobbled by inventory, legacy systems and bureaucratic holdups.

As far as what they can sustain, one clear winner is the enduring fascination that people have with their homes and the desire, I think, to be closer to home in these somewhat shaky times. Remodeling can’t be outsourced, and our housing stock is aging and in need of constant attention.

The housing bubble has only reinforced the fact that it makes more sense for most people to make the most of their current home than to upsize to a fancy new community. We’re having a fascinating discussion on d5R this week about people who need more from their current homes but can’t think of moving without taking a huge loss. Plus, there’s no mistaking the McMansion backlash as people embrace their not-so-big-house existing homes and seek to reduce their own carbon footprints by walking more (re: older urban homes) and generally wasting less.

Finally, look at the rise of things like the buy-local movement. Due mostly to bad behavior from a handful of actors, “big business” hasn’t warmed many hearts lately. It just feels good know who you’re doing business with. An example from my own family: we can do our food shopping at Whole Foods or Giant, but when we want really great seafood or meat even my 10-year-old son knows we need to see Pam, the butcher at our local market.

Very recently, you published a survey revealing many in the building industry were involved in social media for business purposes (branding, lead generation, community engagement, etc.). Should builders be considering a digital marketing strategy?

Absolutely. I don’t know of many builders or remodelers who don’t at least have a static website and use email. Even if your clients still prefer doing business via mail and phone and newspaper ads, your future clients will not.

Having said that, I think the notion of “a digital marketing strategy” might be intimidating to some small companies. But the great thing about digital media is that it invites experimentation, is soooo much easier than conventional marketing (zap out eletter vs. print, pay postage and mail newsletter? no contest)  and costs little or nothing to get started.

It’s sort of ironic that social media is proving to be a wonderful thing for many remodelers and builders. At first many remodelers resisted Twitter and Facebook; they told me “my customers are in my town, so why would I want to do something that anyone in the world can see?” Now many of them tell me they love being able to have almost real-time conversations with their clientele on these platforms. You saw this article, I gather; one respondent was fairly typical in saying s/he uses Twitter “to connect with & understand our ideal clients, to connect with peer designers, to partner with designers whose talents dovetail with ours.”

Where in the past, new home builders would pass on remodeling projects, now, many are taking on the work to sustain revenue streams. Is that a viable long-term solution?

I can’t speak for any former new-home builders but my sense is that remodeling is a viable long-term solution for them only if they adjust their margins, training and expectations accordingly. Repeatedly I hear from remodelers that their “competitors” now include builders whose prices are way lower than their own. Sometimes remodelers are called in to finish or fix projects where these lower prices got the builders into trouble -- they ran out of money, or cut corners, because their prices didn’t account for “the unexpecteds” that happen in older and/or occupied homes.

Alternatively, it may be that new home builders will figure out a way to apply the efficiencies they sharpened in their previous lives to remodeling projects. I’ve seen an uptick of MBA-types leave their corporate jobs to become remodelers, and there’s definitely room for more business savvy within the remodeling world. But building new homes and remodeling existing homes are two fundamentally different beasts, or so I’m told.

How has the game changed for seasoned remodelers as more builders are now competing for business?

Seasoned remodelers made the switch from being “order takers” to active marketers a few years ago. Many of them are still struggling to articulate how they are different from the competition in any form, let alone how to project that message to enough of the right people. In general, though, I’ve known of remodelers to make a ton of small and large adjustments -- from reducing overhead, accepting smaller jobs and taking sales training, to becoming fanatical about job-costing and networking -- to reposition for the long slog ahead.

Many of them say they’re having their best years in several years.

But it’s a really good question. Why don’t I ask my readers to answer on d5R next week?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"I believe in the power of social media"

The winner of the March d5R Snapshots contest and the Delta Pilar faucet is Matt Urbas of First Class Construction, of Painesville, Ohio. Click here to see his winning entry.

Matt's entry was really wonderful -- a beautiful kitchen, for sure, but also a well-constructed example of how design can influence well-being. Of the "before" kitchen, he had written in his entry, "the partition wall between the kitchen and living room was like a barricade to happiness."

In 1,161 people voted during this month's contest. I asked Matt what he did to rally his troops and he wrote the following. I'm sharing it with his permission.

Our method was not complicated. Having friends and family send out emails to their freinds, family and coworkers and handing out many business cards with your webite name written on the back both may have contributed a little but I would have to say most of our votes probably came via Facebook. We held a "giveaway" contest earlier this year to announce our presence on FB and in turn acquired almost 100 followers or people that "like" us. This gave us the beginnings of a voice. A voice that we used to get the word out about this contest.

Once we were entered into the d5R contest we posted the link on our business and personal pages. The response was immediate and awesome. The validity that you gave by selecting us was something we could now market online. Once the voting started we reposted the link and asked for everyone to "share" it. I know of at least 10 that shared it. Those that did share it seem to be the more active FB'ers and in turn they have connections to many friends, 500-1000 or more, Thats a lot of new faces to put some of our best work in front of. That's how they know us now.

To win is fantastic and the Homeowners and I couldn't be happier. We knew it was a phenomenal project but going up against some of the other projects I have to admit I had my doubts. The creative ideas that some of those projects showed was really amazing. In the end though it's all about the client and their participation in "owning" the project. Their constant input from day 1 up through this contest they have been a dream to work with. Putting their personal touches on the different selections is what made this kitchen. I am so happy for them.

FYI we are planning on including the faucet as part of our next "giveaway". A way to say thanks to those who voted as well as another round of exposure. 3 rounds? Selection, voting, giveaway. Not bad for one project. I believe in the power of social media.

This is the third consecutive month that social media has driven the Snapshots contest. It's great that these remodelers and their clients are so thrilled by the win, but it's equally affirming, I think, that these remodelers have such a strong base of community support. Ask, and they'll help.

