Archive for the 'Construction' Category

Expect a Huge Problem With Your Renovation

The design is complete and you LOVE the plans for your house revised. The bids were all within budget and your building permit is hanging in the front bay window. You’ve hired the best general contractor around and the sun is shining. Life is good.

As construction begins on your renovation project, remember one thing… Expect a HUGE problem!

With every renovation project we complete, something unexpected occurs. Renovation is unpredictable. Thirteen plus years of experience has taught us to expect the unexpected. Every Fivecat Studio project is guided by a documented process that includes the expectation that something bad is going to happen. Something hiding under that thick layer of wall plaster will be completely different than we expected… and that’s OK, because we expect that.

When providing construction management services, we include this “surprise” in the construction schedule and a contingency fund in the budget. We set the expectation with our clients and explain that the contingency is part of the budget. It’s not a separate “emergency fund”. The money will be spent, we just don’t know yet where, when or on what. When the expected-unexpected occurs, we are well prepared to handle the situation with professionalism and without crisis.

Did you expect the unexpected? Click “comment” above and share YOUR stories of renovation surprise.

Project Update: 761 King Street

A multi-phase residential project, 761 King Street is progressing well. The snow has delayed the stucco installation, but much of the interior is nearing completion.

We have been working with this client since late 2004. A master plan was originally developed for a new entry porch, a new family room / kitchen and a new accessory workshop.

A few years back, we completed the entry porch. The family room / kitchen project is currently being constructed. Hopefully, the workshop will follow soon after the completion of the current phase.

This home was originally part of the Ginsberg Estate. The Ginsberg family owned a large tract of land at the south end of Chappaqua. The main house was lost to fire, but 761 King Street and 718 King Street both remain. These two homes were the private “cottages” for the Ginsberg sons.

About 10 years ago, we completed another multi-phase project at 718 King Street. You may check it out here and here.

New Montauk Project: A Modern House on Faraday Street

John Whalen has started construction on his latest project; a new modern house on Faraday Street. Click over to our facebook for a collection of progress photos showing the basement’s radiant tubing layout and the concrete slab pour.

Be sure to “like” us while you’re there and stay up to date on John’s progress.

Progress at Monterey Avenue Phase 2

Our clients on Monterey Avenue, Pelham, invited us back to design and build a new stone terrace.

The stone for the wall veneer is being shipped from an Adirondack quarry and should arrive early next week.

The painted wood rails, built to match the rails we designed for the front porch and roof deck (part of Phase 1), are in the shop waiting to be installed when the flagstone deck is complete.

I think it looks great without the stone (above). I can’t wait to see it finished.

New EPA Lead-Safe Rules

Another federal regulation that will require you to have a bigger budget…

The Rule: As of April 22, 2010, renovations conducted by professionals in pre-1978 housing must be performed by Certified Firms using Certified Renovators, trained in “lead-safe” work practices.

Who needs to be “certified”? Any contractor must comply who does renovation, repair or painting for compensation in pre-1978 housing…if the work will disturb 6 sq. ft. of painted surface in any room or 20 sq.ft. of exterior paint, or does any window replacement or any demolition.  This includes the following trades: general contractors, alteration, remodeling and renovation companies, painters, flooring contractors, restoration contractors (mold remediation, fire & water damage restoration), weatherization companies, demolition companies, maintenance companies, landlords or their employees, property managers, etc.

For more information, visit EPA Lead, Renovation, Repair and Painting or check out this article from Fine Homebuilding magazine.


Thanks to Michael Murphy, Murphy Brothers Contracting, for the heads up.

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Fivecat Projects Under Construction 120209

I spent today touring several of our projects currently under construction.

The project at Lake Katonah is just about finished and looks amazing (in my humble opinion). A few final touches and the “long and winding road” of construction will soon be a distant memory.

A smaller project is rising in Rye; a small music room addition, new stone patio, a full window replacement and miscellaneous renovations, inside and out, are all looking good. Framing is complete, the patio foundation is laid and most of the windows are installed.

A much larger whole-house renovation is well on its way in Scarsdale. With large windows and strategically placed skylights, this brick Federal Style home will be filled with natural light.

Check out progress images of all these projects at Fivecat’s Facebook. Leave some comments and let me know what you think.

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Vetting a General Contractor

At Fivecat Studio, we’re in the process of preparing construction documents for a new addition to a friends’ home. Our friends are in the process of preparing a bidders list and are wisely checking references.

Today, I received a request for some basic questions to ask each of the contractor’s references.

Here’s my quick list:

  • What was the scope of the project?
  • How long ago was the project completed?
  • How long did it take to complete the project?
  • Did they complete the project on schedule?
  • Did they complete the project on budget?
  • Did they work every day?
  • Were there any lags in the schedule when no work was done?
  • Was the Contractor “hands-on” during construction, or were they more managers?
  • How were the unexpected issues / unforeseen conditions handled?
  • Did the subcontractors show up when they were suppose to?
  • Were the punchlist items handled efficiently?
  • Were there any warranty issues that required a call back?
  • If so, were the warranty issues handled efficiently?
  • What was the GC’s greatest strength?
  • What was the GC’s greatest weakness?
  • Would you recommend this GC to a family member or best friend? Why or why not?

Do you have some questions that you would add to my list? Please share…

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Living Well in Westchester is a trademark owned by Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP | © 2006 - 2013 Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP | All Rights Reserved.


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