I stepped out of my hotel room in Columbus yesterday with a short-sleeved shirt (I’m still in a summer mind-set). The wind was blowing. It was cold, breezy and 56 degrees. I thought, “Why didn’t I check the weather on my phone this morning? Does the summer have to blow by so fast?” I suppose that was Mother Natures’ way of saying to me, “Hey Dude – you live in Ohio. The one thing constant about the weather here is it’s going to change!”
Unfortunately, the decline in temperatures is also joined at the hip with higher bills from the oh-so-friendly heating company. Before the utility company gets you (and I) with high heating bills, now is the time to do the right home improvement project this Fall before you get a bad news bill delivered into your mailbox this Winter.
If your home is not very energy efficient (OK –if we’re keeping it real you’d say it leaks like a sieve) think through which of the following 5 must-do Fall home improvement projects need to be on your list. If you don’t think about this now, you could get stuck with “Joe’s-Quick-And-Dirty Home Improvement Company” whose been on the Angie’s List – naughty list instead a reputable high-quality replacement window and door contractor to do your job.
Do you get an idea in your head and are determined to do it despite the naysayers all around you? When you came up with the idea for the glass block walk in shower the doubters came out in force. Here’s some of the “input” from the doubters you’re already had to put up with:
Why do you even want this shower – didn’t they go out of style?
Who are we going to get to install this wall? Finding a mason in our town is like finding a needle in a haystack!
A curved glass block shower wall – that’s gotta cost a ton of money. There’s no way we can afford that!
I don’t see how we have enough room for a glass block shower in our tiny 5’ x 8’ bathroom.
As the Rolling Stones once said Honey, “You can’t always get what you want – but you can get what you need – and in this case, that’s a basic shower we’ll pick up at the big box store.”
Sometimes life should be about getting what you want (not just what you need)– even in a bathroom remodeling project. However, it’s impossible to get ‘er done without the drive to figure out what you need (having a plan) and then locating the right products, systems and installation approach to make it happen.
Since glass block showers are not a “run of the mill” home improvement project (they are a specialty shower wall system) you need to do your homework so you don’t have the “nightmare on Elm Street” remodeling project you wish you never started (if that happens those naysayers will have a field day with you).
If you really want a glass block shower, you’ll need to know how to navigate the landmines which can derail your project. Below I’ll give you the straight-scoop about mistakes (and myths) I’ve seen in my 32 years in the glass block industry (wow – this really makes me sound like an old dude!) with this type of installation. This project is completely do-able – but you don’t want to fall into any of these 5 traps below.
When you take a shower is it an elbow banging, sardine-stuffed-in-can, clown-jammed-into-a-Volkswagen type of experience? Maybe your shower is “functional,” but it’s not a place you enjoy. Since the bathtub is hardly ever used, showers now rule the bathroom landscape. Day in and day out they are the workhorses of our morning or evening routine. So why settle for a tiny shower which is uncomfortably small, outdated and/or a dark depressing?
This is the question Kerry Danielsen asked about the cramped 48″ x 32″ shower in her West Winsor, New Jersey home. The challenge for Kerry (or for any of us who are adventuresome enough to embark on a bathroom remodeling project) is how can I make my limited square footage work? How can I create a bathroom which is luxurious, comfortable and durable (after all who wants to spend good money remodeling a bathroom only to see it fall apart in a short time)?
Fortunately for Kerry she had a “trick” (‘er, or should I say a friend) up her sleeve to guide her through this process. This friend is also an award-winning architect (now that’s the perfect kind of friend to have during a building project), furniture designer and graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University (that’s also my alma-mater so that can’t make him too bad!). He is Jonathan Nelson.
When I talked to Jonathan and Kerry recently about the project Jonathan joked and said, “Mike – we basically created a shower with a bathroom attached!” The challenge becomes how can you create a spacious, luxurious larger shower in a smaller bathroom while providing enough space for a vanity, and toilet? You don’t want to end up looking like an episode from “Honey, I Shrunk the Rest of our Bathroom just to put in a Larger Shower!”
Let’s go on a journey to see how this bathroom remodeling project evolved from a good plan on a sheet of paper to a space which is not only built to last, but is built to be enjoyed …. each day.
Has your basement ever flooded? Maybe your home sits low in relation to the street level and you’ve got nasty old basement windows which aren’t prepared to stop a fly let alone a bunch of rain crashing down at one time. If you’ve been the unlucky recipient of a flash flood and were the “winner” of rain or storm water in your lower level– you know what a pain it is to dig out. Drenched carpets, furniture ruined, paneling and finished wall destroyed. Floods are a mess to clean up.