We're onto exposed glulams in our April contest. Not many residential remodelers use glulams (glued laminated timber), and the hope of the contest sponsor Rosboro is that more remodelers and builders will become interested in glulams' tremendous functionality and green qualities.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Voting Begins for Our March Kitchen Remodeling Contest

Thanks to everyone who contributed kitchen-remodeling photos and stories to "Kitchens: Transformed," the March Snapshots contest on daily5Remodel. The winner of the most votes this month will receive a Delta Pilar faucet with Touch2O Technology.

Voting begins now and will remain open until 5 p.m. EST on Thursday, April 7. To revisit the field of candidates, click here (you can also link directly from each entry to the survey tool). You can also link directly to the survey here.

Thanks again to Delta Faucets for sponsoring the March Snapshots competition.

Cast your vote below and spread the word!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Being the Decider

(this was also published on the ServiceMagic ProConnection blog)

They were taking away the sixth or seventh dumpster from a neighbor's house this morning. Really bad timing. We live on a busy residential street in the city, perpendicular to two major thoroughfares and near several schools, and between the flatbed attempting to maneuver the dumpster and the harried commuters rushing downtown and the parents dropping their kids off at school, someone clearly erred in setting the 7:30 a.m. timing.
I don't blame the dumpster driver, though, or the assorted remodeling tradesmen who were trying to police the traffic. Nor do I blame the dispatcher of the dumpster service, or the person at the remodeling company -- maybe the receptionist, maybe the project manager -- who set the time.
I blame the owner of the remodeling company.
This project has been underway for four or five months. It's a big one -- easily in the high-six-figures' worth of work on an early 20th-century foursquare quite like my own. Our neighbor Sally sold it earlier this year. Her husband had died and her kids were long gone and her home of 40 years just seemed like too much, so she downsized to a bungalow in her daughter's neighborhood.
There's been a lot of generational turnover on our street in the last few years, and a lot of remodeling. It seems to start with the widows.
Next to Sally, there was Wilma. She lived in her house for at least 60 years before heading up that ultimate staircase, last year, in her late-90s. Next to Wilma was Mary, who spent all of her 90-plus years in her 1896 gingerbread-house Victorian (her father built it) . Next to us was Sophie, who continued to run a business out of her house well into her 90s as well, long after her five kids and husband shuffled off.
So, yes, the women live long on my street ... but what's this about blaming the owner of the remodeling company for the little dumpster incident?
The owner sets the tone of the company. He may have 10 or 20 major projects underway at any time, and he may have far bigger fish to fry than worrying about a little traffic congestion around any one of them, but it is his responsibility to instruct his employees and trade contractors on how to behave in a client's home -- and in a client's neighborhood.
Someone did a great job of sticking a fancy job sign in the home's front yard. Would it have been too much for them also to have distributed a friendly letter of introduction -- from the project manager, or the owner -- to all the surrounding houses? 
A note to the effect of: "You may have noticed that we've begun construction on your neighbor's home at XXXX Main St. We will be here for approximately five months and will do everything we can to minimize disruption for you and the other neighbors. If there's ever anything we can do to answer your questions or alleviate your concerns, don't hesitate to call me directly, at XXX-XXX-XXXX. I've also enclosed several copies of my business card."
Ask to be forgiven, and you shall be forgiven. You may even be rewarded with a new client or two. 
Act with no regard for the neighbors, and you will never work in my house. Even if I could afford you, I would go with your emotionally intelligent competition instead.
Be the decider. 
We discuss sticky business-owner situations every week on daily5Remodel. Check out the Answers section of our site to hear how your peers respond to difficult issues. If you haven't already subscribed to daily5Remodel, click here to begin your free standard subscription.

Monday, February 28, 2011

These Kitchens Were Transformed

Remodeled kitchen in 1909 home in Winnetka, Illinois.
Roberts Architects / Roberts Construction Group
Published in d5R on 2/11/2011
update, 3/7: and the winner is:
Wentworth, of Chevy Chase, Maryland!

... and one of the remodelers who transformed them is about to win a $250 gift card from National Lumber.

Thanks to everyone who contributed kitchen-remodeling photos and stories to "Kitchens: Transformed," the February Snapshots contest on daily5Remodel. The contest was so successful that we're doing it again in March -- and the March winner will receive a Delta Pilar faucet with Touch2O Technology!

For February: Voting begins now and will remain open until 5 p.m. EST on Monday, March 7. To revisit the field of candidates, click here (you can also link directly from each entry to the survey tool). You can also link directly to the survey here.

Otherwise, please cast your vote below and spread the word!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Vote Now for Your Favorite Bathroom Remodel

Update, 2/8/2011: and the winners are:

A loo with a view of taxidermy, a bathroom blanketed in pink carpeting, plastic columns atop the vanity, wild-and-crazy wallpaper that would send you right back to bed ... Remodelers sent "before" pictures of these and worse in our January Snapshots contest: "America's Ugliest Baths: Solved." 

cabin fever, before it was solved by Deimler Construction
Now's your chance to vote for your favorite remodeling solution. The three with the most votes will win an American Standard 5-Function Shower System, along with professional PR assistance to help spread the word.

Click here to see all before-and-after entries. One vote per computer. Voting ends February 7. Vote using the survey tool below, or click here for a direct link to the survey.

Create free online surveys with SurveyMonkey.

Click here to see results.

To enter the February contest, "Kitchens: Transformed," send in no more than two "before" photos, and no more than two "after" photos, along with a brief description of how you solved your client's kitchen challenge. Email this to Type "Kitchens: Transformed" in the subject line.

A different project will be featured each day. The entry receiving the most votes will also receive
 a $250 gift certificate from National Lumber!