We’re now on Facebook

We now have a Facebook site for more people to connect to. Check it out at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Centerville-Building-and-Design/211357052236995 and click the like button or post a comment.

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Centerville Building and Design and some Kohler® kind of thing. Watch the video

Kohler® Abrazo Freestanding tub and Purist® tub filler

Well something new. After losing sleep over this Kohler® Abrazo freestanding tub, it’s finally in. Weighing in at a behemoth 525lbs., it required the help of an expert. Who do call for this kind of thing? After searching and talking to everyone, I casually mentioned it to my mom, who said, “What about a piano moving company?”

Genius. My google search turned up a local Dayton, OH. company, A-1 Piano and Organ Movers. A professional outfit, easy to work with and did what they said they would. What more could you ask for? Besides a shameless plug… But I’m always willing to tell anyone about good people. Turns out, they moved my customers piano into their current home. All a good sign. The upside for them: this was on the first floor. Seems like we all got along, although I think they probably wanted to smack me for doing the video. I know I would ….

Well, click on the video link to download and see the video below and enjoy the fact you didn’t have to go through this. And oh yeah, Thank you A-1.

Kohler Tub Video


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Busy, Busy, Busy…To busy to look at the house?



I’m busy. That’s a good thing. I am working 6 days a week again and it feels good. I’ve also been tired. So tired, I neglected to give the house a once around. You know, walk around see if the shingles are still on the roof, water in the basement, doors all work. The usual. I do this all the time, for other people and often neglect it myself. Here’s the rationale: I can fix it if it’s broke and I don’t have to pay anyone to do it. So, I forget to do it.

Sitting on the front stoop, glass of wine in hand, on a  warm, breezy, dry evening, my wife and I look down at the bottom of the front door jambs and….saw dust. Actually leftovers of the carpenter ants that made a home in the door jamb.

My wife, “This happens on our home too?”

“Yup”, I said.

And so it goes, my job has come home with me. So off I went to Lowes and bought the insecticide. Squirted it all over and Viola! They’re dead! (See me doing the Happy Dance). But now I have to fix the door. Not impossible, just don’t have the time. But, I’ll eventually do it or have to replace the door. Those things can be expensive, and that word rarely graces my lips when it comes to these things!

So what happened?

Well, best I can see is I’ve never done any painting, caulking or otherwise since I originally installed it, say 7 years ago. The paint looks fine.

Sill/ Jamb intersection

The area at the sill and jamb intersection settled ever so much to allow little bits of water (Ahh! Water!) in. This was all some hungry carpenter ants needed to move into their new home. Or my home…




So What’s the fix?

Well first, we will use the “Wonder Tool”, that’s my name for a Bosch, cordless oscillating multi-tool. If you don’t own one, you just can’t appreciate everything it does. And I mean everything. Wait, back to the fix. I’ll cut out the rotted section and insert a new piece of material made from synthetics, that won’t rot next time. Then with a bit of Bondo, paint and magic, we’ll make it disappear. Good as new. Well, at least that makes one of us.

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Water, Water… Was that a quack I heard in your basement?

Talk to me about the water!

Ducks are swimming in newly formed lakes all over the Dayton Metro region. It’s spring! Rain falls in buckets, slaps across homes in sheets and finds it’s way into every nook and cranny it finds.

Liquid Water is a fascinating substance. Unlike snow or ice which are solid forms of water, liquid water is a fluid. Fluids like to move in the path of least resistance, much like air. Unlike air, water and homes can be a disastrous mix.

I’ve been building for 29 years. New homes as well as remodeling. It never ceases to amaze me at how tenacious water can be. First, because of it’s liquid nature, it always wants to seek it’s own level. 6th grade science. What that means to a home with a basement is, when the water table rises above the concrete slab level of your house, water will want to seek a path to fill in and level itself. Think of taking a bath. As you settle in to the tub, the water displaces itself around you for a moment, then immediately fills in around your body to cover you in a perfectly level bath height. Your basement is the body of your home, the water around the foundation is the tub. If your basement is 100% water tight the water around the foundation can’t seep in. Think of a glass half submerged in a sink full of water. If you have openings in your foundation or slab, water will seep in trying to do what it does best: seek it’s own level.

