Saturday, January 31, 2015

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall.

A type of job we're doing more and more these days, is that of "making old mirrors look new." I'm sure that if your home is twenty-years old, or more, you've got mirrors that are looking their age, especially around the outside edges.
When mirrors age, they tend to lose silvering around the outside edge, and they can look awful.There are several fixes for this problem. One, you can replace the mirror. Two, you can install faceted glass around the outside of the mirror. Or, three, you can have trim run around the outside of the mirror.
I like the look of faceted glass, but many people want something more elegant. For these people we can trim the outside of the mirror, and once it's put up and painted--a nice-looking trim will give your mirrors "WOW!" appeal.

Here are some pictures of a mirror job we accomplished recently.





I get a little dizzy looking at these pictures because the reflections of the mirrors in the mirrors make it difficult to tell what I'm looking at.

 Here are some photos of Wes as he gets ready to install trim around some mirrors.
 It's much easier to nail the trim together, and then hang it.

There's Wesley, installing the trim. Looks great, doesn't it?

 The mirror trim is up and now the men are patching the walls a final time before the final coat of paint.

 These were all taken before the final coat of paint, on the walls and the trim. The job isn't finished yet, and I'll come back and add the "final" shots when it is.
Just before the final application of paint. 

I think that these photos show how much nicer, how much more elegant mirrors look after they're trimmed out.
So if you have any old mirrors that are losing their "Wow!" factor--give us a call. In fact, why not let us give your entire bathroom a "WOW!" makeover? Just call Earl at 365-5333. Or e-mail me at
And if you enjoyed this photo essay, please let me know that, too.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 22, 2015

    Many contractors I've met love nothing better than a chance to belittle or "diss" another contractor. I don't enjoy this poor-mouthing. I've had potential customers who want me to do the same thing--to tell them what a terrible job their last contractor did. I have a difficult time doing this because it's easy for me to put myself in another contractor's shoes. I usually won't say a word. And I take on few jobs that follow another contractor. I figure that if the customer chose the cheapest price, they got what they paid for. A recent meeting with a potential customer in Prattville, however, left me feeling a little different.
    Mr. Moye had a bathroom that had been remodeled by another contractor, and he wanted me to give him a price to fix or repair certain items. They were all spelled out, and all of them--I had to agree--needed to be fixed. Many were small items, such as repairing one tile in the middle of the dressing area with a jutting edge that stuck up and tripped the customer. Another was repairing a loose electrical outlet. And one was simply filling in some missing grout. I have to admit that these same problems have occurred on jobs we've done, with one difference--we repaired all of them.
    The largest complaint Mr. Moye had was that something was wrong with his shower, which was supposed to be curbless, so the customer could get in and out without tripping. Instead of making it lower than the surrounding floor in the dressing area, the contractor had built the shower floor, including the drain, higher than the dressing area floor. There's nothing wrong with building the floor of a shower up, as long as water doesn't pour out onto the dressing area floor. This one did.

       Here's a photo of the shower when we first saw it. The swell, rising up into the shower, is difficult to see in this picture--I should have taken one from floor level--but it's there. It begins where the small tiles start on the right side of the mat.

    I asked the owner why the contractor hadn't tried to repair--at the very least--the small items that needed repairing. Every job has a "punch list," items that the workers overlook. As a contractor, you simply fix them. The owner said he had no idea why the man hadn't tried to repair them. On further examination I figured out what I call "the reason." The man who remodeled the bathroom wasn't a remodeler--he was a home builder. I'm here to tell y'all--a home builder and a remodeler are two entirely different species of animals. I don't mean to put home builders down--they are hard-working and upstanding. Many are more money-savvy than most remodelers are, but they don't understand one thing: subbing out remodeling work isn't the same as subbing out home-building work. A subcontractor's main purpose in life is speed, not quality. He wants to get on the job, finish it as fast as he can, and move on to the next one. Worrying about the tradesmen who follow him, or the homeowner's complaints, aren't nearly as important as speed. And that was this builder's failing--he'd subbed everything out to tradesmen who had little contact with each other, and who couldn't gripe about the way the job was being done ahead of them. They had to take what was there, do their own part as fast as possible, and move on. If you are the tile man, for instance, complaining about the plumbing won't make you any money. If you have to stop and wait on the plumber to return, you'll lose money. The only way to get paid is to do your job--fast--and get out of Dodge. You have no incentive to put the personal time and commitment into the job that should be there. Most remodelers, on the other hand, know better. The supervisor I put on a job is usually the framing carpenter, insulation installer, sheetrocker, sheetrock finisher, window installer, tile man, trim carpenter, and painter. In other words--he follows himself. He knows that if our subs--usually plumbers or electricians, and sometimes glass installers or heat and air people--mess up, he has to repair the mess. My supervisor becomes one with the job.

