Making the Magic Happen

When touring the HGTV home, many people ask us specifics about the finishes and furniture. From working on the project from the beginning to end, we can answer a lot of these questions. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of the HGTV Urban Oasis home, we can take a lot of credit for the craftsmanship of the project. But our job was really to bring the vision of the designer, Brian Patrick Flynn, to life.  And while our project managers receiving training from all different suppliers—from Subzero, Wolf and Cove to Marvin Windows—and have exquisite taste to match, our job is to our job is to listen carefully and lend our expertise to give structure to a designer’s or home owner’s plans. 

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That’s the beauty of working on a team of contractor, architect and designer. All of us have the goal of ultimately making the homeowner’s dream come true. As contractors who specialize in high end home renovations, we are constantly exposed to best practices in kitchen and bathroom finishes. We can make recommendations on a counter surface—marble, granite, soapstone, or butcher block—depending on your kitchen use. We’re up to date on the latest technology in the loo—from electronically controlled showers to touchless toilets. By attending trade shows and training, we know what’s coming down the pike. So it’s not all about swinging a hammer. We can certainly work with you and your designer to help you build your dream home—from the studs down to the paint.

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Are you ready to tackle a major renovation? The team at The English Contractor is here and ready to help. Let’s connect to discuss your plans. We’d love to be part of your dream team to make the magic happen.

Jennifer Buchholz
Design Your Team: Architect, Designer or Contractor
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We’ve discussed that the role that each partner plays in a home renovation or custom build. But what if you have a smaller project, like updating a bathroom or renovating a kitchen? How do you know who to call to help with your project? There are many projects that only require a builder or a contractor, like The English Contractor. There are plenty of times, though, when it makes sense to call in the additional professionals, like an architect or an interior designer. Here in the Cincinnati area, there are so many talented professionals. We are here to help you navigate your home renovation projects and are happy to make recommendations when additional partners are needed to manage your new build, addition or renovation.


Do you. . . 

  • Know what you want to accomplish?

  • Want to update your existing finishes and maybe replace some cabinetry and appliances? 

  • Feel confident in selecting finishes, hardware, appliances and more? 

  • Generally, want to keep the structure and function of the room the same? 

  • Have a general idea of budget and timing? 

  • Just want to add bespoke detail to an existing room or structure?

  • Have a home problem that you’re trying to solve? 


Then give us a call! We’re a perfect first call to make when you start thinking about a home renovation project. We have a keen eye for design and detail, yet we know when to call in additional professionals.


Do you. . . 

  • Want to make a major layout change, like moving the location of a kitchen? 

  • Have an idea for a project that may involve moving gas and plumbing lines?

  • Want to make major structural changes to your home, like changing the footprint, height of ceilings or grade of the property?

  • Own a landmark or historic home?

Then it may be time to call in an architect. An architect can help you identify your approach, solidify an initial budget and create thorough drawings to help your contractor both price out, manage build your project. Do you need a recommendation for an Cincinnati-based architect? Give us a call!


Do you. . . 

  • Need help selecting finishes? 

  • Want help in planning the functionality and layout of a room? 

  • Want to make small tweaks to your layout? 

  • Want a professional to help you with interior design? 

You may want to add a designer to the mix. They can help guide you, along with your contractor, in the final finishing touches for your project. We’re happy to help you find a great interior designer to work along side us as we begin your remodel.


Depending on the size, scope and scale of your project, the perfect mix may very well be an architect, contractor and designer. But there’s more to the process than a simple check list. Let us understand your project more and we’ll point you in the right direction. Give us a call and lets get started!

 
Ready to Remodel: Tips for a Bathroom Renovation

It is time to refresh your master bathroom? Is your hall bathroom looking a little dated? Does your powder room need a little love? It may be time to talk to The English Contractor about a bathroom remodel.  According to Zillow, a bathroom remodel can add to overall value of a home. Just replacing the fixtures, toilet and upgrading the vanity can result in a $1.71 increase in home value for every $1.00 spent on the project. Even if you have no immediate plans to move, an updated bathroom can improve utility bills with more water-efficient shower heads, faucets and toilets, can add more space for organization and can just make you feel good by incorporating some up-to-date style into your space. Before you start dreaming about a new bathroom, here are some considerations to keep in mind.

What’s Your Motivation?

