Jack Williams Gives Back, Again

By Tom Sweeney

Jack Williams is an active, busy guy who designs and manages remodeling projects and does some of the work himself. But he still finds time to give back to the community. Last winter it was raising money for the ALS Association’s annual snowmobile fundraiser, the Black Woods Blizzard Tour. Recently it was helping an Eagle Scout candidate build this storage shed at a city pickleball court in Golden Valley.

Scouts aren’t allowed to operate power saws or nail guns, so Jack did the cutting and had the boys assemble the structure with battery-powered drill/drivers. In the process, they learned things like a 2x4 isn’t really 2x4 inches and how to square, plumb and level things. Jack also directs youth building projects at a north shores camp.

“School is important, but kids also can build character and learn valuable skills outside the classroom. I’m happy to do my part,” Jack said.

I love that the shed matches the nearby Biffy (per the City of Golden Valley).

2019 Minneapolis Remodeling Costs Guide

Wonder what it will cost to achieve your remodeling dream? Interested in how much of the investment you could recoup if you sold your home in the next few years?  Then you will want to check out the Remodeling 2019 Cost vs. Value Report

Each year, the big construction industry publisher and data cruncher, Hanley Wood, uses a popular construction-estimating tool to estimate the average cost of a number of common remodeling and replacement projects. Then it asks real estate brokers to predict what the improvements will be worth at resale. Best of all, the national study adjusts both costs and values by metropolitan area, so you can browse numbers for Minneapolis, the region or the country. 

If you were to compare the latest study with the one they released a year ago, you would learn that costs rose. Blame trade wars or the shortage of skilled labor. It’s not because remodelers are padding our profit margins.

To gain insights from the data, consider what is and is not included in each project description.  If your kitchen is twice the size of the example or a load-bearing wall must be removed, your project will cost more.  Also keep in mind that the data was collected last year.

Sample Minneapolis Remodeling Project Costs
Mid-range kitchen remodel            $72,659

Mid-range bath remodel                 $23,713

Composite deck addition                $21,723

Bathroom addition                           $55,261

Wood windows                                  $22,001

Projects that retain the most value are relatively low-cost exterior facelift items that improve curb appeal and first impressions among prospective homebuyers. This includes garage doors, manufactured stone veneer accents and entry door. A minor kitchen facelifts is the highest rated interior project on the payback scale.

What Will My Remodeling Cost?

By Jack W. Williams

“What will it cost?” often is one of the first questions people have when approaching remodeling. Contractors, meanwhile, are eager to know, “What’s your budget?” And it seems many architects prefer to avoid the topic altogether for fear it will cramp their style.

If you need a frame of reference before JW Williams Construction completes a formal proposal, check the Remodeling 2018 Cost vs. Value Report. In it, the construction estimating software company, RemodelMAX, calculates costs for 21 projects in the Minneapolis Metro market.  Use the data to benchmark your expectations. But be sure to read the descriptions to understand how the size and scope of each scenario compares to your own plans. 

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The study also surveys licensed Realtors to determine how various improvements might impact a Minneapolis Metro property’s resale value. However, that only matters if you plan to sell your home in the next few years.  Otherwise, judge a remodeling's worth to your own enjoyment.

Remodel pricing should not be adversarial

The best remodeling projects are collaborative, not adversarial. Honest contractors won’t try to get you to spend more than you are able or to squeeze an excessive profit out of a job.  They know the margins they need to be profitable and charge accordingly. (Keep in mind that lean companies such as JW Williams Construction avoid the overhead of a fancy showroom to deliver the most value to their customers.) Most important, the project needs to deliver your vision or it will fail no matter how much you save.

Let's Dance

The challenge for clients and contractors alike is that meaningful cost estimates take information and time. It’s a dance, with predictable steps. Unlike comparing prices for a particular model of refrigerator, every home and project is different. Once we understand your goals and tastes and get a feel for your home, we can develop a plan and price. By sharing your financial comfort zone, you actually will help us to efficiently create the best value for you. 

Remodeling Magazine Editor Interprets Study

Craig Webb, editor-in-chief of Remodeling Magazine, which publishes the Cost vs. Value report each year, discusses the trends the report suggests here.  It’s written for remodeling contractors, but I think you will appreciate his insights.

Designing the Perfect Shower

By Tom Sweeney

Adding and remodeling bathrooms are popular projects among JW Williams Construction clients. Specifying the shower details often is the toughest part because it involves getting so many things right. No worries. Here’s a cheat sheet to get you thinking.

