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Mike Foti

President of Innovate Building Solutions a nationwide supplier and regional (Cleveland and Columbus) remodeling contractors. Some of our product lines include glass counters, floors, backsplashes, glass blocks and grout free shower and tub wall panels

5 Little Known Secrets I’ve Learned Becoming a Bathroom Wall Panel Geek

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

5 Little Known Secrets I've learned becoming a bathroom wall panel geek | Innovate Building Solutions | #ShowerPanels #SolidSurfaceBase #BathroomRemodel

I never expected to become a bathroom wall panel geek.

I grew up a mini-Alex P. Keaton (for those of you not old enough to remember he was the young business-geek son on the sitcom Family Ties popular in the 1980’s – yes I’m dating myself here). My heart and passion were business and finance. The dream job I wanted when I graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with my B.S. (it doesn’t mean what you think) in Business Administration was to get a job as a strategic planning consultant with McKinsey and Company (a hot consulting company).

That’s not how things worked out.

After 4 years doing the ‘corporate thing’ as a Product Manager at a cutting tool manufacturing company, my Dad let me buy (he floated me the loan actually) 50% of his glass block contracting business. Away with the 3-piece suit and fancy mahogany desk. Say hello to jeans and hanging out with ‘gontractors’ (that’s how you say contractors with an Italian accent).

I got into the bathroom wall panel business like most entrepreneurs. I morphed into it. Here’s how:

 

  • Glass block shower walls led me to offering shower bases to go with them.
  • Shower bases lead me to acrylic bathroom surround panels.
  • Acrylic bathroom surround panels lead me into 4 lines of wall panels (so far) – cultured granite, a decorative PVC composite line, high gloss panels and thin acrylic panels.

I started in bathroom wall panels with standard 1/8” thick acrylic panels – like you see from ‘one day bath’ companies Bath Fitter and Rebath.  Today, this line is a small part of what people are buying from us. The world has shifted. We have shifted with it.

With all this being said, my journey into bathroom wall panel geekdom probably doesn’t matter one iota to you (hey- what exactly is an iota anyway?). If you’re like most people, you’re confused researching the plethora (that’s a fancy word I threw in there to make you ‘think’ I’m smart) of choices in wall panels. You’re left to ‘sift through the rubble’ and figure out which bathroom or shower wall panel line will work best for you. Many homeowners are confused in this process. That’s why I wrote this article.

My goal is simple. Explain to you 5 little known secrets I’ve learned in my years educating, selling and (my company) installing bathroom wall panels (you wouldn’t want me installing, I might have the smoothest hands in the bathroom remodeling industry!). I want you to make the best choice for you the first time out.

Below you’ll find these secrets. At the end of the article let me know which ones have helped you and if any others are simply too ‘out-there’ for you (I can – at times – resemble that remark).

7 Clear-Cut Reasons to Use a Prefabricated Glass Block Shower Wall Kit

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling, Glass Block

7 clear-cut reasons to use a prefabricated glass block shower wall kit | Innovate Building Solutions | #GlassBlockWall #GlassBlockShower #GlassBlockDesign

I’m going to say it right up front.

Glass block shower walls can be a pain in the butt to install.

Here’s 3 facts I know to back up this statement:

Fact #1 – It’s not the type of job you (or your contractor) do every day – Most people doing a glass block shower wall are embarking (sounds like we’re boarding a plane), on this journey for the first time. So, you’re a newbie. Doing any home improvement for the first time (let alone a unique niche like glass blocks) can be unnerving, scary and can painfully eat up your time and pocketbook, if you’re not careful.

Fact #2 – You (or your general contractor) are desperately trying to find a needle in a haystack– If you’re lucky enough to find a mason contractor to lay up the glass blocks piece by piece you’ll likely get an old ‘grizzled veteran’ who will look like the guy below, not some hot strapping guy with no shirt like Matthew McConaughey. This old-time mason contractor will know he’s got you by the ‘you-know-what’s’ (who else are you going to get to do this job?) and will price you (and treat you) accordingly. He is “THE MAN” and will carry himself on your job as such. No “Nordstrom’s style” customer service here.

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5 Foolproof Ideas for a Shower Which Lasts – Don’t Get Fooled Again!

