The SHK Renovation

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I’m taking a risk here, but it’s worth taking.  This blog is meant to warn you.  Stay away from the SHK renovation process, and if you've already started, RUN!  Never subject yourself to that kind of experience.  Customers from the SHK tell us (and quite frequently) how much they regret trying to renovate their home that way.  Every single customer of the SHK acknowledges it was not worth it.  
Full disclosure, the SHK is not some up and coming competitor.  Instead, it’s a very costly experience better known as the School of Hard Knocks.  Graduates of this “school” come to Daniel Builders after learning valuable renovation lessons the hard way.  They all say the same thing, “I had no idea how much time, money and hardship my renovation would cost.” Ironically, the school appeals most to those seeking to save time, money, and hardships.  
Attending the SHK isn’t necessary.  In fact, it’s the only school that truly pays to skip.  So how does one avoid learning the lessons the hard way?  Short answer: Identify SHK renovators before it’s too late.  (*Note: A 2015 Houzz showed the top 3 renovation challenges were 1) finding the right service provider 2) finding the right products and materials 3) staying on budget.Really all 3 get resolved by choosing the right service provider.) The SHK renovator typically does minimal upfront legwork prior to starting a project.      
Time is money, and here’s a story line illustrating how both are easily lost in large quantities during a renovation. See if it sounds familiar.  Homeowner seeks contractor for a major renovation project.  Homeowner finds contractor A online, and contacts him based on multiple online reviews from past customers who speak highly about Contractor A’s ability to provide an excellent renovation experience.  Customer meets Contractor A and likes him even more.  Customer feels very confident contactor A is competent and will deliver a high quality/low frustration renovation.  Yet, homeowner decides to shop for a lower price.  And he finds contractor B.  Contractor B says he can do everything Contractor A, but at a price the homeowner wants to hear.  So the homeowner moves forward with contractor B.  Fast forward 3 months.  Homeowner’s expectations are shattered.  Contractor B’s actual price escalates well beyond his estimates, while his level of quality and service decline.  Homeowner fires Contractor B, loses money, and tries to figure out how to start over.  Hopefully, these valuable lessons were truly learned and the homeowner never re-enrolls in the SHK, or the cycle is certain to repeat itself.      
No major renovation should start without first doing major legwork. Good contractors realize this and plan accordingly in 3 areas.  Before anyone swings a hammer there should be real clarity on the scope of work and price.  Here are 3 deliverables you need before beginning a major renovation.

  1. Design – creating your design with the help of a designer or architect ensures your finished project looks like what you want.  Plus, this process uncovers new design options, as well as products the homeowner never knew existed. 

  2. Detailed Scope - take time with your contractor to spell out the full and detailed scope of work, making all selections.  Doing this legwork before starting shows you exactly what you’re paying for.  Nobody wants to get less than what they expect.  A detailed scope ensures you won’t.

  3. Fixed Cost – Cost surprises are rarely positive.  When was the last time someone heard, “Your project is going to cost a few thousand less than we estimated?”  Doesn’t happen. You no longer need to estimate when you have a clear design and detailed scope (including selections).  You can have a fixed cost at the start.   

Renovation Happiness

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"How does that make you feel?" 

Asking this age old psychiatric question is highly recommended as you consider ways to improve the space where you live.  A few days ago I came across these 7 decor characteristics that influence your emotions, and wanted to share them with you. 

The Color of Your World

In the early 1800s, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe proposed colors affect the human psyche in his book Theory of Colours. Although his interpretation of certain colors was not entirely accurate, his theory was confirmed through recent studies and experiments. Today, we know colors affect us on a psychological level.
Here are some color correlations:           

  • Red - passion, warmth, intimacy

  • Orange - energy, innovation

  • Yellow - joy, creativity,

  • Green - relaxation, naturally soothing

  • Blue - calming, refreshing

  • Purple - luxury, sophistication

  • Gray - relaxation, peacefulness

  • Brown - relaxation, calmness, connection to nature

  • Black - boldness, power

  • White - cleanliness, purity, sterility

Bringing Nature Indoors

While there's nothing wrong with filling your home with modern conveniences, too much may leave the living space feeling sterile or impersonal. Such environments do little to reduce stress and feelings of anxiety. Psychologists recommend adding elements of nature to your environment to counteract a space that feels sterile. Bringing potted plants inside, keeping a bouquet of flowers on a table, and hanging paintings of outdoor scenes will help create a relaxed and welcoming environment.

