Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Little Birdie - Issue 4

Hello All!  We have finished our fourth newsletter with information about our upcoming CSA, recipes, vegetable details, upcoming events and more!  Check it out at this link or read below!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

8 Insider Tips to Know about the Construction Profession

There's so many things we would love to share with customers about being a general contractor, to give them the "inside" story, but that would take years.  There are however, a few important aspects that we feel could really benefit every homeowner looking to start any projects on their home.

1) Construction is not as easy as it looks, and more times than not DIY projects are done wrong.  Home Network channels like to make it seem easy, if you know what to do.  Home construction is like any other skilled profession, it takes education, experience and practice to do it properly.  We can nearly guarantee that we can walk into any home and find at least one aspect that is done completely wrong and is unsafe.  We often are surprised to find serious mistakes, that are just incredible luck, that they haven't caused the house to catch fire, fall down and more.  Additionally, if the work you are completing, actually requires a permit, and in the future you look to sell the property, or have an insurance claim, you may run into problems if you did the work yourself without a permit.

Therefore, when looking to undertake a project, whether hiring a contractor or attempting to do it yourself, please always consult a licensed professional.  Lord & Lady Construction offers free consulting on projects. Give us a call and our head contractor, Thomas, will come to your home and discuss the project with you and answer any questions you may have.  Taking this step, can help ensure that you are completing the work properly, and not making a mistake that you may not even be aware of.

2) Home Improvement stores and employees, do not know code.  When you walk into a Home Improvement store like Lowes, Home Depot or Menards, there's a good chance you're going to have a question about something.  Whether its a question about where something is, or which of the thirty choices of nails you should buy, or how you should install your decking, you'll be looking for the employee with the apron. 

Now, most of these employees are probably well-meaning.  We don't feel they intentionally give out bad advice, and we're not saying all the advice they give out is bad.  However, most employees of these stores, are not licensed builders, they are not EPA Lead certified, and most have not actually ever worked on a job site.  What this means is, when you get advice from them, it is not actually professional advice.  We have seen a lot of DIY work done without a permit, done wrong, or done correctly, but with the wrong materials, because of Home Improvement store advice.  In fact, just walking through one of these stores, we often here this bad advice being given.

As with any do-it-yourself project, we strongly suggest that you get the opinion and advice from a licensed builder, before you head to the store for materials.  This can again ensure that you understand all aspects of your project and know what materials to buy.

3) Builders Licenses used to require passing only one test.  Since June 2008, getting a residential builders license requires 60 educational hours are completed and that you then pass a test to receive your license.  This means that there is now some amount of work and commitment required, to receive a builders license. 

Previously, to receive a license, it was only required that you pass their exam.  Meaning if you did some basic studying from their guidelines, you would likely be able to receive a builders license. 
Anyone who had a license prior to this new rule taking affect in 2008, was "grandfathered" in with their license.  They didn't have to do any additional new work to keep their license.

So, when you verify a contractor's license online on LARA's web site, you can check the date that the license was issued.  Anyone with a license issue date prior to 2008, was not required by law, to do as much to get that license, as those with a license date after that.  Now, this does not mean that people with licenses prior to that date didn't do more work.  Many contractors, like our head contractor, Thomas, attended college, or other educationals, in addition to taking the state test for a license.  The point is though, they didn't have to, so they also may not have.

Currently, to renew your license, in addition to fees, you have to complete a certain number of continuing education hours.  The base minimum for this renewal is very small, so hopefully your contractor is attending more hours than required.  Here at Lord & Lady Construction, we attend multiple educationals a year, on site safety, energy efficiency, code, new construction and materials and green conferences.

4) Licensed Contractors may not always be on site.  Unfortunately, just because a company or contractor is licensed, it doesn't mean that licensed individual is going to be on-site at all times, or doing any of the work.  Many large construction companies hire multiple employees to work for them.  Most of these workers are typically not licensed, so they don't get paid as much.  Often, this means that unlicensed workers are doing the majority of the work you are paying for. 

Now, this is not to say that they don't know what their doing.  They most likely do have a good idea how to do the work they have been tasked with, if they didn't, the larger companies would never get anything done.  However, having a licensed contractor work on your home, versus someone who doesn't have that education and background, is definitely going to land you with different results. 

A licensed contractor doing the physical work, is less likely to make mistakes.  This means you will save time and money, because things don't have to be changed, adjusted, or redone completely.  Licensed contractors are also more likely to tell you when they run into problems, and help you find appropriate solutions.  We have run into countless situations, where work was done on a home previously, and there was a serious problem, that was just covered up.  In our experience, this happens most often, because the full ramifications were not understood originally.  A licensed builder, should be able to evaluate the situation in front of them, and get the homeowners involved in the situation if needed, rather than covering it up and saying, "Not my problem, not what I was hired for..."

Being a small company, Lord & Lady can ensure that our head contractor, Thomas, is either on-site over-seeing all work being done, or doing the work himself. 