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

5 Foolproof ideas for a shower which lasts - don't be fooled again | Innovate Building Solutions | #ShowerRemodel #BathroomRenovations #ShowerPanels

You’ve lived through a shower which was falling apart at the seams. You said you would not get fooled again. You’ve made these proclamations (sounds very official, doesn’t it?).

I’m done with dingy and moldy grout joints.

I will not put up with a cracked shower base which caused a leak onto our dining room table below.

I will not buy or own a home which has wafer-thin plastic wall panels. The last one yellowed and looked nasty.

I won’t own another ‘brown-ish’ shower pan I can’t get clean no matter what toxic solvent I use.

I will not get stuck cleaning the bottom track of a flimsy and pitted aluminum framed shower door ever again.

I will spend less money on disinfectants and fighting back mold problems in my next shower.

I will have a shower which will last me for the next 20 years – or it better, because as Dad used to say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

You’ve heard the old saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”

When it comes to shower remodeling, I will tell you (and I talk to people about shower remodeling every day) I’ve seen many people get fooled again. They have the best intentions to eliminate the nightmare which was their last shower. However, they get fooled and fall into ‘traps’ like these.

  • They tell their remodeler they don’t want a cheap-plasticky fiberglass shower. Then their remodeler does what remodelers always do and offer them an upgraded beautiful tile shower. As time goes on they find out they’re scrubbing grout joints until their arms are soar. They ‘traded off’ the difficult to maintain dirty, yellow fiberglass shower pan for another difficult to maintain tile shower.

 

  • They say they want a shower which will last for 20 years. Then after a life event happens (for example, Mom’s mobility takes a turn for the worse and she needs to move in with you) your cool almost-brand-new 5-year-old shower is getting ripped out accommodate her.

 

  • They buy a brand-new home (with the industry-standard-oh-so-impressive – sarcasm intended- one-year warranty) and love, love, love the cool features like the quartz countertops and Shaker cabinetry in the kitchen. They pay no attention to the one-piece fiberglass tub/shower in the boy’s bathroom with framed glass doors (it looked so pretty when it was decorated in the model home). In a few short years the bottom of the fiberglass pan is scummy (you don’t expect your boys to clean up after themselves now, do you?), and the doors are practically falling off. It looks like it’s time to remodel already -and of course, replacing a nasty looking shower 5 years later is not covered under your builders fabulous one-year warranty.

The question is – whether you are remodeling or building a new home – how do you make sure you don’t get fooled again with a shower which fails?

If the title of this article reminds you of the song by The Who titled, “We Don’t Get Fooled Again” – you might be an ever-so-slightly graying 70’s rocker like me. And I’ll fess up and say I’m a guy in the late 70’s who sported a ‘quasi-mullet’ as well. But no, I’m not sharing a picture of my mullet here. While this Who song was not exactly written with shower remodeling in mind, I’ve still included a video below to get you in the spirit of the ‘new revolution’ of a new shower – so you won’t be fooled again.

In this article I’ll present 5 foolproof ideas to help you get a stylish shower which looks sharp and lasts, so you won’t be fooled again. My list is not comprehensive. At the end of the article add your ideas 6,7 and 8. Let’s learn from one another.

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7 Fun Ideas Using Glass to Jazz Up Your Outdoor Patio or Deck this Summer

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Glass Block, Glass Flooring, Glass Floors

 

7 Fun Ideas using Glass to Jazz up Your Outdoor Patio or Deck this Summer | Innovate Building Solutions | #GlassStairs #GlassFloors #StructuralGlass

Here’s a question for you. What building material can do the following and still hold up?

  • Be subjected to water continuously without rotting or rusting?
  • Be set on fire, yet not burn up?
  • Provide a structure to walk on, yet you can see through it?
  • Gives the illusion of space, yet provides a barrier between spaces?
  • Is sustainable and fully recyclable?

I probably gave the answer away in the title of this blog post – it’s glass (I’m glad I didn’t bet you’d know the answer!).

I must admit I’m a ‘glass geek.’ I love light. I hate dark rooms. If I was an ‘architectural design God’ I would eliminate the North (i.e. the dark) side of all homes.

I love seeing light move through space, without losing privacy (that’s a paradox in itself).