There are many reasons why a homeowner starts to plan remodeling a bathroom. Are you planning a move? Does the space need to be more functional? Are you hoping to make your space bigger? Are there accessibility issues that must be addressed for those with limited mobility? Or is it just time for a change? These are questions that can help guide your selections and the scope of the project. If you’re planning a quick remodel as part of the process to prepare your home for sale, you might just want to consider quickly switching out more decorative items. Adding square footage to your space might require moving around plumbing, which will require more time and money. Share your overall plans for your lifestyle and the home with us and The English Contractor project management team can help guide you through the process. 

Beer Budget, Champagne Taste?

The English Contractor team always suggests starting with a budget number in mind. Even in a small space, all the choices you need to make can quickly add up. We suggest looking back to your overall goals to help you set your budget and prioritize the space. If improved organization is your goal, you might want to consider spending more to add in a closet or a new spacious vanity. Is the overall aesthetic driving your overhaul? Then maybe your splurge is in the details, like upgraded tile or stylish new hardware. Are you trying to enlarge or move the space? You may need to save budget money for some of the behind-the-scenes work, like moving plumbing. Renovating a bathroom is not an inexpensive proposition, but The English Contractor team will work with you to help you make sure you’re spending your money wisely. 

You’ve Got Style.

No matter your motivation for a bathroom remodel, you need to take your own personal style into account. Bathrooms are no different than any other room in your home and you’ll have lots of different elements to think about that will add to your overall aesthetic. This is a time to start thinking about colors. Do you go for a spa like neutral or a bold pop of color? Are you looking for industrial chic or modern farmhouse? Choices of vanity, shower, tub, tile and even mirrors and towel racks are décor elements as much as they are functional pieces of your bath.

New Additions.

There are lots of trends to take to consider when remodeling a bathroom. Frameless showers doors, hidden drains, exposed shower plumbing, threshold free showers and freestanding are all new trends in bathroom design. Do you want to incorporate any of these concepts into your space? Time to start browsing pictures to see which new trends match your overall aesthetic and plans for the space. 

Form and Function.

Take a look at how you’re currently using the space. Does your bathtub go unused? Maybe it’s time for a bathroom renovation that deletes the tub and includes an oversized shower. Are you feeling crowded in the morning? Maybe it’s time to consider a double vanity? Do you have stuff everywhere? How about included more storage in your newly designed space? Is this a place for kids? Let’s take a look at some indestructible options. Are you constantly tripping over piles of dirty clothes? How about included space for a laundry hamper? Let us know about any current issues with your space and we can help you solve them!

 

What’s Next?

The English Contractor is here to help you create a space that is both useful and beautiful. We’ll walk you through the entire process, from aesthetic appeal to functionality. A bathroom remodel is a big undertaking and requires a big investment of both time and money. Our expertise will guide you through the process, leaving you with a space that you will love. Do you need inspiration? Visit our Pinterest page to see some of our latest projects. Ready to get the process started? Drop us a line today!

Jennifer Buchholz
The English Contractor's Favorite Bathroom Remodel Trends

In home building and interior design, bathrooms used to be after thoughts. Necessary, but not showcased. Minimally functional, but not beautiful. But times have changed. Bathrooms have style! Here’s a place to let your design style shine. Essential considerations like layout, lighting, functionality and other aesthetic elements can result in a beautiful space that is both attractive and useful. This year, we’ve been lucky enough to take on several different bathroom remodels, which means we’ve seen a lot of the latest trends that homeowners are embracing in a bathroom remodel. If you’re considering a bathroom remodel this year, you’ll want to read on to see some of these details.

Neutrality

Lots of homeowners are drawn to a neutral palette because of its staying power. The look of a neutral bathroom can totally change with paint, towels or artwork, accessories and décor elements that can easily be swapped to give the space a seasonal or refreshed look.

Catch the subway.

The subway tile trend is here to stay. We love it for its affordability and the stylish impact it can make. The change of grout color totally changes the look. These four bathrooms recently renovated by The English Contractor couldn’t be any more different, yet each makes use of subway tile in a way that makes a big impact in each space.

Natural wood.

We love the look of natural wood in a bathroom. It takes some colder materials, like tile, ceramic, and metal, and makes them seem warmer, sometimes even spa-like. Wood doesn’t have to be rustic. It can still be used in a modern and elegant space. Natural wood also becomes like a pop of color in an all white bathroom, adding texture and visual interest. In each of these bathrooms, the wood became a real focal point, a beautiful and natural element that made each of these spaces come to life.

In the tub.