Your basement problems today
Your basement walls, windows and land around your home needs to protect against floods. However, in many cases your windows, walls and land are not prepared to do the job. The first problem is most basement windows are the red-haired step-child of your home. They are cheap single pane metal or wood framed windows the original builder put in years ago. They “offer” virtually zero insulation value. They are rotten, rusted but perfect for Halloween with their dirty spider infested spookiness. Do you want to deal with these windows or would you rather they just go away peacefully?
Another problem is the land and window wells may not be equipped to handle a lot of rain at one time. The earth around your home has moved. Your lawn and landscape beds have settled and not in a good way (as a 50 something year old guy it kind of reminds me of my gut). The window wells are filled with leaves, gunk and junk. The walls, windows and ground around your basement leave a lot to be desired.
The opportunity your basement can provide
If you have a home though, you know it’s nice to have a light filled basement. Basement windows can bring light into your lower level rec rooms, man-caves and hobby and crafting rooms. They can make finished rooms look bright and airy (if the windows aren’t rusted shut or in such bad shape you don’t dare to open them). In addition, the basement is a low-cost opportunity to add space for you, your family and your hobbies (note: it’s much cheaper to remodel a basement than to do a room addition).
The lower level can also be the perfect place to create a cool room for your teenagers to hang out (versus being God-only-knows where with their friends) or a fun man cave or hobby room. It is an important place to store valuable furniture, books, family pictures and equipment. Whether you have a beautifully remodeled finished basement or just want to make sure your things don’t get waterlogged you’ve got to develop a game plan to protect again the elements messing up your things.
The question becomes what can you do fix leaky basement windows, deal with a messed-up landscape and protect your finished lower level from being damaged by Mother Nature? Check out these 4 practical tips to button up your home so you won’t be digging out from a rainwater problem you could have avoided.
George Vickroy said to me, “Mike this was the hardest DIY remodeling project I’ve ever done, but I’m getting so much more than I expected back from it!”
Doing a DIY bathroom remodeling project can be a pain. Plumbing, electrical, drywall, heating, heavy materials you’ve got to lug in and out of the home. The need to get constant input from the people leading you along the way. You have to have so many skills to – as Larry the Cable guy would say “get ‘er done” – it can be downright mind-boggling. The challenge becomes once you’ve decided to bite the bullet and tackle the job how do you pull yourself through it? How do you prevent from leaving a half-done trail of a “job-almost-well-done?” You don’t want your family asking, “So when are you going to finish the bathroom exactly?”
When I visited George and Tena Vickroy’s house to take pictures of their new bathroom (we worked together on the glass block walk in shower and solid surface shower pan in this job) it was amazing how George and I started reflecting on how our Dad’s advice was still ringing in our heads today (and in my case my Dad passed away 28 years ago!) – even while toiling through a bathroom remodel.
Maybe George and I got nostalgic about our Dads because we’re just a tad bit older (I’m 57, but think I can look 37 at any time after I use my magic $9.99 bottle of Miss Clairol for men hair coloring. I also think being “delusional and happy is a good thing- but I digress). Maybe it’s because as you get older you start to realize how much you don’t know. Maybe it’s because Dad had a lot of wisdom – but when we were young we sometimes blew him off and said to ourselves, “What does the old man know anyway?”
In the article below I’m going to show off the DIY bathroom remodeling project George did in conjunction with his wife Tena, his son Clayton, son in law Mike, friend Neil and even a former student KC Weber. We’ll look at this project through 6 thoughtful words of wisdom from our Dad’s. At the end of the article let me know if any of these “Dad-isms” (not sure that’s a word, but it should be) ring true with you. I know Dads can also be wacky (yes, I do resemble that remark – ask any of my 3 kids and they will back that statement up) – but sometimes the “old man” knows a thing or two, or six.
Are you like me and H-A-T-E winter? “Old-Man-Winter” is finally behind us. Spring temperatures are here. I can smell the Lilac and Korean spice bushes outside my home. Everything is just perfect …. except the abuse winter inflicts on our houses.
Now that I’m getting outside raking dead leaves away, getting mulch spread and putting in the screen windows it’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a rocket scientist’s husband or wife!) to see your home has gotten a bit (OK maybe more than a bit) tattered and torn from the cold winter season. A front door or window may have rotten wood. Your siding can be showing its age with the paint coming off the boards. Your basement windows might look like they can practically fall out if you blew on them. And the garage – can you saw DISASTER. It’s tough to even get to the rake without stumbling over bikes and excess junk all around the garage floor!