I love how glass can create ‘pee-your-pants’ mind-blowing experiences (have you ever walked on the glass floors at the CN Tower in Toronto, the Skywalk in the Grand Canyon, or Willis Tower in Chicago?).

I love how glass can withstand water and fire and keeps on ticking. Name another material which can do that.

Despite these cool features many people aren’t aware how they can ramp up their outdoor patio, deck, staircase, outdoor table or garden using glass.

My goal with this article is simple. I want to expose you (OK, not through any clear glass or through any 60 Minutes expose to reveal your deep dark secrets), to the fun and distinctive ways to use glass. You’ll see specific examples to kick up your outdoor patio, decks and staircases this summer and wow friends and neighbors.

My goal is to not only make you a glass geek like me (this might be a tough job given this short article), but to show you fun projects to add style which are timeless and sustainable. Don’t settle for an outdoor space which is the same old, same old boring wood deck or concrete patio.

At the end of the article, I want you to add your 2 cents. Tell me which of these ideas are cool and which are wacky and too far out for you.

5 Practical Ideas to Motivate Your Spouse to do a DIY Shower Remodeling Project

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

Ideas to Motivate Your Spouse to do a DIY Shower Remodeling Project | Innovate Building Solutions | #ShowerRemodel #ShowerProject #ShowerPanels

Updated November 16, 2018

I’m supposed to be in the bathroom remodeling business. However, here’s the weird thing. I might have the smoothest hands in the remodeling business – although the ladies in my offices might disagree. How exactly does that happen? The reason is I’m motivated to learn about, write about, promote and sell DIY and professionally installed shower remodeling projects. When it comes to swinging a hammer or sweating in a shower valve (see I sound like a pro contractor now), installing shower surround panels etc., I’ll leave that to our team of (thankfully for our company) professional contractors. Ask my wife Rose about my ‘high level’ of home improvement motivation. She has to beg me for a few hours of time on the weekend to do stuff around the house.

DIY shower remodeling is not for me (although my wife will tell you I can blog and do laundry at the same time. She’s thankful for that).

However, I am fortunate to work with lots of people around the country designing shower systems. These people either need to get a project done themselves (but can’t find a qualified contractor in their town if their life depended on it), or just want to save the money (OK – I won’t call you a cheapskate here – oops – sorry I just did).

The problem becomes how do you motivate your spouse to take the plunge and get ‘er done. Let’s face it they would rather be golfing, playing cards, fishing or even take ballroom dancing lessons or yoga classes with you (OK – they’re not willing to go THAT far).

In this article my goal is to take a tongue and groove (‘er I mean tongue and cheek) look ….and a serious look also, at how to motivate your spouse, family member or friend to DIY your shower (or at least portions of it).

The reality today is it’s getting harder to find a contractor. Taking a hold of a project yourself may be the only way it’s going to get done. Let’s look at 5 ways to motivate someone (your spouse, significant ‘utter, friend, family member etc.) else to pull you through your shower remodeling project.

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How to compare solid surface and cultured stone shower systems

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

How to Compare Solid Surface and Cultured Stone Shower System | Innovate Building Solutions | #SolidSurfacePanel #ShowerPanels #ShowerSystem

Mary called me and said, “Mike, I see you write a lot about solid surface shower systems. My mind is as confused about these systems as my 15-year-old daughter was shopping endlessly at 6 stores looking for a prom dress (and by the way she broke up with the guy 3 weeks later!). Ive checked out Onyx, Kohler Choreograph, Corian and Swanstone. I’ve also visited a cultured marble shop 25 minutes from my home. I wish I could tell you this research has made things clearer. I’m more confused than ever. Can you help?”

I told Mary, “I get it. The more you’ve learned, the more difficult the decision has become. Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll do is outline for you the most important questions to ask. Then I’ll throw my 2 cents in and give you my opinion on how these different manufacturers grade out in relation to these questions. Just remember this is just one guys opinion, so feel free to disagree.” Finally, I told Mary, “If I can figure it out solid surface systems, I’m sure you can too. After all you’re talking to a guy who took his wife to the movie Dumb and Dumber years ago and drove to the wrong theater (just a bit of irony in that, don’t you think)!”