Clear the Clutter

Clearing clutter is one of the most basic things you can do to improve a room’s vibe.  We tend to let things pile up here and there.  These eyesores affect our stress levels. You may not consciously be aware of it, but seeing clutter can cause you to tense up and feel anxious. Adding a cabinet space enhances the atmosphere and provide a place for storing papers, books, and other items.

Increase Natural Sunlight

The amount of natural light a room receives will also affect your mental state. Depending on how a home is situated, some rooms receive very little sunlight. Adding skylights can help, but there are also cheaper options. Try adding mirrors to the room, placing them at angles to capture the sun's rays. A mirror’s reflection also helps make a room look bigger.

Add the Illusion of Space

Rooms that are smaller and more confining can either be cozy or suffocating. If the room makes you feel claustrophobic, try to create more room. As previously mentioned, mirrors can add dimension to the room. Additionally, look for ways to leave the center of the room empty. Instead of a coffee table, add an extra end table. You can also add more artwork to draw the eye away from the size of the room.

Take Advantage of Aromatherapy

Adding scented candles is a simple, quick way to enhance a room's aroma. Alternatively, you might prefer investing in an essential oil diffuser. Whichever method you choose, look for scents that lead to a positive and relaxed emotional state. Lavender, cinnamon, and jasmine are just a few to consider.

Invest in New Furniture

If you're a crafty person, you might build your own tables or a chair from reclaimed wood. This brings your personal style to a room, and promotes a more welcoming vibe. If your sofa and chairs don't help you feel relaxed, consider selling them and buying something a little different. Your home should be a place to relax and unwind, so keep that in mind, when shopping for new furniture.
Paying closer attention to how your room makes you feel enables you to create a happier environment. People often tend to create a room by adding components that they like without giving thought to how those items will affect the overall environment. Visualizing possibilities of a living space will help you create something that feels good and welcomes guests openly.
Feeling the need for a major renovation?  Daniel Builders can assist you further as you process these feelings. 

Are You Asking?

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“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.” – Albert Einstein

Identifying a renovation contractor who “best fits” you and your project is a problem solving process.  Simplifying the process requires asking good questions.  And not just your questions, but questions the contractor asks as well.  You, as a customer, ultimately want to know “Am I getting value worth my money?”, while the contractor (at least a reputable one) wants to know, “Am I getting money worth my value?”  A “fit” happens when both sides can confidently answer “yes”.

Here are 7 questions to ask and answer before moving forward with a renovation.

How long will I live in the house I’m renovating? If you’re planning to move within 2 years a major renovation probably wouldn’t make sense.  You’re not likely to recoup money invested. 
How does the renovation process differ from contractor to contractor?Every contractor is different.  Knowing how long a renovation takes, the disruption it causes, how and when selections are made, how change orders are processed, the warranties offered, and other details about the process will help you match yourself with the right contractor.   
How much will I spend?  This may be the most important question you answer.  Coming up with a range is good, but a fixed price is best.  You may need to be educated on how much things cost, but don’t make an impulse decision.  Know your spending limits.
Where do I need help clarifying and describing the renovation I want?   If you need assistance, a design build approach gives you the best idea of what you’ll receive before actually starting construction.
What are reasonable expectations about service and responsiveness?  Expecting daily updates is likely overkill, but not hearing from your contractor in several days is not good.  Weekly communication should be the expectation.  Always wise to stay up to date with your renovation. 
What happens after the project?  Don’t fall victim to a disappearing contractor.  His role after the renovation is every bit as important as his role during it.  Should simple questions or major issues arise, you’ll want a contractor who is responsive to your concerns. 
What have other customers experienced?  Pay close attention when speaking with references.  Obviously, a contractor will provide positive references who say nice things about their work.  Which is helpful (identifying strengths), but you’ll also want to identify “red flags”, or areas where the contractor could improve. Asking a reference appropriate questions will help you figure out those details.  Also, check reviews. Anything you can learn about the contractor’s track record is beneficial. 

These are just a few questions, and they can vary. Just don’t miss an opportunity to ask.  Be professional, be specific, be straightforward, but always ask.  The big question is: What will you ask when your renovation depends on it?               

Invest in Trust

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Earlier this month we hosted approximately 60 guests at our first Lunch & Renovate event. 

For those unable to attend, our event was designed to build deeper relationships of trust. That should sound familiar because the tagline “Building Trust” is on our trucks and marketing material. This tagline has become somewhat of an obsession. We're passionate about establishing and protecting relationships of trust, which leads to some obvious questions. Why all the emphasis on trust? What Return On Investment (ROI) does trust offer?
After all, why obsess about trust when actual results are more important? (Short answer: the best results require trust. I’ll elaborate.)