According to a 2018 Houzz survey, 80% of homeowners planning a bathroom remodel planned to upgrade their tub, with nearly 70% planning a soaking tub. We’ve seen this trend too. A stand-alone tub can make quite a statement. Our clients are loving them for their function and their aesthetic. There are a range of styles and colors for freestanding tubs that are a design element as much as they are a special touch of luxury for a newly renovated bathroom.

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Pop of color.

As much as we love the trend of neutral bathrooms, we also enjoy a pop of color. We think you can expect to see more color coming into the bathroom space, with blues and greens staying really popular. This cheerful powder room, featured in the HGTV Urban Oasis 2018, gave new meaning to the term pop of color with yellow painted woodwork and statement wallpaper, yet another trend that homeowners are really loving right now.

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Technology for the Throne.

Are you a technology junkie? Bathrooms aren’t technology-free zones any more. Heated floors and heated towel racks are popular options. And technology-enabled shower, like the one pictured here from the HGTV Urban Oasis 2018, have control panels to easily adjust water flow, multiple jets, and temperature for a spa-like experience in your own home.. The possibilities are endless. 

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Going Green.

You can follow a trend and save money. Water saving showers are an easy addition to any bathroom remodel and can save you money on your water bill in the long run. Dual-flush toilets are another option. The water flow can be adjusted for each flush to save money and benefit the environment. This hall bathroom features a touchless toilet that flushes with the wave of a hand. A subtle glow lights the way for middle-of-the-night bathroom trips.

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Tile Trends.

Of course, there’s more to tile than the subway tile workhorse. We’re seeing lots of shapes, textures, colors that add tons of design appeal to a bathroom. It’s not just color and shape—placement says everything. We love a tile accent and tiled bathroom walls. In this HGTV Urban Oasis 2018 hall bathroom, the tile around the vanity and walls has looks like wallpaper, but it’s really a durable and beautiful tile.

Let’s Get Started.

Do these images have you dreaming of renovating your bathroom? Visit our Pinterest page to explore more of our favorite bathroom renovation projects. Or drop us a line and let’s get started!

Home Tips: Getting Ready for Spring

A few short months ago, we shared tips on preparing your home for the cold, wind, snow and ice of the winter season. Now that temperatures have begun to warm, it is time for you to give your home another inspection. Take advantage of warmer weather to get outside and see home your home has fared. These are easy tips that you can do yourself to help take care of your largest investment—your home.

Take A Walk.

Before you stroll your neighborhood, take a walk around your own home. Keep an eye out for damage from ice and storms to see where winter has taken its toll. Your visual inspection should include:

  • The roof: look for loose shingles and nail pops.

  • The chimney: check the joints between the stones. Missing joints or vegetation growing between joints can signal that water is an issue.

  • Exterior walls: Look for water stains near gutters. Check wood siding for any rotting or damaged areas.

  • Foundation: Look for cracks and water damage.

  • Windows: Check weather stripping and caulking to maintain a tight seal.

Are you noticing areas of concern? It might be time to call in your local roofer, mason or a foundation expert.

Spring Checklist.

Your spring checklist includes more than just cleaning. Before we transition into a sweltering summer, there are a few items you should check off your home care list:

  • Schedule seasonal HVAC maintenance. Make sure your system is system is running efficiently and is ready to go for air conditioning season.

  • Reseal exterior woodwork. Do you have a wood deck, fencing or outdoor structures like a pergola or trellis? They will last much longer if they are protected from the elements. Spring is a good time to touch up paint or stain and reseal. While you’re at it, you can check for any rotted or damaged wood that might need to be replaced.

  • Clean gutters. Are you ready for April showers? Sure, they bring May flowers, but you want to make sure that water is able to run away from your house. Make sure your gutters are free from leaves and debris.

  • Inspect your irrigation. Run through each zones manually to make sure none of the heads or lines have been damaged. Adjust heads that are spraying the house, sidewalks or porches to avoid damage and wasting water.

  • Check your screens. If you like to open up the windows as the weather warms, you’ll want to make sure your screens are intact. You can call a professional to fix damaged screens or pick up a screen repair kit at your local hardware store.

  • Check your alarms. If you didn’t check your fire and carbon monoxide alarms when our clocks sprung forward, take the time to do it now. Make sure they are working, connect to power and have batteries.

As a custom home builder and bespoke remodeler, we know the investment of time and money that goes into building your home. Your home is really no different than your body. It requires regular checkups and care to live a long and healthy life. With some regular maintenance and a bit of vigilance, you can ward off any major problems by taking care of smaller issues along the way.