5) Licensed Contractors do not automatically have insurance, and not all insurance is the same.  Just because a builder has a Michigan builders license, doesn't mean that they are insured.  It is not a requirement for receiving your builders license.  Additionally, all insurance is not the same.  There's basic general liability (for if you get hurt on the job site, or damages to your property occur because of the construction), workers comp (for the employees of the company), and you can be bonded as well.  Then beyond that, there are varying degrees of each of these policies. 

Here at Lord & Lady Construction, we make sure our insurance covers as many aspects as we can think of.  Of particular importance to homeowners, our general liability insurance covers not only the basics, but also all materials.  Not only when they are on the job site, but also when they are in-transit from the store. 

This is important to the homeowner, because until your project is completed and you have a certificate of occupancy from the county, your homeowners insurance will not cover any damages to any of your materials, or the work being completed.  This means, that if you have a break-in at your home, and someone vandalizes all the materials, our insurance would cover it.  Or, say that the new addition is nearing completion, but somehow the water pipe to your house bursts and floods the addition, your homeowners insurance would not cover this, but ours would.  All of this additional coverage just gives everyone more peace of mind.  So when looking at a contractors credentials, be sure to thoroughly research and ensure they are insured to a level you feel comfortable with.

6) Building code for permits is just the bare minimum for basic safety and necessity.  Building permits are required for almost every project on your home.  There are very few things you can do, that don't require one, and those few things vary from county to county in Michigan.  The reason for this is to try and ensure that all homes are meeting the same safety and quality guidelines.  If everyone would follow the law and code, you would barely have to worry about home inspections when buying a home, because there wouldn't be surprises and problems in the home.  But people don't always follow the law.  Home improvements that require permits are illegally done without permits every day.

This is so sad to us.  Mainly because, permits aren't asking you to do anything crazy and aren't all that expensive.  The costs of permits varies by county, but is typically based on the size of the project and the cost to complete it.  This often means that they will be just 2-5% of your total project cost, which is typically not that much. 

Additionally, all of the expansive codes and regulations, truly are just the bare minimum for safety.  As soon as the 2009 code guidelines were put in place, they immediately started revising and updating the code book for its next release.  It takes them awhile to agree and finish this at a state level, so every few years they finally agree and upgrade the official code guidelines, and many of the previous codes are now deemed not safe enough.  That should be terrifying.  It means that even if your home met all code at the time it was built, they may now realize that having that type of electrical outlet in the bathroom, or by the laundry, actually has caused a lot of house fires, so now you can't do that anymore.  But in your house, its still like that.  And even crazier to us, building codes didn't even exist before January 1973 (check out more history here), so if you have a home built prior to that, there literally was no standard for safety or quality that had to be met. (Here at Lord & Lady, we are members of the Grand Traverse Area Home Builder's Association, who houses a respected member who actually help write the original building code, and currently acts as the code "guru" for any questions any members may have on their project).

What does all this mean to you, the homeowner?  It means, don't skip the permits, don't let a handyman convince you it's unnecessary.  Building permits and inspectors are truly there to protect you, your home, and your future pocketbook.  Make sure your contractor is not only licensed, but fluent in the most up-to-date code regulations.  Here at Lord & Lady Construction, we strive to not only meet code, but often times exceed it, to ensure it is as safe as possible and won't become obsolete and incorrect, once a new code is released.  If your contractor has this same mindset, inspections shouldn't be a burden or scary, but an easy and predictable step of the project.

7) To do any work on a home built prior to 1978, your contractor must be EPA Lead Safe Certified.  If your home was built prior to 1978, lead safety laws and precautions have to be followed.  A contractor who is EPA Lead Certified, and also has firm certification, has taken courses to learn the proper removal and disposal and is aware of these rules and regulations.  A certified contractor should have a certificate number and can be located on this site, http://cfpub.epa.gov/flpp/searchrrp_firm.htm

There is paperwork and a contract that all pre-1978 homeowners must receive and sign from their contractor.  For more details on these lead safety laws please visit http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/lead/pubs/renovation.htm or call and speak with a specialist Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm eastern time (except Federal holidays) at 1-800-424-LEAD [5323]. 

8) Basic safety regulations are monitered by MIOSHA and in residential building, barely monitored. 
MIOSHA stands for Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  They set the regulations in the state of Michigan for construction job site safety.  The monitor and enforce these regulations on both commercial and residential projects.  Because commercial projects are generally much larger in scale, with way more workers on site, they regulate and enforce these rules on commercial sites, much, much more than on residential sites.  What this means is, many residential builders and job sites, are not actually meeting or following these rules.  Particularly when it comes to fall safety (ladders, roofing, scaffolding, etc).

Why is this a problem for you?  Just think, if you are having a remodel done to your home, or a roofing project completed, how would you feel if one of those people working was seriously injured completing your project?  I would expect, you'd feel terrible, as would the contractor.  Would it slow down the project?  Most certainly.  It might even make it difficult for the contractor to complete the project, depending on who got hurt, and what legal ramifications there were.

So, the best solution, is to be sure you are working with a reputable licensed builder.  When you see them working, make sure it looks like they're being safe.  If you see a guy standing on a board that's resting on two different ladders, one of which is sitting in a truck and the other is on a pile of dirt, stop and question the situation.  Talk to your builder, and if necessary, contact MIOSHA yourself.  

