PRIDE AND THE MASTER CARPENTER

By Doug Hanna

Recently, the guy who does web marketing for our company, John Corbett, suggested that I write a blog post about the role of pride in producing top level craftsmen. Having worked at S + H maybe 20 years ago for a year or two, John recalled that every carpenter that he knew at S + H aspired to be the best, and had definite opinions on what constituted quality work. The carpenter’s trade requires vision, patience and total focus. Any lapses in attention are punished immediately as the work must be torn back and corrected. Intense pride in the result helps to keep the master carpenter’s head in the game.

 

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PRIDE AND THE MASTER CARPENTER

DESIGN FLEXIBILITY AND RENOVATION OF HISTORIC BUILDINGS

Sometimes historic buildings can take their time giving up their secrets. In such a case, it is well to have a flexible project design, one that takes account of the surprises and opportunities that renovation of an older building can furnish. An example is this 1840’s Gothic mansion on Beacon Hill, designed by Richard Upjohn, who designed the main entrances to the Boston Common. Originally a single 23,000 SF unit, in 1965 it was gutted and entirely stripped of its original finishes and trim in order to partition it into 15 modern residential units. As part of this work, the ceilings were dropped from a lofty 13 feet down to barely 7 feet.

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DESIGN FLEXIBILITY AND RENOVATION OF HISTORIC BUILDINGS

ACCELERATED CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULES

One of the most common questions we get from owners, just after how much a project is going to cost, is “how long it will take?".  People who have experienced a renovation project before usually have a somewhat realistic idea of schedule.  We often say that were it not for permits and inspections, we might be able to shave months off a particular job. But the fact is that we, along with all of our above-board competitors, adhere to the requirements of municipal agencies and go by the book. This process has increased the length of projects more and more over the years. Not only does procuring a permit take longer, but once we have the permit, new types of inspections are required, depending on the town (such as screw pattern inspections in drywall… right Somerville ?).  

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ACCELERATED CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULES

ON-SITE MILLWORK FABRICATION SKILLS KEEP PROJECT ON SCHEDULE

Construction of this new grand entry was an example of how on-site millwork fabrication skills can furnish design and production efficiencies, keeping the project on schedule. While a third party vendor will generally fabricate custom millwork more economically than can be done on-site, in this case, significant on-site fabrication enabled the carpenters to help resolve design approval issues in real time and keep the project moving. Like every industry, more specialization has been the tendency, causing changes in the role of the lead carpenter. This trend is driven by technology, and efficiencies of scale, but there are often times when there is no substitute for agile and responsive problem solving, based upon long experience.

 

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ON-SITE MILLWORK FABRICATION SKILLS KEEP PROJECT ON SCHEDULE

Preliminary Guesstimates

We are often asked to provide preliminary estimates for building and renovation projects, prior to the development of clear and definitive plans and specifications. Estimates are, of course, more accurate, with a fully realized set of construction documents. But we know that preliminary estimates are a good way for architects and owners to get a rough idea of the cost of projects before fully committing to a design. Sometimes, preliminary plans have enough information to provide fairly accurate pricing, but in some cases, by necessity, estimates are more like guesstimates. In these situations, numbers will be based on our experience and whatever information we can gather from the architect and owner, regarding the level of finishes.

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Preliminary Guesstimates

Job Site Dangers in the Construction Business

By Doug Hanna

Building construction is a dangerous business. At a time when many jobs have moved from factory floors to cubicles, and from farms to malls, construction remains something that must be done on-site, by actual people. Those people, the people who work on your homes, face potential dangers every day. Electrical hazards, falls, and injuries from tools make up the majority of injuries suffered each year.