A Bathroom Renovation That's Simply Perfect

To be beautiful, a space does not have to be over the top or the least bit ornate. In fact, some of the most stunning homes we have seen embrace the beauty of simplicity.  In addition to creating a clean, crisp vibe, fine details can also create a space that is as functional as it is durable, without missing a beat. Does it get much better than that—enduring style, form and function? We don’t think so. The homeowner’s goals were to update the space and to maximize square footage, without ever taking style or function for granted.  This Madisonville bathroom is one of our most favorite examples of just the type of bespoke details that make any home renovation quite simply, just perfect.

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This bathroom does start off simply enough, yet the compilation of small details really make a big impact. The white acrylic bath tub and shower make you feel clean just by looking at it, thanks to the Soho White subway tile with white grout lines. Brushed nickel shower system fixtures are from the SH Pagosa Collection and were a natural choice for this space—durable and clean. No need for a shower curtain here. That would have subtracted from this crisp aesthetic. Our partners at Glasswerkes provided the frameless glass surround, giving the entire space a squeaky-clean vibe.  

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Remember the wood accessories in the recessed shower shelves? The homeowners added those special touches to coordinate with wood tones of the 48-inch Signature Hardware Becker natural teak vanity, a durable wood choice for a space that’s going to face a ton of moisture and water throughout its life. Who says that style and durability can’t live together happily ever after.

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With a room comprised of almost all white and wood tones, the Signature Hardware Cassiopeia lava stone vessel sink really makes a statement. We love the look of this dark, natural stone juxtaposed with the teak of the vanity. Elegant, yet hardworking, these two natural details are a match made in heaven. There’s no need for artwork in this renovated bathroom when the selections are all just so precise and, well, perfect.

There are some small details that really make this space work, once again proving the innate beauty of functionality. The brushed nickel shelves about the toilet and the wall mounted bowl brush, from Signature Hardware’s Asbury bathroom collection, make the space as practical as it is beautiful. We love how they so nicely compliment the sink and shower faucets and exposed bulb lighting.

This bathroom renovation was completed with Marie Kondo in mind. Small in scale but mighty in its attention to detail, this space does not sacrifice storage for style—it has it all! By removing the closet door, this room’s storage also shows off great design. We love how the open shelving ties in the natural and airy vibe to this space, with the teak wood shelves and rope baskets, another special touch from the homeowner. 

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The Wooow fibre effect tile in Silver from Mirage adds some warmth to this pristine space. The wood look of this tile is just as enduring as it is homey. The addition of this additional neutral detail once again adds to the natural and clean look of this bathroom.

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The Clear Glass Vial Pendant Lights from Shade of Lights are a stunning addition and make quite a statement with Edison bulbs. We love the use of a hanging pendant in this bathroom versus some more traditional lighting. Here, the fixtures are one part practical and one-part art.

Has your bathroom taken a beating? Are you looking for an update that will maximize square footage and function? Have you been inspired by this bathroom remodel that is the perfect marriage of style and durability? Contact us for some ideas on how to spruce up your space in a way that will best accommodate your home and all those inside it. From a quick refresh to a major home renovation, The English Contractor is ready to help.

Jennifer Buchholz
A Bathroom Renovation Out of The Blue

We’ve highlighted a lot of projects lately that show how an array of neutrals can have a big impact in a small space. And as much as we’ve loved working with clients to bring their visions of blacks, whites, coppers, and weathered wood tones to life, sometimes a bathroom with the focus on just one gorgeous color just comes out of the blue.

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That’s the case with this bathroom renovation we recently completed in Montgomery, Ohio. The homeowners were looking for a total floor-to-ceiling upgrade in their hall bathroom. We were thrilled to take on this project that showcases the fact that builders can also be artists.

 

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We love it when a special family tradition can lead to the design of a new family space. In this case, Michigan’s Lake Charlevoix inspired a beautiful palette of blues, that when paired with crisp, white tile, and American Standard toilet and undermount sink, was really able to shine. No need for Calgon to take you away. These serene blues give this bath space a relaxed, clean vibe—dare we say, an instant vacation! We love how the family’s vacation spot gets a place in this room. 