This is not a forgone conclusion though. Wet basements can be easily remedied. It’s just getting water away from your foundation. This can be done in a few different ways.

If you were lucky enough to have a builder (like me) who thought about this issue before the foundation was back-filled, they would of installed natural or gravity relief lines. This is when drain-tile piping is installed around the foundation and run away from the foundation using gravity, i.e. running it down hill away from the house. If you didn’t build a home with a walk-out basement sloping down and away, the builder still can use gravity. The homes sanitary sewer line is bedded in gravel, and it always [should be] running down hill. This allows ground water to run into the gravel bed and down to the sanitary sewer bedding at the street and then into the water table. This usually works well as water will seek to fill in the gravel bedding, which is much lower then the basement slab, rather than fill up around the house. You can, and should though, have a mechanical sump pump installed to relieve any other hydrostatic pressure around the foundation walls. Also, all settlement around the foundation should be repaired to slope away from the home, relieving pressure on the settling ground. Even if you live in a older home, taking some of the steps here will relieve enough pressure to keep you dry.

Time to Fix it

This is an important step. But very often companies are ready to fix it all up and charge you for it before mitigating the original problem. Make sure the contractor you hire explains exactly what they’re going to do to fix the leak, before they fix the damage. Will they fix the crack in your foundation or will they just tear out moldy stuff and clean up the space? If they don’t find the leak source, there is no point in moving on to repair other items. They may have to cut open walls of your theater room or rip up carpeting to find the source of the leak. This can be messy and difficult to track down and may take a few tries. Water is the most illusive and mysterious substance. There when you don’t want it and not there when your trying to find it!

Once the leak is found, make sure it is fixed properly. Foundation cracks should be injected and sealed with an expanding epoxy like product from a separate company that holds the warranty. Don’t let the contractor half ass it! The sump pump should be installed and functioning, with a battery or waterline based backup system. All moldy stuff should be removed, but just because it got wet, doesn’t necessarily mean it has to go. Things dry out and can be very adequately cleaned. Carpet can be dry suctioned and a fungicide can be applied. Wooden baseboard and door casings dry easily and can be stain killed and repainted.

But the mold thing

Mold exists everywhere, all the time. It’s a constant presence in the air and surfaces. You could think of it as, say, organic. That has a nice ring to it. “My groceries are organic and so is my mold!” When it comes into contact with water it grows, meaning it rears it’s ugly head as a 3 dimensional object on your drywall or trim that you can see. Anyone who tells you they can get rid of all the mold is either lying or has not been in the business very long.  Don’t get me wrong, real, nasty mold exist and can be harmful or fatal to some people. But if you called a company to come clean up the water within 72 hours and they got there and cleaned up and set dehumidifiers and fans in place, you’re probably 90% salvageable.

So, get the ducks out of the basement and into the pond where they belong. Make sure you get around the house and fix standing water problems near the foundation. Hopefully you’ll never need to call me for this. But hey, if you do, there’s always next year for that kitchen remodel!


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Spring is here, so why does everyone want to remodel at once?

Warm weather, flowers burst from the ground with grace and stature, the smell of wet grass being cut. These are just some of the smells and qualities of spring in Dayton, OH. With all the spring attributes abound, why do we all (myself included) want to start a project? Not satisfied with the beauty that nature provides us, we need to improve on it a little, eh?

Winter brings a ear ringing silence to all things remodeling. A few lucky contractors stay busy with a small project or niche opportunities, but in general we all check our smart phones all day wondering where the work is. Then…. all at once, a tsunami of calls come in for kitchens, baths basements, decks and general maintenance projects. The phone, email, texts start and we’re all off again on a non-stop cycle of meet, estimate, sign and build. Someone the other day mentioned how they “used to have someone draw and do the orders, now I’m doing it all myself!”. So am I, and, oh yeah, I’m building it too!

So why don’t more people take the opportunity to remodel in the dead of winter, when we are all looking for work and pricing is pretty aggressive? I don’t know the complete answer, but here’s what I think: No one thinks about it. Christmas takes now 2 full months to recover from, longer then your kids remember what you got them. I also think people  go through cycles of creativity matched with the funding to see it through. Winter is on the downward side of that cycle. Spring brings new life to everything. Tax returns and annual bonuses spring into peoples lives like hyacinths and daffodils, bringing the funding to the new life.