Below you’ll find 5 questions to dig deeper and determine which product is best for you. I’ll also throw in a few links to other articles for more insight on cultured stone and solid surface showers. At the end, give me your opinions about these products and manufacturers. Chime in with questions you need answers to I did not address. OK, let’s dig in.

5 New Glass Block Wall Ideas to Add Impact to Your House

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling, Glass Block

New Glass block Wall Ideas to Add Impact to Your Home | Innovate Building Solutions | #GlassBlock #GlassBlockShower #GlassBlockWallIdeas

Glass block walls are so 80’s.

Glass block walls are a pain in the *** to install.

Glass block walls only fit in art-deco designs.

These comments USED TO BE true. This product has evolved from the clunky, wavy, monotonous 8” x 8” x 4” block stacked on top another. The architectural community is taking notice.

Proof positive of this re-invigoration is a recent article in Architectural Digest titled – Glass Blocks are Cool Again. Here’s Why You Should Take Notice.

If you’re still a sceptic – I get it. You may be asking, “Mike, why should I give a hoot about glass blocks? Why shouldn’t I listen to my builder who says they went out with mullets and big hair in the 80’s?” (BTW – if you think about it, how fashion-forward is your contractor anyway? They may be well versed in their ‘sticks and bricks,’ but I’ll bet money they aren’t hopping out of their mud-infested pickup trucks wearing Gucci loafers either).

In this article we’ll look at 5 glass block wall ideas which will blow the lid off your opinion of this product as a stuck in the mud (‘er mortar) building material. At the end let me know if you think I’m smokin’ something funny out of my glass block pipe – or if I’m on to something. A good debate never hurt anyone.

5 Condo Design Ideas for A Space Built Around You!

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling, Glass Block

Condo Design Ideas for a Space Built Around You | Innovate Building Solutions | #GlassBlockDesign #GlassBlockWall #GlassBlock

Are you entering a stage in life where your current suburban home, or active senior community, just doesn’t fit the lifestyle or mix of neighbors you want?

Are you kicking the curb (pun intended) on condo living, but aren’t completely sold it’s a fit for you?

Are you struggling to figure out how to inject style, life and personality into a ‘stuck-in-the-80’s-big-hair-shoulder-pad-looking’ condo which needs a swift fashion ‘kick-in-the-pants?”

Bob and Nona Pickering recently hit this stage of life. Their existing condo in an active senior community in the middle of “Go-Blue-Land” just wasn’t cutting it for them. (note: for those of you playing at home “Go Blue” land would be Ann Arbor, Michigan home of the University and Michigan. It’s a beautiful college town. Sorry for saying this Buckeye fans).

While this active-adult community was perfectly fine – they wanted a broad mix (and age range) of neighbors and less traffic (Ann Arbor can get crazy on game-day weekends). While Bob and Nona are both U or M grads – and big fans – game-day they can largely do without.

They wanted more time for golf and relaxing. They like the idea of being part of a larger development with a more variety of housing and people. So, the search for a new home and location began.

As Bob told me, “Mike, Nona and I found our condo in a strange way. As Nona was looking for a home for her sister they found one on a golf course with a décor which screamed out – D-A-T-E-D! Nona’s sister wanted no part of the extensive remodeling and redecorating challenge. Nona and I loved the golf course setting and proximity to Ann Arbor.

Our new condo is in Brighton Michigan (in the Pine Eagles subdivision within the Oak Pointe Community). It’s only 35 minutes from the University of Michigan and has view views of the golf course and a broad mix of neighbors.

We can still go and watch our Wolverines hopefully beat the Buckeyes (OK I’m an Ohio State fan so I had to throw the word ‘hopefully’ in there) but be outside the hustle and bustle of Ann Arbor.

The tired 1988 layout and décor had to go. Nona and I asked her sister if she would let us put a bid in on the home – since she was planning to pass on it. Our bid was accepted and that’s how this condo redesign journey began.”

In this article I’m going to highlight 5 condo design ideas Bob and Nona used to recraft their space around their needs and tastes. This project is an example of how a condo can combine good function (practicality) and good form (personality). Let’s check out these 5 ideas.