Shower with bench and frameless glass door.

Shower with bench and frameless glass door.

Size Matters

A shower should be big enough so you don’t bump your elbows when you wash your hair. Figure 40x40 inches minimum if you have the space. If not, we can explore moving the shower or enlarging the bathroom footprint. Just plan on spending more.

Showerhead Selection

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We recommend WaterSense-rated showerheads. They use at least 20 percent less water without noticeably degrading the shower experience (spray pattern and intensity). 

With showerheads, one size seldom fits all. A showerhead with a variety of spray patterns will keep everyone happy. 

Thumbs Up for Handshowers

It’s hard to find a designer who doesn’t like handshowers, particularly when they can be adjusted on a vertical rod. They make any shower more accessible and versatile for people of all sizes and abilities. They also come in handy when cleaning the shower itself or massaging sore muscles. If the shower has a bench, make sure the hose is long enough and install a secondary bracket near the bench for use when seated. Handshowers with their own controls can be used simultaneously with the main showerhead. That’s pleasant when sharing a shower.

Glass Enclosures

A clear glass enclosure will show off your fancy shower tile and make the room feel bigger, but prepare to squeegee after every use to prevent water spots.  Otherwise, consider obscured or seeded glass.  If users are tall, do them a huge favor. Specify a frameless, hinged door so they don’t have to duck when entering.

Accessibility & Safety

Include stylish grab bars right away. Don’t just install backing so you can do it later.  The grab bar should be positioned so you can hold on when you enter and exit the shower and use the bench.  And it should not conflict with the handshower hose. Don’t mistake the vertical handshower bar for a grab bar. Most are not designed for that purpose, but you can specify one that is.

Shower Benches

Include a fixed bench with a slight slope so water drains from the surface. It’s convenient when shaving legs and essential if you are disabled by a sports injury, surgery or old age.  If the shower is small, consider a teak seat that fold up flat against the wall.

Shower Controls

Modern shower controls incorporate pressure-balance and high-temperature limits so you don’t get scalded or freeze when someone flushes a toilet or starts a load of wash. We’ll make sure they are set properly during installation. Most people test the water with a hand before entering the shower. You may be content to simply position the handle at your favorite position day after day. However, sophisticated shower controls display the temperature in numbers or colors on a digital display. Whichever you choose, make sure you can turn the water on without getting wet.

Tile Patterns

Horizontal patterns can be traditional or transitional. Vertical patterns are decidedly contemporary.  An eye-level accent strip not only breaks up the wall but also helps users maintain their equilibrium.  To tie the space together visually, consider using the countertop material atop the curb, benth and kneewall caps. And repeat the floor tile in the niche backs. Larger tiles reduce grout lines, which makes the shower easier to clean.

Wall Niches

Most people like us to incorporate a niche where they can place bath products. And a low niche about a foot off the floor makes a convenient footrest when shaving legs. But it's important to keep niches clean and monitor grout line to avoid mold and leaks.

Binders Keep Everyone on Same Page

By Jack W. Williams

Call me old fashioned. I still create a 3-ring binder for each remodeling project that JW Williams Construction, Inc. designs and builds, as I have for the past 20 years. Actually, two binders: one for the client and one for me.  Maybe it’s because we build real -- not virtual – environments. I take comfort in the ability to sit at your kitchen table or in my truck, flip through the physical pages and know that everything is right there.

That doesn’t mean I’m a Luddite who is down on new technology. I carry two smart phones and one of my ear canals probably is a bit wider than the other because of the plantronics Bluetooth earpiece that usually is embedded there as I work and drive. Still, the binder is my trusty project bible. Contractors stick with what they know works so they don't let anyone down. I trust the binder.

Binders Before Notion

I read an article this week about Notion, a fancy new smartphone app that enables you to create a central portal that pulls together vital information from all of the other cyberspace sources you use to manage your life. It reminded me a lot of my project binders.

Our binders' utility starts right on the cover with the names and phone number of all the trade partners who will work on the project. Between the covers, you’ll find the plans, contract, weekly meeting agendas, calendar, budget, documentation for additional work, etc.

I suppose if we ran a dozen jobs simultaneously we would need sophisticated project management software. Fortunately, I prefer to focus on just two or three projects at a time so each gets my personal attention. When you remodel homes through good times and bad, you learn that bigger isn’t always better. Keeping it simple feels just right for us and our clients.