Call Today: (513) 242-5000 4234 Mason Pointe Unit 15 Mason, Ohio
Remodeling, Additions, Kitchens | Mason OH

Stan Better’s Blog

Navigating through the Design/Build Process

Navigating through the Design/Build Process

As a Design/ Builder, frequently I am asked what is the difference between your approach and the traditional approach to projects?  I have been in the business for over 30 years and have lectured at two national remodeling conventions on the subject so I think I can speak with some authority.  When I became a Design/ Builder way back in 1978, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) actually would not let me be a national member because in their rules and regulations they stated that either you were an Architect or you were a General Contractor.  It sounds so silly today to state that, but back then the AIA was run by purists that truly believed in that statement.  Fortunately the local AIA thought  it was silly also and allowed me all the privileges of being a member (they just did not tell the national that I was a local member.)   I would argue that who better to build it than the person that designed it.  In earlier times such famous people as Leonardo Di Vinci, Michelangelo, or Gaudi were all Design/Builders.  It worked very well for them. So what are the differences. The Traditional Approach: In a traditional approach […]

Read More

Should I stay or should I go when remodeling my home?

Should I stay or should I go when remodeling my home?

As an architect for over 37 years and a contractor for over 33 years, I have continually been asked this question.  My quick answer is that it is always desirable from the contractor end to have the Homeowners away from the house while the project is going on. There are a number of benefits to this decision: One reason for the homeowner to leave, for me as the contractor, is that I do not have to factor in major dust containment for set up and tear down each day.  I can just install containment once at the beginning of the job and one teardown at the end.  The next reason is that the workers do not need to do a major cleanup each day for their work.  This normally involves allowing for 2 to 3 man hours of savings each day.  Over the course of the job, that can equate to big savings that I can pass on to the Homeowners. Probably the biggest reason for the Homeowners to leave is dust.  I can truly say I speak from experience on this one.  I recently did some work at my home.  My crews put up what I considered a very […]

Read More

Matching the right Contractor to your Remodeling Project

Matching the right Contractor to your Remodeling Project

I have often told my clients that you would not go to a foot doctor if you needed brain surgery. Both are “Doctors” but obviously do totally different things and require very different skills to professionally do their jobs. It is very much the same in remodeling. The most common misconception is that new home builders can be remodelers. Nothing can be further from the truth and the people that choose home builders usually find out the hard way that their decision was a bad one. Home builders generally subcontract out all aspects of a project. This is historically why home builders have lower profit margins when pricing a remodeling project. They are used to having a client that lives away from the project. When you start with a piece of dirt with nothing to worry about damaging, you can afford to hire people that have no concern for the client’s day to day activity. When you are a home builder you also don’t feel you need the control over your subcontractors so that the job runs smoothly. It is very easy for a home builder to cover his/her mistakes without a client ever being aware of a problem until […]

Read More

How to deal with your Insurance Company on a property loss to your home

How to deal with your Insurance Company on a property loss to your home

This is a follow up on my blog on how to deal with your Insurance Company on a fire loss. (See May 25th 2011 Stan Better’s Blog). I received a huge response on my previous blog on how to deal with your Insurance Company, especially after hurricane Sandy.  I hope it was helpful and informative to my readers.  I now want to expand on some issues I left out of the previous article: Water mitigation and mold This issue is becoming increasingly important and one that the Insurance Companies have tried to back away from.  Let’s assume from your fire, or your flood that you have lots of water inside your house.  The emergency people are now gone and your home is soaked.  The initial amount of money the Insurance Company will pay for on your behalf is what is referred to as “emergency services”.  This means that a 24 hour contractor service can be secured immediately to not only protect the home from vandalism, but also from water being allowed to sit and cause even more damage.  Virtually all insurance companies have this in their policies because they want to protect the home from further damage while the process […]

Read More

What is an Architectural Feasibility Study for a residential remodeling project?

What is an Architectural Feasibility Study for a residential remodeling project?