Now that you’re out of your winter hibernation season what can (and should) be done to resurrect the outside of your home? In this article, we’re going to go on a “tour” of 7 smart projects you can tackle this spring to help you fall in love with your home again (and protect it the next time winter comes back again sorry to remind of you of this). We’ll start in the front of the house, go around the sides and finally look at some cool projects for the backyard. At the end of the article let me know project would make the most sense for your home.
Figuring out a glass block shower can be a pain in the rear! If you’re using a contractor they may be vaguely familiar with this type of wall system – or, if they are not, they will try to steer you to a “standard” shower enclosure since it’s what they know how to do. But, if you have your heart set on the benefits of a low maintenance, high privacy glass block shower and want to make it happen – no matter how difficult it is to figure out – you’ll want to read this article.
Well I’m here to tell you a glass block shower doesn’t require a brain surgeon to design and install (and my wife would agree I’m not a brain surgeon – or at least I don’t have the listening skills of one)! I’ve been working with this product since 1985 (wow- that makes me old) and have learned a few “tricks” along the way about glass block design. In this article, my goal is to help you identify the top 6 glass block wall shapes. Then we’ll look at each shape (I’ll give you some “out-there” names for them) and look at the strengths and weaknesses of each so you can wrap your arms around which is best for you. Just to let you know I’ve saved the most popular design for last (but don’t jump ahead because the other 5 designs may be better for your project) So let’s get ‘er done and figure this project out!
You may think I’ve gone nuts. How can glass block basement windows possibly be sexy?? If there is a definition of YUCK it’s got to be basement windows. Most existing metal or wood framed basement windows are nasty. In almost every case when I – or a member of our company – visits someone’s basement to look at a project they say, “Sorry for the mess down there! Do you want me to clean off the dirt and cobwebs from the windows?” Yes – existing basement windows are anything but sexy.
So how can replacing a metal or wood framed basement window with glass blocks add some sex-appeal to your basement (if that’s even possible)? How can they make you happy taking trips to your basement to do the laundry or hang out in the rec room – or at least make it a bit less depressing? Read on and see.
Do you sometimes think taking on a bathroom remodel is something you must endure more than it’s something you’ll love doing? I’m sure Tami of Agoura Hills, California certainly had these thoughts during her journey (along with her husband Todd) to redo a way-too-small bathroom which had not been renovated in 30 years (see the before image below).
You see, Tami’s bathroom remodel took 8 months to complete (and a lot of personal research and effort). The project could have been done in a shorter time – but Tami was determined to get the best (and longest lasting) products for her project. It’s funny I would be writing this article about bathroom remodeling endurance and perseverance on my Dad’s birthday. You see my Dad passed away 28 years ago, and one of his sayings which is cemented in my mind even today is, “An ounce of perseverance is worth a pound of genius, and in this family Michael we ain’t got no genius, so you need to work your butt off.”
When Tami told me the story of her bathroom remodeling project it’s one of patience, planning and above all else perseverance (Dad would have been proud of you Tami). In this article, you’ll get an inside peak (and 5 inspiring tips) to see how Tami and Todd not only found ways to push through their bathroom remodel, but achieved an excellent finished product. Let’s dig in.
Isn’t the window in your shower a pain in the butt? I bet you’ve asked yourself on more than one occasion, “why the heck did a builder put a see-through window smack dab in the middle of our shower? Was the guy who built this home an exhibitionist? Didn’t he also know water would be hitting on the wood trim surrounding this shower window sill each and every day and eventually the wood will rot out?”
Now, you’ve got a problem. Everyone in your family is after you to do something about this deteriorated window trim. The challenge is where to start? What’s the right solution to fix this trim?
The other day I was talking to Jeff Spurio, a Shower and Window Design Consultant, and we were discussing how frustrating shower windows are for homeowners. While it may be tempting to rip down the old and put up some new trim (something certainly more waterproof than wood!), simply retrimming the window may not be the best solution to get your shower (or combined tub/shower unit) problems behind you.
As Jeff told me, “Mike – as in life – I guess we need to step back and see things in a wider perspective. See what’s going on not only with the window trim, but to think about questions like do we even have the right window and are the shower walls built to last?” As the old saying goes, “it doesn’t make sense to put lipstick on a pig.” It certainly doesn’t make sense to put new trim around a shower on its last leg or a window which doesn’t open or provides no privacy.
In this article, I’m going to give you some inside tips Jeff shared with me explaining how he helps people to not only think through selecting the right trim to use around shower windows, but most importantly to develop a solution to make sure their entire showering system (walls, window and trim) will perform well (and look nice) over the long run. Let’s take a peak at 5 ½ tips (yes – the ½ tip is important as well) Jeff shared with me to help you get the right window trim AND the right showering system.