For instance, here's two photos from the job under discussion. Do you see the glass on top of the knee-wall?

The glass is all wrong--it's an eighth-inch thick, standard glass, and the end isn't polished. Three-eighths is the thinnest glass that should be used for frameless glass. But the worst thing is, the glass should have been tempered. This was not. If the homeowner had broken it, he'd have been cut.

 Below is another photo of the shower, and on first sight, it doesn't look that bad. But as you study it, the defects jump out. For instance--the seat--which was too high for the customer's wife, is located behind the knee wall, cramping the shower area. I asked why the customer had requested it to be placed almost under the shower. The customer said he didn't know why it was there. No one had asked him where to put the seat. Once we began tearing the shower apart, we found out it was built to hide a mass of plumbing lines, which we had to cut and re-route properly. The cavity was filled with bricks, which had been thrown in and had crimped several of the copper lines. The seat also leaked and was filled with mold.

Another view of the shower when I first saw it. My first reaction was, "not so bad." Until I looked closely.

It's no joke that by the time we remodelers finish a good-sized job, it often seems as if we live with our customers. Part of this is because it usually takes longer than a customer thinks it should for us to finish a job, but part of it is also because we come to empathize with our customers--we take our work personally. For instance, if a customer is unhappy with my supervisor--I'm unhappy with my supervisor. I can't help but think, "What message is my supervisor sending when he doesn't do a first-class job for a man or woman to whom I promised a first-class job?"
    Anyway,let me cut to the chase--we got the job to repair the mistakes made by the home builder, and it's a good thing the owner did something--the shower leaked in three different places--bad leaks, too. Two of the leaks were at the seat, and the other one was right in the middle of the shower floor. The shower pan was installed in two pieces and wasn't seamed together.

The shower pans meet, but aren't properly joined.

Another view of the shower pan. I'm not sure why it's a different color, because it's the same pan. I think the fault is in Kirk's SmartPhone camera.

 It's not best to seam a pan at all, but when you do, it needs to be done properly. This one didn't look as if anyone had even tried to seam it. My guess is that the plumber put in the pan, and when the tile man arrived, it wasn't his job to seam the pan--his job was to lay tile as fast as he could and move on. He did. There was heavy-duty mold under the shower pan when we got to it. And look at a photo of the wall below.

The black stuff is mold on the sheetrock under the tile.
 Here are some more pictures of the job as it progressed. The first contractor glued the tile to water-resistant sheetrock, which used to be the way it was done. Nowadays, we prefer to use waterproofed tile backer board.
    The supervisor on this job was Kirk. Assisting him were Steve, Josh, and Mechelle. They did a wonderful job.

Here they are--Mechelle, Kirk, Steve, and Josh. Mechelle thought I should point out that she and Kirk are married--that our employees aren't quite as "friendly" with each other as it looks.

Installing the waterproofed backer board

 To the left is a shot of the shower before we set the tile. The red stuff is our shower pan--a liquid product we trowel on, called RedGard. It's not only a great waterproofer, it's also meant to expand and contract to accommodate any cracks that might later appear in the concrete bed underneath it. Notice the area it covers--not just the floor, as most shower pans do, but the walls, the knee-walls, and past the drain into the dressing area. You can also see where we have moved the drain from the center of the shower to the entrance. There's a reason for this.

