For some a home can be viewed as a pile of sticks, bricks and shingles – a dwelling, a simple roof over your head. For others (like Sandy and Jeff Alexander of Stonington Connecticut) a home is much more. It is the hub of family life, an extension of who they are and of what they value. You may be wondering how can people view their homes so differently? I believe is tied into connection with your surroundings, the importance of family life and how you want to interact with the world around you.
When I talked to Sandy about the beautiful modern, bright and airy farmhouse (she worked with builder Nick Lehto of Lehto Design Build on the project) she said to me, “Mike – this home (and architecture in general) has been a love for Jeff and me. We didn’t want to build any old house. We were building our forever home. A place for Jeff and me and our 6-year-old son Brody to enjoy and do things together. We wanted to spend as little time as possible maintaining and fixing this home. We were determined to build a home which was sustainable, cost-effective and respected our planet.”
Are you looking for more than just sticks and bricks slapped up by “ABC Crank-It-Out Production Builders Incorporated?” Do you want a home which connects with who you are, with what you value? If so, read on to see how Sandy and Jeff incorporated personal values and a desired lifestyle into their modern forever home.
This week I’m veering off the remodeling path in this reflective post about personal inspiration – back next week with more remodeling thoughts.
Taking time to reflect
I don’t mean to be “Mr. Downer” but if God wanted me out of here I’d be 6’ under by now. That’s what 2 significant heart events in less than a year will make you – or me in this case – think. However – I’m still ticking. Running an hour a day. Working more hours than I should, writing two blog posts per week, trying my best to be a good Dad and husband. Life’s challenging health events haven’t slowed me down but they have kicked up my desire to reflect on life’s journey and to keep plugging –keep moving –keep learning – and keep growing.
Who the heck I am?
In case you’ve arrived at this blog for the first time I’ll give you the 2–minute low-down on me. I’m a 56-year-old “slightly graying” (being generous to myself here) married guy from C-town (Cleveland) with 3 somewhat grown kids (their maturity and mine depends on the day) who is a fanatical entrepreneurial business owner, Christian, over the top runner and just dumb enough guy to be a Cleveland Browns fan.
Back to the story
I’m on a plane now headed on the cross-country trip to Portland Oregon to my nephew Nate’s high school graduation. While others are sleeping, watching YouTube videos or talking to their seat mates, I’m alternating my time between writing (on a “vacation day”) and reading an excellent book by John Maxwell titled 3 Things Successful People Do and the moment hit me like a ton of bricks. Why am I wired to keep doing when others are relaxing? Am I nuts (OK I might resemble this remark)? What makes me inspired to do what I do – and more importantly, what can inspire any of us (even if life has you or I down right now) to dust ourselves off and gain inspiration to keep going, striving and progressing?
Where I’m going with this post (striving for more evolution)
My goals in this post are two-fold.
First, I’ll share with you my personal reflections and what’s keeping me moving these days despite a crazy-busy life shared between faith, family, friends, business and more than a bit of writing.
Second, and most importantly, I’d like to talk about “evolution” – but not in the scientific sense (definitely not bright enough to talk about that!). I believe as people we are all in one of 3 states. We’re either evolving (learning, growing, trying new stuff), revolving (stuck in the cog of life’s grind) or we’ve dissolving (bitter, hurt and headed down the abyss of negativity). From day to day and even moment to moment life’s circumstances can move us back and forth like a human yo-yo between these 3 states. The goal in life (in my humble opinion) is quite simple. It’s to evolve, to live out our purpose, to be used up at the end. Towards that end, in the last part of this article I’m going to pose 5 reflective questions I use to guide me to get back into the state of “evolution” when life’s twists and turns want to pull me down. My hope is these questions will help you too. So, as Larry the Cable guy would say, “Let’s get ‘er done!”
Freddie sent me the pictures – and even a drawing – of his odd shaped shower and he was absolutely on the money when he said, “Mike – this thing is one of the funkiest bathrooms you’ll ever see. What were the last owners thinking when they created the weird angles in this space? Even though I’ve done a bathroom remodeling project or two in my past I’ve never encountered a beast like this shower. Can you help me figure this puzzle out?”
Unfortunately, Freddie is not the only one in this country with an odd shower which is funky with a capital “F!” It’s simple to identify and say – Man, that is an odd space – it’s much more challenging to get a game-plan to conquer this crazy shower and transform your bathroom into a functional, stylish and maintenance free place. Even after Freddie sent me pictures and a drawing it took 45 minutes on the phone to BEGIN to get a plan together to get this weirdness under control.
This brings up the question, “What do you need to know to tame a lion-sized bathroom remodeling challenge? What assistance is required to not only conquer this beast, but to create a space which is much better than the fungus-infested, dirty-grout, odd shaped shower you’re stuck with today?”
My goal in this article is to give you practical tips to get your arms around this project – whether your man (or woman) enough to tackle it as a DIY’er – or plan to bring a contractor in (note – if you look for a professional contractor you’ll need to find one who likes a challenge, knows what they’re doing, won’t demand your first- born child or force you to take on a second job to pay for this remodel to ‘get ‘er done). Let’s look at these 5 ½ tips (the ½ tip is the cherry on the top) and stop putting up with the nastiness that is your strange shower today!