So spring is here. What projects are you thinking about

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Are you planning a project on your home? Need to know the cost? Of course, yes. Like shopping for a car. Open the paper or go online. Prices are listed, you compare dealers and if you like it, you go to the dealer and say, “This is the one I want. The one that says $22,500.00, loaded!” The sales person says,” Oh, we don’t have that one exactly anymore, but here’s one just like it for $34,650.00, and it’s loaded too!”

Your excitement fades into confusion and a wrinkled forehead. “Huh? Why would you advertise one thing and sell another?” Maybe, because you’d never come in to the dealership otherwise. But now that your there…

Apples to Apples

When my bids are compared to others, I’m told, “But this other guy is $6,000.00 cheaper for his basement.” Or, “The other contractor I got an estimate from says he can do it $2,000.00 less.” Can he really?

Often, I’m confused. How can he do this? Is he permitting his work? Has he specified out EXACTLY what he’s going to build or install for that price? Is he certified to remove lead paint. Have you seen his certificate? These are questions I often ask when someone says this to me. Contractors pricing for material is very often the same. Labor too. Taxes and overhead can be different, but usually not to the extent of thousands of dollars on a job. Here’s where the rubber meets the road: material.

The cost of material can vary greatly. Ever wonder how the price of that printer stays the same or gets cheaper over time? Materials. Nothing has any lasting potential anymore. Yes foreign labor is always helpful, but material costs are a big factor.  It’s why we have to buy new dishwashers every 6-8 years. Yep. Hold onto that 20 year old Maytag. They don’t make them like that anymore, unless you pay a premium, and sometimes that’s no guarantee.

Pricing for kitchens or baths, even basements, vary based on the materials and options you want in them. Materials can also drive the price of installation up or down, depending on ease of installation. I like Kohler® plumbing products. They cost 15% more, but can be installed with fewer extra pieces and half the time. It’s like someone actually thought about it! But it might make my price seem higher than the guy using Pricefister® products. My philosophy is: “Do it once, don’t come back.” Don’t come back for leaks, defects, bad cartridges, etc… Better products mean fewer return trips = Happy Customers!


So What’s it cost in Dayton, OH?

Now the Meat and Potatoes. 3 common renovations.

A standard bath: 5′ x 8′,  New tub/shower ceramic tile, toilet and fixtures –  $10,000.00 – $18,000.00. This is plus or minus, but can be used a general rule of thumb. Higher end fixtures, go up. Cheap, quick, in and out – go down a bit.

Bathroom with reconfiguration, medium to large: $15,000.00 – $30,000.00 and up. Yep. Bathrooms are extremely labor intensive and require more time then many other projects. Plumbing fixtures can really add up. I can build and entire basement in the same time it takes to renovate a small bath. Space is at a premium when working inside a bath. Typically, you’ll only have 2 people in there at anytime, thus slowing the process down.

Kitchen: Size not withstanding, figure you’ll spend between $6500.00 – $35,000.00 and up. Cabinets are the big determining factor as are appliances. Countertops can make a difference. Here’s how to break that down: Level 1 – Plastic Laminate. Level 2 – Solid Surface or Granite. Level 3 – Quartz products. Level 4 – Exotics: recycled glass, cool sounding things like “Eco-Friendly” or “imported”, stainless steel, etc.. Here is a good comparison link: Countertops

Basements: Figure on Between $25,000.00 – $50,000.00 and up. Anyone doing it for less, will not be around long enough for the warranty to expire. It’s just that simple. There are a few things you can add to the basic range, like a full or half bathroom, a bedroom, or a bar/kitchenette. When you add Home theaters and specialty rooms, you add cost very fast.

All of the above mentioned things can vary. Anyone advertising ” $500.00 off your new kitchen now!” can easily look like a good deal. But $500.00 off what? We are all in business to make money. It’s why reputable companies have been in business a long time. They make money. That works for you too. They’re around to service their product and to help you again when you need it. These are long term relationships not quick transactional relationships. If you want long term, then use a contractor that spells it all out for you. Make sure you compare apples to apples and may the best apple win!