One of the main reasons our customer wanted a new shower was so he could get in and out of it without tripping, and without having to lift his feet to step over a curb. We used to build these curbless types of showers with a gentle swell at the entrance, instead of a curb, but water could still run over the swell and onto the dressing area floor, meaning we had to waterproof the entire area. There was little else we could do. Nowadays we have trench drains, known in polite society as linear drains. I prefer trench drain--it's down-and-dirty-sounding, like the plumbing it's meant to accommodate. I have, however, been teased in recent years for using the word commode, instead of the more Anglo-Saxon sounding toilet. Maybe I'll begin using linear drain one day, too.

The body of the trench drain goes in.

    Here are some more photos of the job as it progressed. We felt--and the owner agreed--the earlier shower was too dark, so we advised a lighter tile on the walls and on the dressing area floor. The owner said he didn't even get to choose the type or color tile that the other contractor used. We think the owner and his wife made good choices on the tile colors.

Kirk installing the dressing area tile.

Josh, leaning in to hand Kirk a tile.

                            The shower is taking shape.
One piece of the new 3/8" tempered glass is installed.

There isn't a piece of glass, you may notice, on the right-side knee-wall. Here is where the adage, "Measure twice, cut once," would have worked. Someone (Kirk) didn't measure correctly (Kirk). I will not (Kirk) tell who (Kirk) it is. We had to reorder the right-side glass. I have the old piece in my garage. It's for sale. Cheap. C'mon, Kirk--make me an offer.
    All in all, even though we had to correct another contractor's mistakes, we enjoyed working on Mr. and Mrs. Moye's job. We even replaced the shower valve and trim, installed a towel bar, re-worked the existing granite, and added granite on top of the knee walls--all at no extra cost. To be honest, Kirk insisted on it, even though I wasn't in agreement. He felt the job would not be up to our standards if we didn't do these extras. See what I mean about empathizing with the customer? Kirk felt as if he was the customer. And that's what I look for in a supervisor.

   To finish up, here are some last photos of the job. What do you think?

Here are two photos of the trench/linear drain. Isn't that a nice solution to the curb-less shower?
The problem with linear drains is the expense.
This is the least expensive one made, and it's $199.00, plus tax.

And that is it. We had fun and created a leak-free, beautiful bathroom. And a big "Thank you" goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Moye for letting us come into their home during Thanksgiving, make a mess, and transform their bathroom into a work of art.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Oh, my--it's been awhile since I've blogged. I must buckle down and catch up. If I don't, I may soon forget how to do these fun blogs. So, onward!

One of our favorite jobs this past summer (2014) was the rebuilding of a front porch in downtown Prattville, at 129 East Main Street. The house was built in the late 1880s for the current owner's maternal grandparents, and since it is within the Prattville Historical District, the owner wanted to keep all of the repairs in line with historical guidelines. The owner had a photograph taken in either 1913 or 1914, and it was this old photo that we were to use as our model.

   Here is the photo of the house (above) that we were to use as our model.

And here are photos (below) of the house before we started.

It's a mess, isn't it? Actually, it was the most fun job we've had in a while. Wesley was the supervisor, and his helpers were Chris, Ray, and Jason. As you scroll through the pictures, you'll see they did an outstanding job.

When we got the roof and porch deck removed, we talked with the owner and decided the porch needed some footings. There were none. When the house was built, concrete footings under the porch must not have been considered necessary, but we felt they were. The next group of photos shows the process of getting to the footings.

After we put in the concrete and steel footings and had them inspected, Wes and crew began re-building the porch.

Next we added the porch decking, and then we began building the overhang and the railings.

Now--is that a dramatic restoration, or what? It's a real joy to be able to work on projects like this one and see the dramatic results. So, if you're driving down Main Street in Prattville and you see the Water Works on one side of the street, glance across to the other side of the road and gaze upon our little transformation. Can there be anything better than a job that's so much fun? Not much, I think. Not much at all.
    As of January, 2015, the house above is still not quite finished. The owner is having a new door hand made, and we're to install it when it's finished. I'll show you the end result when it's done. Until then, check out our next project when I put it online--which I promise, will be soon.
Have a great week,