At midnight, I received the all too familiar email. It said,
“Mike, my general contractor is extremely hesitant to work with the (you fill in the blank) product (in my business I could fill in this blank with unique products like wet room systems, grout free shower wall panels or glass block showers or windows). I desperately want this product in my remodeling project. I’m crushed. How do I convince him to use this new product….to innovate on my project? I’m completely frustrated. I don’t want to have to beg get what I want – but I will if that’s what it takes!”
Have you ever resembled this remark in the middle of a kitchen, basement or bathroom remodeling project? Contractors are not known to be the most progressive ‘tools in the shed’ – and in the busy market of today it’s much easier for them to tell you, “hey lady we don’t know anything about that product.” Asking them to innovate can be as hard as asking the shyest person you know to give a speech about physics to a group of egghead scientists. Neither request is likely to be fulfilled – unless you know how to influence them in a way they want to help you get what you want.
This is not an easy mission, but you’ve got no choice but to accept it if you want to get the home renovation project of your dreams (money alone will not convince your contractor to do a project they are uncomfortable installing). A quality contractor doesn’t want to stick their neck, pocketbook and reputation out if they don’t know what the heck they’re doing. They will be responsible to come back to fix what’s wrong if something goes sideways for you – and they aren’t eager to take the risk.
How do you get your competent (in this article I’m assuming they are competent – if not, you have other bigger problems!) – yet conservative general contractor to go out on a limb and install a cool or important new product you’ve just got to have? To get something new it’s time to turn back to some good old fashioned advice. This timeless advice was adapted (with a twist) from a book originally published in 1936 (and has sold over 30 million copies) from Andrew Carnegie called How to Win Friends and Influence People. In this article let’s look at 4 common sense tips (with a little psychology thrown in) inspired by the work of Andrew Carnegie to influence your contractor (or anyone for that matter) to get what you want.
Do you have the June Cleaver throwback bathroom from the 1950’s, or maybe a “modern” 1970’s bathroom straight out of the Brady Bunch which are practically begging you for an update? You know you NEED a bathroom makeover so bad. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the partially rusted tub, pealed wood on the window sills, tired old particle board vanity with a dated laminate top and nasty looking grout in the shower. The challenge is what are you going to do about it? How can you update for a fresh, clean look? How can you create an updated design which takes advantage of the latest trends and keeps maintenance to a minimum? The question is – where do you start?
One excellent place to begin is to take a sneak peek at the products which are hot today and include these elements in your remodeled “bathroom of tomorrow.” In this article, we’ll look at what’s hot now. At the end, I’d love to hear your “Siskel and Ebert” – two thumbs up or thumbs down on these products.
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.
I was super excited the team in our Cleveland location put in the blood (actual blood in the case of our Accounting Manager, Georgia), sweat and maybe a few tears opening our new bathroom remodeling showroom (which includes multiple lines of grout free shower and tub wall panels). What dawned on me after all the hard work the team put in is how difficult it is for homeowners (whether they live in Cleveland or anywhere around the country) to know where to go (whether they are “virtual shopping or going to a brick and mortar location) to see, price and get advice about shower or tub wall panels.
There are a lot of tile shops to see and learn about tile – but where are the showrooms to experience products to eliminate hassles associated with grouted products like tile and stone? Where are the people to help you so you don’t have to kill yourself and burn up your keyboard trying to get advice (and a good deal) on grout free shower panels? If you don’t “stumble upon” (pun intended) the right company you can (and often do) end up making a less than optimal choice (which ends up being limited by what the contractor tells you he is willing to do or what you can “uncover” with extensive internet research).
This inefficient buying process costs you time, money and aggravation. It can seem shower and tub wall panels are the best kept secret (even though there is a growing number of people who are dying to blow up their tile surrounds). In this article, my goal is to give you practical tips to save time and money in this process (even if you aren’t close enough to visit our Cleveland bathroom remodeling showroom).
At the end of this article let me know if any of these tips surprised (or helped) you. Without further delay let’s get to the 5 tips.
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!
Figuring out how to remodel a shower can be tough. What products should you use to have a stylish space which won’t be a pain to clean? Should you hire a remodeling contractor or do it yourself? How do you figure out the best shower pan, wall surround material and type of entry to use? Who you gonna call (it probably won’t be Ghostbusters) for help and guidance so you won’t end up pulling your hair out (if you have any left at the end)?
I wish I could tell you there was one magic formula, a silver bullet, a one-size-fits-all shower remodel recipe. That would be nice, but it’s not reality. What I can (and will) is there are things you absolutely need to ask yourself (the Do’s) and things you’ll want to stay away from (the Don’ts) like the plague which will either lead you to a victorious shower project or down the road to home improvement “h-e-double hockey sticks (as our kids used to say when they were young so they wouldn’t say hell). Without further delay, let’s dig in.