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Before you think about renovating, make sure everyone’s on board


Before you get ready for any project that includes someone else coming into your home and changing it in some way, I like to recommend that everyone in the household is on board with the idea, and the process.  The question I like to ask innocently is, ” Will both of you be meeting with us today, then?” This helps to do two things: 1. To make sure all of the interested parties are in attendance and all the communication gets to the right people with no intermediary and, 2. We don’t cause arguments between the clients. If  one of the party’s is missing from the initial meeting, I try not to get to far into the process, then schedule another meeting where everyone can attend.

Not every renovation project is conceived unilaterally. Thus, it stands to reason that arguments can occur, ideas can be unacceptable and your friendly general contractor can be right in the middle of the whole thing. This is not uniquely a remodeling concern, but can happen in the purchase of anything, say, over fifty bucks.

What cause the most anxiety when planning a renovation?

Believe it or not, it’s not cost. Seriously, money is not always the catalyst for an argument. Finding out your partner wants granite tops and vessel bowl sinks, while you want Corian® with under-mount sink, because you do the cleaning, can cause a quick argument, often while the contractor is sitting there. Other quick boiling points can be who will be making decisions on design, color, material, etc…  Also be aware of the hidden stress points. Uncertainty. By far, the most “un-talked- about” topic never discussed. My philosophy is there will always be a little uncertainty to every projects. Until I get X-Ray vision or transcend time and space, (note to self: good idea!) this is always a part of every renovation. Personally, my pricing always includes a percentage of uncertainty. A newer home will have a smaller percentage than an older home, though. If anyone tells you that their price doesn’t include unexpected occurrences, be prepared for the “Extras” bill. Knowing that there will always be a measure of uncertainty, you can prepare for it.

Making The Call

Make sure, before you make the first call to get an estimate you have ironed out a few things. What is it that you want to do? Change out tops and appliances or completely remodel your kitchen, including cabinets, tops, appliances, flooring, etc… Be prepared to be asked about the type of design your looking for. Modern minimalist or Traditional craftsmen design, for example. This can help the contractor by allowing him to ask the right questions. Be prepared to have some photos from magazines or ideas from a friends renovations or new home. Be prepared with a budget. Then double it. You can always work backwards from that, but the reality check is helpful at this point.

All Aboard!

This is a very personal business I’ve gotten into. It’s what I love about. It is always my goal to make each customer happy with the decisions they make about their home, large or small. Part of this equation is me, part of it is you. Happy Renovation!

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Good remodeling design is essential to bringing people into space

I was going to write about the cost of remodeling your bathroom but had a change of heart at the last moment while standing in line for bread. No, it hasn’t gotten that bad! It was at The Second Street Market, in downtown Dayton, OH. This is my favorite Saturday morning shopping, hanging out place in Dayton. If you haven’t been there, you’ll be hard pressed to find a good reason not to go once you’ve been. It is a great place for foodies, shoppers and people who just want a place to sit and have breakfast or coffee with friends in a relaxed atmosphere.

2nd Street Market on any given Saturday morning
2nd Street Market

OK, shameless plug for Five Rivers Metro Parks, but it dawned on me, the reason I enjoy it so much is the architecture and design. It is what draws you in and makes you want to stay and hang out, eat and chat. It is a memory maker. Space that allows your brain to effortlessly engage in the environment without knowing it.

Now comes the hard part. Do it in your home! The reason some people want to remodel, teardown, rebuild or move, is because there are no memory making rooms in their home. Yes, we all remember where our son took his first steps or the Christmas tree that caught on fire 15 years ago. But is there a room in your house that evokes feeling, a smell or color, the angle of the sun, a place where you look forward to spending time in? Do you walk into it and feel like it’s always been a inviting part of your life even though you only lived there for the last 5 years? If you’ve answered, “no”, to this then you have a house. Shelter. One of the primary functional needs for humans.

No disrespect, we all either live like this or have lived like this for a variety of different reasons. So where do you go from this point if you decide to renovate a part of your home? Start with design. It’s worth every dollar.

We do a lot of renovation of space that includes designed plans. The space is planned so that it works. The client is happy for many years and we get to be a part of that. Yet still a lot of people want to know right off the bat, “How much will it cost?” It is a great question. I use it all the time when someone pitches me something I didn’t ask for and don’t need. The latter part of that sentence is also what a good deal of my prospective clients feel like also. “I don’t really need design, I just want redo it”. OK.