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Job Site Dangers in the Construction Business

The Difference Between Cost-Plus and Fixed Cost Contracts

By Doug Hanna

Recently I attended a three-day retreat with a group of contractors from different areas of the United States. This was an introductory meeting to see if our company would "make the cut" and be voted into this advisory group of contractors. We were indeed voted into the group, and so will attend a couple of meetings a year going forward. We regularly meet with local contractor/competitors involved in residential renovation and building, at networking and trade association events, where we always have an interesting exchange of ideas and experiences. However, this retreat allowed for more direct and honest criticism to be exchanged (along with the excuse to eat and drink more than usual). The contractors in the group come from non-competing markets, giving them the ability to share experiences and advice in a more open manner, without giving away all the state secrets.

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The Difference Between Cost-Plus and Fixed Cost Contracts

Living In a Construction Site - - Stay or Go?

By Doug Hanna

It's one of my favorite Clash songs. But it's also the subject of this month's letter because I'm referring to the decision many owners face when renovating their home. Along with other questions we typically ask people, today it is more important than ever to know whether an owner or family intends to stay in their home during a renovation.

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Living In a Construction Site - - Stay or Go?

Contractors Insurance - - What Homeowners Should Know

By Doug Hanna

Remodeling your home or building a new one is always very exciting. The anticipation of finally having your "dream house" can sometimes overshadow some of the issues that tend to get lost in the shuffle. Yes, it is critical that you use a contractor, architect, and designer that are a good fit for your project. But in the process, it is critical that you make sure your "team" - specifically your contractor, carries the appropriate insurance. Proper insurance is the "safety net" that protects everyone involved.

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Contractors Insurance - - What Homeowners Should Know

What Contractors Wish Homeowners Knew

By Doug Hanna

Recently, I was asked a popular question from an editor at SheKnows.com, "What do contractors wish homeowners knew?" With the popularity of DIY-everything nowadays, homeowners may be feeling a little more ambitious to do their own home renovation or remodeling. While there are some projects that can be done without hiring a contractor, we feel the bulk of your remodel or renovation should come from a professional. Given the complexity of today's projects, the new building technologies and the increasingly rigorous requirements of municipal, state and federal agencies, most projects are better left to licensed contractors.

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What Contractors Wish Homeowners Knew

Why Use a General Contractor

Live and learn. That still holds true for us at S + H Construction, even though we’ve been in this business for almost 35 years. Some of what we learn falls under the category of “you can’t make this up,” while other things are just old realizations that get reinforced with each passing year. We’ve noticed that the learning process is also true for a new generation of homeowners who, just as with generations past, are learning by experience the enduring truths about renovation work and new construction, and why it’s important to hire a legitimate general contractor. With an abundance of home improvement and “home – flippers” shows, many people are led to believe that being a general contractor is something that anyone can do or manage while learning on the fly. 

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Why Use a General Contractor

Building Consultations - - Costs and Benefits

By Doug Hanna

A recent online discussion in the builder’s group NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) sparked some strong opinions from builders across the country. The hot topic being discussed is whether builders should charge for consultations and if so, how much. 

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Building Consultations - - Costs and Benefits

How to Choose a Contractor

By Doug Hanna

Contrary to the sworn oath of the brotherhood/sisterhood of general contractors, we builders do sometimes try to put ourselves in the shoes of the customer. We understand that it can be daunting for homeowners to start down the road of choosing a contractor. There are many aspects to take into consideration including quality, price, reputation, length of time in business, NSA watch-list status, etc. Notice that I put quality in front of price. Many people focus on price first, and while that is certainly important, especially if the budget is limited, selecting a contractor is not as simple as selecting, say, a trash can. 

 

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How to Choose a Contractor

Volatility in the Greater Boston Real Estate Market

By Doug Hanna  

The current crazy ride in the local real estate market may seem unprecedented, but it's happened before. In 1981, as new parents, my wife and I bought a triple-decker in Somerville. The day we moved in the neighbor from across the street strolled over and greeted me as follows: "Ya paid too much for it!"  Three years later, when we sold the house for more than twice the amount we paid, I paid a visit to my neighbor, who had become a friend, and gave him the news. He just shook his head.

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Volatility in the Greater Boston Real Estate Market