Stan Better Architects is a part of the Stan Better Family of Companies which also includes Stan Better Construction.  As a Design Build firm our approach to the design build process is unique.  Many times I have been asked “What does an Architectural Feasibility Study include and not include?”  My hope is that this article will answer these questions. When someone initially calls me about some remodeling they want to do to their house I first determine the scope of work the person is asking me to do.  If the project is comprehensive enough that it would require the services of a design professional like myself, then I schedule a meeting at no cost or obligation to go out and meet with the Owners and see the actual existing conditions.  At this initial meeting I discuss the wants and needs of the Owners; observe the existing conditions affecting those wants and needs such as zoning issues, structural issues, budget constraints  etc..; and determine if this project is a candidate for an Architectural Feasibility Study. The difference between offering an Architectural Feasibility Study versus a full service Architectural contract is that full service contracts require much more comprehensive Architectural details and […]

Read More

LED Light Bulbs..What’s all the fuss!!!

LED Light Bulbs..What’s all the fuss!!!

LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) have actually been around for quite a long time.  The first visible LED was invented in 1962 and was subsequently used as a “power on indicator light” for appliances like stereos.  So how far have we come in 50 years and where are we heading?  The biggest difference between what was around in the 1960’s and 1970’s and now is the brightness or “lumen output” and color that can be obtained.  Back then LEDs were pretty much limited to very small pinpoints of light with very low brightness, and only available in red or green.  The positive aspects were that they would last virtually indefinitely.  How many times can you recollect a power on indicator light going out?  Around 1990 LED technology changed when the color blue was achieved.  What is so important about blue?  Blue, when combined with other ingredients gives out white light.  I am sure you now can see the enormous potential.   Once science figured out how to make white light from an LED and once they figured out how to increase the brightness “Lumen Output”, they were then on their way to making a substitute for the standard light bulb which, up till […]

Read More

American-Made

American-Made

I came across an ABC news article about a man in Bozeman, Montana that caught my eye.  The article is about a man who is an Economist turned builder.  Now this story doesn’t seem that unique, however, upon reading further, the man’s selection of materials is.  He is constructing his houses entirely from American- Made products.  In other words everything that goes into this house, he has researched to make sure that the product was actually made in good old USA. This is something that other professional contractors, like me, should take note.  Now why is this so interesting?  He claims that if every builder bought just 5% more American- Made materials, it would create an additional 220,000 jobs!  I don’t know about you, but if someone told me that if I made a conscious effort to run my business by purchasing only 5% more American-Made products, the US economy could greatly benefit; I would say that’s a win-win opportunity.  The economy wins because this is a new job creator, and I win because it becomes an opportunity for me to educate clients that we are doing our part to help the economic recovery.  Wouldn’t you as a homeowner, thinking […]

Read More

Aging-In-Place

Aging-In-Place Design enables people to have their homes be pre-user friendly before they would be forced to remodel due to illness, handicap, or condition that would require them to leave their home and have to go into a healthcare facility.  By thinking about this ahead of time and implementing certain design/remodeling changes one can extend the usefulness and enjoyment of living at home. As I am sure most of you are aware, the US population is comprised of a large portion of Baby Boomers (people over the age of 55).  I am one of those persons, so I can write this article with some firsthand experience.  My generation is significantly different from previous generations in that our professional desires, general health, life span, and overall view of what retirement  is, has a different mindset than my parents had.   I intend to work well into my 70’s or even perhaps 80’s.  Retirement to me means just  cutting down a few hours in my work day.  I love my work and really have no plans to formally retire. So why should I be concerned with Aging-In-Place Design?  The reason is quite simple.  Just as I have provided for my financial retirement, it is […]

Read More

Basement Water Leakage Problems

Basement Water Leakage Problems

I am sure everyone has been experiencing our historic amounts of rain for this April.  As a consequence of all this water, we have been getting numerous inquiries about water in basements.  I thought I would dedicate my discussion in this newsletter about this topic. Most people see water in their basement and immediately blame the foundation construction.  This sometimes is justified, but in many cases it is not.  Here are some helpful hints to stop and analyze what problem you actually have and how to go about solving the problem.  First, identify where exactly the water is coming from.  This can be very difficult sometimes.  You may look and see water on the floor and immediately assume that is where it came in when in fact it may have been a number of system failures.  Here are some possible candidates you can use as a check list: The roof gutters:  If you have gutters that are stopped up due to leaves or other things, this could be where the water in the basement originates.  Clean your gutters so they are free flowing to the downspouts. The gutter downspouts:  The downspouts channel water to a particular pipe in the ground […]