Here’s 7 reasons why we obsess over building trust.   

  1. Trust Enhances Clarity. Clear expectations are established and fulfilled when there’s trust. This prevents unproductive habits of speculation and guesswork.    
  2. Trust Establishes Stability. "Surprises" can derail a project. A relationship of trust addresses small problems before they become big problems. The result is stability and decreased anxiety. 
  3. Trust Enables Efficiency. Trustworthy people follow through on commitments.  Less time is wasted “back tracking” to deal with incomplete work. 
  4. Trust Expands Potential. People who interact and operate on a strong foundation of trust accomplish more together than individually. If you want to tap into one of the greatest resources on the planet (people) you’ll need trust. 
  5. Trust Empowers Communication. Trusting someone means you ask and answer straightforward questions without feeling threatened. You can also listen wholeheartedly without doubts in your mind.   
  6. Trust Ensures Protection. A trusting relationships is characterized by “looking out” for the other person. That involves guarding against potential threats to their resources, reputation, or family.    
  7. Trust Endures Setbacks. Encountering problems is a great litmus test for trust. When bad things happen true relationships of trust are revealed, and real help can be provided.     

Bottom line: Trust Enriches Relationships.
We realize building trust requires time, patience and effort - all of which we gladly give to establish relationships. We also realize broken trust is hard to earn back. This is why we quickly acknowledge mistakes, and make every effort to correct them.  We are committed to seek, protect and ultimately build trust. In case you haven't noticed, your trust is quite valuable to us!      

Warm Weather Renovations

Believe it or not, nice weather is coming.

And when it does, how do you plan to enjoy it?  
Here are 5 renovations for soaking up more of the great outdoors.

1. Patio Doorways & WindowsOpen your home to a better view, more natural light, and pleasant outside temps by installing large patio folding doors. And when no thermostat is required, welcome those glorious temps inside with folding windows.

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2. Porches and Decks – They make going outside easy. And in case you’re wondering, porches are covered and decks are uncovered. A porch or deck renovation will add more space, aesthetic appeal, and value to a home.

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3. Gazebos or Pergolas – Relatively easy and inexpensive to build, these structures also add value to your home.  They provide a designated space for outdoor relaxing.  Pergolas offer more light with open rafters while gazebos have a covered roof for more shade.

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4. Hardscapes – Two words: Low Maintenance. Unlike grass, these hard surfaces won’t grow weeds or require water. Instead, this renovation enhances the visual appeal of your landscape, while providing more space for outdoor entertaining.

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5. Outdoor Kitchens – No traveling to a restaurant required.  Fine dining is waiting just beyond your back door. And strong food odors? These unwelcome guest stay outside.


Good Timing


How long should a major renovation take?

Renovations can be unpredictable. Each is unique and creating a realistic timeline is part science, part art. One thing is certain: Accurate renovation timelines are based on careful legwork, not guesswork.

From a customer’s perspective here’s how that legwork looks.

1.       Pay attention to small promises. Little things like arriving on time, receiving references when promised, and getting a follow-up call when scheduled all indicate how a contractor manages time, and ultimately how well he’ll manage your project. Speaking of references, check them. They, combined with online reviews help you evaluate a contractor’s promise keeping ability. Sometimes more in depth information is available in the form of customer surveys. A track record of fulfilling promises (both large and small) indicates an ability to keep a project running on time.            

2.       Seek “bad news” sooner than later. Large problems are avoided if they’re addressed early. For example, hearing about a delay a week before it happens creates a much smaller dilemma than finding out moments before it happens. What if out of town guests are coming and you need this step complete before their arrival? Suddenly making adjustment for everything else becomes significantly more difficult.    

3.       Clarify the scope of work. Or, maybe a better way to say this is Identify Your Assumptions. A detailed scope of work clarifies expectations for both customer and contractor. Know what is included and not included in your renovation. Forming a reasonable timeline is possible once expectations are clear. Without a detailed scope, assumptions eventually lead to confusion, frustration, inefficiency and delay.  Not to mention, contractors can be held accountable when a clear scope is created and communicated in writing before construction.

4.       Make selections before construction. Deciding on the right fixtures, hardware, flooring, paint colors, etc can take time, but should never interfere with construction. Making these decisions during construction only bogs down the construction schedule.