Design, though, doesn’t always mean “tear down the wall!” Design can also mean, color, tile layout and selection, countertops and fixtures, say for a bath.

It’s hard to know what a client wants when we put together a design and quote. Sometimes there is nothing to do but quote new material and work with the client to match price with budget. Other times though, we believe a clients wants a memory making space, but thinks it can just be done without design. The client gets quotes from 3 or 4 different contractors and settles into the compromise. Price and “kinda what they want”. In the end, I meet those people 4 years later and get the same response: “We just don’t like the space as much as we thought we would”.

Designing memory maker space is not easy. It requires time. Time is money. A conundrum for sure in an economy that is still breathing on life support. But, as a country, we have moved toward a different reality when it comes to our homes, fix, stay and enjoy. By all means, if you have to move, don’t spend more money to “fix it up to sell.” Clean it up, fix the leaks, maybe new countertops and fixtures and move on. But if you plan on staying for 5 or more years, get it right the first time and enjoy it. Why wouldn’t you want it to be a place of memories?

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Remodeling Schedules Should Be Communicated

My favorite read, when I’m not to sleepy to read, is The New Yorker. It is well written, stimulating and in depth. And of course, the cartoons. Ah, the cartoons. They’re funny, sometimes hilarious. The one I just read (I’d snap a pic, but I think there are copyright laws against that) shows a contractor holding a set of blueprints talking to a couple in their partially renovated apartment. The tagline, “Worst-case scenario? The renovation goes three years and two million dollars over budget, one of you bludgeons me to death with my own hammer, and you both get the electric chair.” Lieghtton©2011.

This is sublimely funny to any contractor reading it. Including me. This is not funny to anyone who has ever trusted a contractor with their renovation. We know in this business, there is never a job that goes quite as planned. Yes, I know I shouldn’t talk about this, but the reality is, it’s better to know this ahead of time then to have it dropped on you you midway through the project. There is always a certain amount of uncertainty in any project a remodeler tackles.

The difference between a pro and “a guy with a tool belt”, is that your pro will have a 85% chance of knowing the excitement that lurks within and plans accordingly. That plan usually involves a schedule and you. A schedule can be something as simple as a verbal communication that explains the what, how and when you’ll be finished fixing the front door. It can also be a more formal document that gets emailed to the client and updated weekly for a whole house renovation. Whatever the method, client – contractor communication is the foundation for a successful relationship and a job that gets completed on time and within budget.

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Home Repair Projects are like Lemon Squares

Lemon Squares

Pucker up! My family loves lemon squares. We just tried a great recipe. And tried it. And tried it. Failing a few times in the process, but ultimately getting it right. Have you ever done this? You try something around the house, say fixing the front entry door that doesn’t quite close all the way. So you look at it. What makes this thing latch? Oh yeah, the little thingy that catches on the other little thingy. Click! Success! Then it pops open again to reveal that draft crack. What the…?! Try it again. “Stay! Good Door!” (The dog gets excited when he hears this). Then, it pops open again. You feel defeated.  So now you really get your teeth into it and after 2 hours of fiddling, you really do get it!

Repairs like this,  I do all the time. That’s what people pay me to do. But sometimes there are times when you want to do it yourself. “Can that door latch be smarter than me?” Maybe. I’ve been beat up by far less complicated things. Very often it’s just a matter of letting go and realize where we want to venture and when that venture becomes a liability. What seems easy for me is not always easy for you and visa-versa.

What I’ve come to understand is to allow the right person to complete the job they can accomplish best. Electrical wiring? Yes, I can do that. Wire a whole house and add a 3 phase, 240v circuit for the shop. Nope, not even going to clog the old noggin with it. It’s possible to do, I’m a smart guy (I think), but my electrician does it every day. With great results, no less!

So back to lemon squares. What we as a family learned is that we can do this, and eat them well too! I am a major “foody” and the food I make has to be fresh, imaginative and healthy. Presentation is paramount.  I manage to achieve this about 97% of the time.

Orange Souffle

Angel Hair pasta with lemon, capers and roasted red and yellow peppers with Olive Oil, garlic and shallot base

There are things though my wife does better. Like Lemon  squares. That’s what my kids just told me. So I have found the right person for that job too, I guess.

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