Read More

Testing for Lead in Home Remodeling

Testing for Lead in Home Remodeling

Today’s main topic is lead.  Recently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to make lead a major priority when it comes to home remodeling.  As of April 22, 2010 any house built prior to 1978 and is having renovation performed greater than 6 square feet MUST be tested for lead before work can commence.  Moreover, an EPA Certified Renovator is required to test.  If the test is positive only an EPA Certified Renovator is allowed to do the demolition work necessary and apply the proper protections in the home to avoid lead poisoning.  Also beyond that, only an EPA Certified Renovator is allowed to “clean up” after the demolition has occurred.  Rick Boyle my associate and I are both licensed EPA Certified Renovators and are qualified to perform this work.  This legislation will have a major cost impact on our industry, and the consumer.  So if you are thinking about doing some additional work in your home, or if you know someone that is planning some remodeling, please let them know about this.  Rick or I would be happy to guide them through this process.

Read More

Do you have “Green Lighting” in your home?

Do you have “Green Lighting” in your home?

Pop quiz:  What technology in your home is 132 years old and yet is still being used today.  The answer is the incandescent light bulb.  It is hard to believe that with all the advances in the last 100 years and especially in the last 20 years that we still rely on a technology, invented by Thomas Edison, when our great grandparents were alive.  In the last few years however, the game has changed and we are now making significant advances on improving the good old light bulb. With everyone now thinking about real energy conservation, new technologies are moving with incredible speeds.  The inefficient light bulb is in the sights of conservationists, and industry is responding.  I must say that even everyday people like you and me are becoming aware that the way we currently think and act in our daily lives is unsustainable and our mindset needs to be changed.  No longer do we have the luxury to say that what we consume is plentiful and will never diminish. So what about the new “green” light bulbs.  There are basically two concurrent technologies attacking the problem. The first is the fluorescent bulb, or more precisely the compact fluorescent […]

Read More

Basement Water Leakage Solutions

Basement Water Leakage Solutions

Now that we know what to look for to identify possible problem areas in our leaky basement, we will focus on what solutions are out there in the marketplace.  I have found that the solutions tend to be categorized into three divisions:  The exterior major surgery approach:  Some basement waterproofing companies feel that the best and only way to truly guarantee that a basement won’t leak is to perform major work to the exterior of the building.  The theory behind their thinking is to stop the water from ever having a chance to get into the basement.  This actually is a very sound approach to the problem.  It is very expensive.  For those who can afford this and can afford the construction consequences that go along with it, this is the right approach for them. What this solution entails is the digging up of the entire perimeter of the home; applying proper measures to the existing foundation wall (generally this is a patented system that each company is promoting as their exclusive cure all system); applying their waterproofing and  drainage system; and then refilling the trench with gravel and finally dirt.  The homeowners  are then left with reinstalling landscaping, walkways, […]

Read More

How to deal with your Insurance Co. on a fire damage loss

How to deal with your Insurance Co. on a fire damage loss

One of the most horrific things that can happen to a Homeowner is fire damage.   Equally horrific is after the fire, the ordeal that a Homeowner is put through to get their home and life back together.  Unfortunately, there are more horror stories on this subject than all other aspects of home ownership.  After over 30+ years in this business, I have had my share of dealing with good and bad Insurance Companies when it comes to these types of losses.  I have even set up a separate company “SBC Restoration “ to specifically deal with these kinds of insurance issues.  So sit back, relax, and let me tell you what you are in store for if you are the victim of a fire loss. I will use, as an example, a project I did a few years back.  The names are not important, but their story is very typical of what can, and generally does happen.  The Homeowners were out of town when a lightning bolt hit their two story home and caused the second floor to catch fire.  A neighbor called the fire department, and after the firemen flooded their second floor with water, were successful in saving […]

Read More

How to create a GREEN kitchen

How to create a GREEN kitchen

Green is the buzz word of the millennium.  Everyone wants to be a part of the Green Movement, but most do not know how to do it.  So I am going to take the principles of green construction and apply it to the remodeling of a kitchen.  There is no such thing as getting a green certification for your kitchen unless it is part of a total house remodeling, but that shouldn’t deter you from applying some of the common sense principles.  Resource efficiency is an important part of building sustainability.  Think of your home as a major resource consumer.  Your home has and will consume resources.  This affects the environment by depleting natural resources, energy use, and increases in waste.  By using durable, renewable, responsibly produced materials, and managing building waste, you can positively affect the environment and achieve your own level of Green.  So what positive steps can you take in your remodeled kitchen:  RESOURCE EFFICIENCY: Recycle:  Create a built-in collection space.  This collection space encourages sustainable living for the occupants.  Recycling becomes convenient and a daily part of your life.  Collection spaces should be designed with odor and air quality in mind.  Your positive decision should not […]