5.       Get the drawings. Putting a well-crafted design or drawing on paper helps you and your contractor share the same vision for your renovation. Otherwise you may visualize one thing and your contractor something entirely different. Don’t rely on your contractor to guess what you’re thinking. Inevitably, this leads to inefficiency and an unreliable timeline. 

6.       Establish a fixed price.  This may sound obvious, but starting a project based only on estimates is far too common, just like the delays they cause. Your goal as a homeowner is to eliminate unexpected costs. To be clear, not every uncertainty can be eliminated. What you find once you start tearing down walls is really anyone’s guess.  The point is stopping a project because of cost will destroy a timeline. Know what you’ll pay before you start.

7.       Know the change order process. You as a customer may decide to increase the scope of your renovation during construction. This happens frequently, but an unclear change order process can lead to huge delays.  Have your contractor clarify his/her change order process before moving into construction.       

Good contractors anticipate your questions/concerns in each of these areas, and offer established processes for you to follow. As you consider your next renovation, save yourself time (and needless frustration) with an accurate project timeline, not based on guesswork. After all, a little extra legwork is well worth the time!

Renovation Laws of the Universe

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  1. Don't be hurt by a little dirt. Work sites can get messy. Keep in mind it is a WORK space, and some dust & debris is expected. Trades and carpenters are responsible to maintain a level of cleanliness, organization and safety, but deep cleaning and detailing happens after the work is complete.
  2. Stick to the scope. Existing imperfections not addressed in the scope of work will still exist at the end of a renovation. Examples include:                                                               *Trim not replaced or painted will still have old paint & stain imperfections.                       *Foundation problems will negatively impact a new renovation potentially                          causing floors not to be level and walls out of square.                                                         *Marginal electrical and plumbing won’t improve unless included in the renovation             scope.
  3. Acknowledge the unknown.There is no way to know for certain what is inside existing walls, ceilings, and floors until they are open and exposed.
  4. See colors change. Paint & stain colors appear different based on lighting, surface type, material type (wood, brick, hardie plank, etc) and even angle of viewing.
  5. Give up match making. Matching an existing stain perfectly is impossible.
  6. Blend in, but not seamlessly. Seams are part of a counter top hard surfaces. They can blend into the surface, but can not be completely invisible.


  1. Anticipate inactivity. Sometimes on site physical activity slows to a halt, and that doesn't always indicate a scheduling delay. Actual delays (those that push back the project end date) will be communicated by the Project Manager.
  2. Permit a permitting delay. Local permitting and inspection offices operate on a schedule outside the General Contractor’s control, which may contribute to scheduling delays.
  3. Weather the storms. Poor weather negatively impacts a renovation schedule. 
  4. Specialize in patience when special ordering. Special orders have been known to create scheduling delays. Delivery and product condition of a special order impact when it can be installed.
  5. Expect a variety of inspectors. Different code inspectors interpret codes differently. Sometimes satisfying a particular inspector requires extra time, effort, and possibly, unexpected modifications.
  6. Stay ahead of invoicing. Invoices are issued prior to milestones, but due at the milestone. This form of proactive scheduling keeps your project moving efficiently.


  1. Pinpoint your project point person.Communicating directly with trades can unknowingly complicate a renovation. Keep communication channels clear and current with an appropriate point person, or Project Manager.
  2. Get routine updates. Expect (at minimum) weekly written updates from your Project Manager. Anything longer and small problems grow into large problems. 
  3. Don't let concerns linger. Immediately notify your Project Manager if you see a problem. If your concerns go unresolved, notify the Production Superintendent. If still unresolved, go to the business Owners.  Unresolved concerns breaks down trust, and makes for a miserable experience.
  4. Communicate what you don't appreciate. Trades and carpenters are meant to uphold the values of your General Contractor. When that doesn't occur a project manager needs to be notified. Renovation teams are only as strong as their weakest link, so definitely communicate if someone acts "out of character" with the business. 
  5. Make progress accessible. Communicate any special instructions for gaining access to the work site throughout the day. An extra set of keys or lock box is helpful. Being unable to access all aspects of a job site creates production delays. 
  6. Help them help you. Communicate any unique needs involving pets, noise, dust, etc. prior to the renovation. This info keeps everyone safe and comfortable throughout construction.
  7. Outline the "off limits". Communicate areas not suitable for dumpsters, parking, portable toilet, and staging materials prior to the start of the project. The less time spent moving stuff means more time spent being productive.
  8. Minimize outside damage. Communicate any special landscaping needs outside your home. Keeping your yard from damage is a top priority during a major renovation.