5 Myths about Solid Surface Shower Products You Need to Know So You “Won’t be Fooled Again!”

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

5 Myths about Solid Surface Shower Products You Need to Know | Innovate Building Solutions | #SolidSurface #WallPanels #BathroomTips

I’m going to keep it real dog (in the infamous words of Randy Jackson) and tell you up front most people are confused about solid surface shower products. They’ll ask me some of the following questions:

  • Isn’t this product a pain to install because the shower panels are 3/8” thick?
  • Wouldn’t a smooth solid surface material be too slipper to use for the shower pan?
  • Isn’t solid surface the same as cultured marble?
  • I’ve heard solid surface showers only come in standard sizes and my shower is custom sizes. Is that true?
  • I think I’ve seen solid surface showers before. Don’t they come in those white swirly patterns which went out along with big hair, mullets, shoulder pads and leisure suits in the 80’s?

The bottom line is – many people are confused about this material.

I’m here to tell you if I’ve been able to figure out solid surface (and explain this product to members of my team and customers), it ain’t that hard! Here’s what I’ll tell you about my level of “genius”:

  • I didn’t graduate “Magna-Cum-Rowdy” or Magna Cum Laude from college. I’m a proud Carnegie-Mellon University “Tartan.” A Tartan is synonymous with Scottish guys who wear plaid skirts. Now that’s hot. My Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers can tell you I had my share of fun and lost my fair share of brain cells (don’t tell my Mom this). I worked my butt off to get through, but didn’t exactly have a GPA that blew the roof off the place.
  • I wasn’t the top in my class in high school either. I owned the 41st highest GPA out of 82 people in at the private school I attended – Hawken School in Gates Mills Ohio. Sure, there were some smart kids there – but nobody was worried about competing with ME for valedictorian.
  • Nobody at the Apple “Genius Bar” is recruiting me. I’m sure they’re desperately looking for a 58-year-old guy with ever-so-slightly graying (I lied) hair to work side by side with the techno-savvy-20 somethings. I still have hope I’m going to get the call any day now begging me to join the “Genius Bar” team.

Despite my lack of “genius” I think I can help you dispel some of the mistruths and half-truths about solid surface products. I’ve been working with the stuff in my remodeling and nationwide product wholesaling business for years and have learned a few things along the way. So, let’s take a look at 5 myths about solid surface shower products you need to blow up and ‘not be fooled again’ (in the words of The Who for you 80’s rock band aficienados).

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An Eye for Detail: 5 Tips for an Imaginative and Expressive Luxury Condominium

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Glass Flooring, Glass Floors, Kitchen Remodeling

Tips for a Luxury Empty Nester Condominium Home | Innovate Home Org | #Emptynester #GlassFloors #LuxuryCondo

Can condominium homes be more than a ‘stamped-out-of-a-box’ cookie-cutter structure where ‘personalization’ goes beyond 11 color choices of carpet and 7 countertop selections?

Is it possible to create a luxury condo home which is an extension of you? A place which is a composition of extraordinary spaces and unique products. A place which not only ‘documents’ your past, but creates memories for your future? A place close to a vibrant city – but far enough away you’re not fighting crazy-traffic every day?

Does this vision sound nirvana-esque (not actually a word, but I’m going with it), utopian and idealistically impossible? If you think so – think again.

Not when you combine the minds of architect/developer/home builder (that’s a lot of slashes right there) Jerry Sarno of Deer Path Farms in Hudson Massachusetts with Larry Koltys, a homeowner with a photographer-inspired eye for detail, artistry and technical flair. In this home you’ll see a uniqueness which looks NOTHING like the cookie-cutter-empty-nester condos pumped out by “ABC Production Builders Inc” (not an actual company, but you know what I’m talking about).”

In the 5 tips below, we’ll take a journey through the home of Larry Koltys and Dottie Lewis, which was built by Jerry Sarno of Deer Path Farms. We’ll look at some thought-provoking luxury home building tips which highlight fun and inventive products.

At the end of this article I’m going to ask you to ‘cast your ballot.’ No, I’m not asking you ANYTHING about your political affiliation. I would like to get your ‘vote’ on which product or feature in Larry and Dottie’s home you find the coolest.

I wish I could tell you Larry would turn over his home to the winner of this contest his new home – but I already asked him. He told me no. Bummer! I do have my favorite feature which I’ll unveil at the end.

OK – let’s check out 5 tips for an imaginative and expressive luxury condo.

 

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