Read More

Thinking Green

Thinking Green

 If there is one undeniable truth that I have learned in my 30+ years of practicing Architecture and building remodeling projects is that this is a cyclical business. In the late 70’s and early 80’s the buzz words were: ENERGY CONSERVATION (DUE TO THE OIL SHORTAGE) HEALTHY LIVING (DUE TO ASBESTOS HAZARDS IN BUILDING MATERIALS) DURABLE PRODUCTS (DUE TO A BACKLASH FROM THE CREATION OF CHEAP, DISPOSABLE PRODUCTS FLOODING THE BUILDING MARKET) CLEAN ENVIRONMENTS (DUE TO POLLUTION OF LAND, SEA, AND AIR) Now along comes “THINKING GREEN” as the new buzz word for 2010 and beyond. I have now lived long enough to see the day when everything old is new again. However, I believe this time it is a horse (or in this case” house”) of a different color (green). Everything old is new again has taken on a new meaning. The three “R”s of the green movement are leading the way: REDUCE, REUSE, AND RECYCLE We now need to reduce the amount of trash and waste we create. We need to reuse items such as boxes and grocery bags. And we need to recycle such things as cans, newspapers, and bottles. So how does “THINKING GREEN” relate to […]

Read More

Home Remodeling Permits

Home Remodeling Permits

The last time we talked we discussed the new EPA Lead Safety rules that went into effect on April 22, 2010.  These rules have been a big pain for the contractors and the Owners.  They have added, in most cases where they apply, significant cost to projects.  There is legislation that has been recently passed by the Senate to delay implementation of the program (even though it is currently in effect) until next year due to the fact there is so much confusion about the new rules and given the fact that there are so very few contractors that are licensed to do this work.  Stay tuned for updates.  If you want further into go to the EPA web site  www.epa.gov. Today’s topic is permits.  There is so much confusion about when a permit is required and when it is not.  In the past, each municipality was free to choose which building standard they wanted.  This created a mess because I would have to review different building codes depending on the place and code that was approved for that district.  As of April 2009 the State of Ohio said enough is enough and created one residential code for the entire […]

Read More

Winterizing Your Home

Winterizing Your Home

Today’s topic is winterizing your home. I know what you are thinking, this is middle of summer and it is not time to think about cold weather! Actually now is a very good time to start thinking about winterization. So many people wait till the last second, generally when the snow is on the ground, to react to winter. All I am saying is plan your work and start to make your checklist so when the time comes you will have already done your home work . Then all you have to do is work your plan. So what kinds of things should you have on your list: 1. Close vents to crawlspaces. Too many of our clients forget to do this. This can cause serious damage to pipes, and you need to consume much more energy to heat your rooms. 2. Add insulation to poorly insulated spaces. Once we get into moderate temperatures, go around your house and try and remember which were cool spots that could be addressed with additional insulation. Have your attic checked out to see if there is a minimum of R=30 insulation (and preferably R=38). 3. Verify that there is proper ventilation in your […]

Read More

LVL Beams

LVL Beams

Hi Everyone My last newsletter was on the business side of remodeling as it related to the state of our economy. This time, I would like to get back to some of the nuts and bolts issues of remodeling. If you were to ask me…Stan-what has been the greatest technological advancement you have seen in your thirty years in the remodeling industry? My answer would be simple and to the point, “LVL”. What the heck is LVL? LVL stands for laminated veneer lumber. What is laminated veneer lumber? Well…let me explain. In the past, we contractors and architects used to only have two alternatives when structurally designing for a remodel job. Our choices were either steel beams or dimensional lumber (meaning 2X solid wood). Both of these alternatives are still very much being used today. The problem was that if you wanted to keep prices down you would choose wood, but wood had a significant drawback. It was very difficult to use to span large distances (say over 10 feet) without getting a very sizable beam or even worse you would need to sandwich multiple beams together to achieve the strength you needed the beam to carry. Also you didn’t […]

Read More