Archive for August, 2010

Dear HGTV…

By , 18 August, 2010, No Comment

We love you out here in TVLand. We like the shows, the personalities and the ideas and inspiration that seems to flow non-stop from your creative little brains. You have singlehandedly given rise to an entire movement of do-it-yourselfers and, as a contractor, I’m okay with that. I like to see people tackling some of the projects around the house on their own.

On top of that, you give people great design ideas that they can pursue with local contractors to build their own dream home. I’m sure that there are countless stories from all across the nation about a home renovation or construction project that was inspired by HGTV.

The point of my letter is to thank you for the recent offer to appear on one of your prominent weekend shows and the chance to put my work in front of millions. When I got the call I have to admit that my heart was beating pretty quick! I was really excited to know that you would consider my work to be up to the high standards of HGTV.

But then you told me that it would only cost me several thousand dollars to give you my work free of charge and as a thank-you I would get a line of the end-credits all to myself. In small type. And scrolling fast. Oh, and bragging rights. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed and felt like I was being hustled by a snake-oil salesman.

Could you please create a show that gives people a realistic idea of what a project will cost? Homeowners need to understand that they really can’t remodel an entire house for only a couple thousand dollars and have it all done in a week. Projects like these take time, planning and money.

Rest assured, I will continue to watch your programming. But from now on, I’m paying alot more attention to the end-credits.

Jason Frantz
WoodShop Artisans

Contractor Tango

By , 13 August, 2010, No Comment

I don’t dance much.  I’m a white boy from the Missouri backwoods and dancing was just not something I did much growing up.  I could buck hay bales all afternoon, build fence and drive the tractor, and I managed to keep up with my chores reasonably well, but dance?  Not interested.

But I find myself dancing on a fair number of shop projects, oddly enough.  Not the kind of dancing you’re thinking, I’m sure, but dancing nonetheless.  It usually starts like this:

“So we’ve talked about what kind of project you have in mind, how you want it built, what you plan to use it for and when you need it.  Do you have a budget in mind?”

Somewhere, music begins to play…

“Well, not really sure… Do you have any idea what it will cost?”

I might as well be wearing a tuxedo with a rose in my mouth as we take turns chasing each other around the room…

“The cost for any project is really in the details.  The more detail there is, the more labor is involved and that drives the cost up.”

Here, have a rose.

“We understand that, but we’re just trying to get a ballpark number for planning purposes.”

Is that castanets I hear?

And so it goes.

The funny thing is, I completely understand where the client’s coming from.  In their mind, if they tell a contractor how much they can spend then suddenly the project comes to that exact amount or higher.  If you lowball the budget, the contractor gets offended, but if you go too high, you risk paying more than you should have.  I know because I’ve done the same thing with contractors in my home.  Nobody wants to get ripped off.  Instead, we dance.

What it really boils down to is trust.  The best advice I can give to someone looking for a contractor is to find someone you can trust.  Talk to friends and neighbors, past clients, or just go with your gut feeling.  Believe it or not, finding someone you can trust is the easy part.  The hard part is actually trusting them.

Sit down and lay out your budget.  If you’re honest with your contractor, he’s much more likely to be honest with you.  When I know what a client’s spending limits are, I can usually tailor the project to meet those constraints.  That requires a bit more work on my part, but is usually worth it for a satisfied client.  And I would expect a client for a large project to interview and get estimates from several contractors.  Find the one you are most comfortable with and can trust.

Keep in mind that trust goes both ways and a contractor should be willing to trust you as well.  I’m always willing to share with clients the breakdown of an estimate.  I’ll lay out labor, materials and overhead so you know where I’m getting the numbers.  Not all contractors will do that, but it’s worth asking about.

Of course, you’re always welcome to dance.  Just don’t come crying to me if you get your toes stepped on.

A mattress against the wall…

By , 9 August, 2010, 5 Comments

I’ve helped with a few house additions in my life.  I’ve dug the ditches for the foundation, helped pour the concrete and frame the walls.  I’ve pulled electrical wire, laid shingles, hung drywall, installed flooring, and all the hundreds of other tasks that go with adding a room onto your house.  It’s not an easy undertaking, nor a cheap one.

Take a simple house in the Midwest, for instance.  Most builders would agree a basic room addition could be completed for $75 per square foot.  Let’s assume that you wanted another bedroom on your house, a minimum of 12′ x 12′, or 144 square feet.  That room will cost you around $10,800.

That doesn’t take into account the time involved in such a project.  A good builder could probably complete the task in 3-4 weeks, depending upon the weather, his schedule and the size of his crew.  That’s a month of your life being in a shambles.  No vacation days away from home.  Not many quiet days on the couch.

Now think about the house you live in, as it stands today.  What if you could effectively add a room to your home without all that nasty stuff listed above?  A wall bed gives you that option.  A queen wall bed folded up takes less than 8 square feet of floor.  By comparison, a normal queen size bed consumes nearly 35 square feet of space.  If it’s in a guest bedroom, that’s 35 square feet that’s unused for anything else.  Wouldn’t it be better to stand the bed against the wall and actually use the house that you pay for?

And once the bed is out of the way, think of what you can do with all that space: an office, a den, a library, a workout room, a sewing room, or a kids playroom.  I’ve added all of those rooms to people’s homes with a simple wall bed.  The possibilities are endless.

On top of all that, the cost of the average wall bed is about $1,900 and can be installed in less than a day.  Even less if you build it yourself from a kit.  Compare that to $10,800 and a month of dust and noise.  Nearly a $9,000 savings.

Still not convinced?  Tell you what, go to your guest bedroom and stand the mattress up against the wall and see what the room looks like.  Leave it there for a week and see what happens.  You’ll start finding uses for that room that you didn’t know were possible.  And when you get tired of looking at the bottom of the mattress against the wall, call me.

Welcome to our new Blog!

By , 1 August, 2010, No Comment

I was thinking about all the tools in my shop the other day and realized something interesting.  There are some tools that I use that I can tell you exactly how many I have and what kind they are.  One air compressor and three nail guns, for instance.  I have three HVLP spray guns.  Five hammers.  But here’s the interesting part:  I have absolutely no idea how many cutting tools I have.  Even if I took the time to count them all, I would miss some and the final tally would be high.  Mostly, I suppose, because the majority of my work is done by cutting and shaping wood.  Which brings me to a point that I have reminded myself of time and time again: There is no such thing as a dull cutting tool, because when it is no longer sharp, it is no longer a tool.

So, you ask, why have a blog for a woodworking shop?  Simple: our website was feeling kinda dull.  It needed to be honed a little bit, sharpened up for the job that it does.  I’m sure there are a number of correlations I could make between cutting edge technology and wood cutting tools, but I’ll skip that for now.  Suffice it to say that this should be a really good place to answer some of the questions that always seem to come our way, to connect with some of our past (and hopefully future) clients and to share some good information and ideas that you may find useful.