Here at Lord & Lady, we take safety on the job site very seriously.  Hard hats are required.  Safety harnesses are used in all roofing situations.  All employees have to complete a MIOSHA job site safety course.  Both owners are CPR and First Aid certified, to ensure help on the job site if something does happen.  Additionally, we always ensure that we have our own MIOSHA approved ladders with us for estimates, to allow for inspections up high, without having to rely on homeowner ladders, which may or may not meet safety guidelines.

Friday, December 12, 2014

5 Tips for Building on a Tight Budget

Are you looking at building a new home or remodel on a tight budget? Here are 5 things to consider:

1) Contact Lord & Lady Construction. We have a lot, a lot of experience working on projects with tight budgets. Many larger builders will say it's not a problem, but will then leave your project on the sidelines when their better paying project needs help. We track every dollar spent, that goes over and that goes under, helping keep us right on track and balanced when hiccups arise.

2) One Story vs. Two Story. When you are on a tight budget, square footage is crucial. With most home builds being around $100-100 per square foot at a bare minimum, the square footage that a stairway needs and takes up, reduces the overall "actual" usable space that you are going to get in the end. Therefore, on tight budget builds, we strongly encourage folks to look for one story plans, you'll get more for your money!

3) Develop a plan with phases. You can't always get everything you want on a tight budget, but you can work to develop a plan that will make it easy to change and switch out to what you really want in the future. A great example of this is waiting to install air conditioning, waiting to put the stone facade on the fireplace, or planning a detached garage that can be built later. All of these items can save thousands in the budget and will cost almost the same amount of money (rather than more than if you do them all at once with the main project) if you do them later. 

4) Consider all electrical appliances. Yes, people love gas stoves and natural gas furnaces, but electrical appliances are cheaper to buy and generally cheaper to run. Additionally, you will save money when you don't have to have a gas line installed, which is typically thousands of dollars.

5) Be willing to ask and listen to what is the most economical way to make your choices or changes a reality. Often at estimates, clients are adamant that they would like a specific change done a specific way, and no other way. They also then state that they want it to be a specific budget, not over. We will then bid the change or build the way specified, but can not keep in budget. This is not to say we can't meet your budget, it just often means we can't meet the budget, building it exactly the way you requested. However, we nearly always have other ideas on how your changes could happen, in just slightly differing ways, that would make the budget possible. So, if you have a budget you can't change or increase, try to be flexible with the exact details of the materials and way in which the changes happen. 

All these subjects and more are in-depth conversations that have many pros and cons based on your specific needs and wants. If you want to have a deeper conversation on any of these and more with Lord & Lady, give us a call or send a message, we're happy to meet with you and discuss your home project hopes and dreams!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Little Birdie: Issue 3

After a few week's lapse in issues, we finally have a new issue up again!  The third issue of our newsletter is out, along with our csa boxes for the week! Read up for the latest news and information about our CSA delivery, our chickens and garden expansion!

Here is a link to download the pdf to your computer  - or check it out below!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Little Birdie: Second Issue

Time flies!  The second issue of our newsletter is out already, along with our csa boxes for the week! Read up for the latest news and information about our CSA delivery, our chickens and garden expansion!

Here is a link to download the pdf to your computer  - or check it out below!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Little Birdie: First Issue

We're very excited to have finished our first newsletter!  Lots of news and information about our first ever CSA delivery, which we're also really pumped and proud of and the piggies!

Here is a link to download the pdf to your computer  - or check it out below!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Orange Ramp Braised Chicken

This is by far my favorite ramp dish.  It is always one of the very first that I make in the ramp season.  I also love to make some extras to store in the freezer for later in the year, when the ramps are gone.  I have not taken photos of this, despite eating it already this year.  I will snap some shots of it the next time I make it and add them for you all.

Reminder - I use all organic and local ingredients and feel strongly that this makes a difference in the flavor.  Get as many organic and local ingredients as you can, you won't be sorry.

Orange Ramp Braised Chicken

1 whole chicken, broken down into 10 pieces (though I save the wings for another use)
coarse salt
1-2 tbsp olive oil
about 20 good sized ramps, if yours are small, use more, they're delicious
3/4 cup pitted mixed olives (buy the bulk olives from oryana or burritts that are mixed with all kinds of olives)
strips of orange zest from an orange and all the orange juice from that orange (you want at least a 1/2 cup, if you don't get that much, use another orange, or short of that, add water)

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high until hot but not smoking, about 1 minute (you can also use a dutch oven or a large nonstick skillet, but cast iron gives better flavor I think).  Season chicken with salt.  working in batches if needed, add chicken, skin side down, and brown on one side, about 9 minutes, moving chicken around while cooking if necessary, for even browning.

Turn chicken, skin side up, and add ramps, olives, orange zest strips and orange juice to skillet.  Transfer to oven and cook until chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes.

Take out and enjoy, making sure to eat all parts with the chicken, including the orange peel strips (they taste AMAZING).