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You might not realize that laying tile is truly an artform. And for a project like this, The English Contractor team loves to get creative. This shower, with Soho White subway tile walls and white Penny Rounds, all provided by Hamilton Parker, was turned into a work of art through the sea blue tile accent. This accent tile, Luce Fin in Sani Silk from Lunada Bay, takes this new shower from basic to brilliant. The glass tile adds a special shimmer and shine to the white subway tile. This accent was cut and placed with exact precision, adding an extra special detail to this hall bathroom. The shower is enclosed with a frameless glass door, provided by GlassWerkes

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Brushed nickel bath accessories were a must to continue the calm atmosphere. The sink faucet and shower system fixtures are courtesy of the Lahara Collection from Delta. 

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 As much as we love to complete any space with custom cabinetry, we’re equally as happy to work with existing pieces from our clients. In this space, the vanity and counter were already in the space and got a little upgrade with the new Delta faucet. 

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The natural light is really able to shine in this space, thanks to the new window from Marvin Windows and Marsh Building Products, also in Montgomery. 

Does your bathroom give you the blues? Do you have a vision to upgrade your space? We specialize in custom projects and bespoke details. Give us a call and let’s see how we can work together to bring your vision for your home to life. Contact us today.

Jennifer Buchholz
Lights, Camera, Action!

Tackling a major remodel requires a fair amount of juggling, especially one like we managed for the HGTV Urban Oasis in Cincinnati, Ohio.. There’s a linear nature to a project like this, one foot in front of the other. There’s an order in which projects have to be completed. It can be a challenge, even for the best of us. And that’s the beauty of being a custom builder. We understand the order, how to manage it, and, more importantly, how to juggle it when things don’t go quite as planned. But add a television camera and a celebrity’s schedule to the mix and you have one heck of a project. It was a balancing act, to say the least, but we couldn’t be prouder of the outcome.

 

We’re proud to say that we completed the remodel, including the two-story addition, in 6 months and three days. For a house that was stripped down to the studs, this is quite an accomplishment. But for a house that was stripped down to the studs, rebuilt, and given a two store addition, along with a complicated TV production schedule. . . our timeframe is nothing short of a miracle. 

 
 

For as many exciting parts of a total home renovation that you may witness on your favorite HGTV or DIY Network show—like demo days and big reveals—there are a lot of little details that aren’t so exciting. Like watching paint dry. It’s all part of the process, it has to be accounted for in the timeline, but drying paint does not make for good television. It was sometimes a bit of a balancing act in getting work completed and making sure we hit certain milestones at specific times in order to align with camera crews and celebrity schedules. 

 

A construction zone is a noisy place. And the noise is often, ahem, colorful. But when filming a family show, we had to hammer quietly. And speak politely. 


 

Since our goal was to remodel a home AND have it done as part of an hour-long television show, we had to do our job perfectly and in a way that was entertaining. Usually, on the job site, The English Contractor founder and namesake, Craig Russell is our fearless leader. However, for the HGTV Urban Oasis 2018 home in Cincinnati, the producer was in charge. That meant redoing a project or two, once or twice (or maybe it was 10 times! We’ll never tell!) just to make sure that the camera got the best shot possible. And we still got it all done in 6 months and 3 days!

All in all, we’re thrilled with the final HGTV Urban Oasis project—the house itself and the episode. We loved working hand in hand with our HGTV friends Egypt Sherrod, Brian Patrick Flynn and Dan Faires, watching them do what they do best while we did what we do best. We couldn’t imagine a better partnership. We’d watch paint dry with that crew any day!

 
Protecting Your Home in the Polar Vortex

Temperatures are plunging! A few weeks ago, we gave you some tips on preparing your home for winter. We’ll be facing dangerously cold temperatures this week. You need to protect yourself, your family, your pets—and your home! Here are some tips to help you stay warm and toasty.

Frozen Pipes

One of the biggest issues that we see are frozen pipes. When water freezes in your pipes, it creates enough pressure that the pipe can actually burst. Most of the time, it is from faucets and pipes on the outside that were not properly drained and shut off. And, believe it or not, most of the time, a burst pipe is a warm water pipe, not one for cold water.

A few simple steps, like making sure your outside water is shut off and your accessible pipes are insulated, can be taken care of before the change of season. But now that it’s cold—and especially in extreme conditions like this—there are a few things you can do:

  • Leave your inside cold water running. Having the water running through the pipes at a trickle helps prevent pipes from freezing. You want to keep the water moving.

  • Keep your vanity and kitchen sink cabinet doors open. This will help keep the pipes warm as well.

  • Before leaving your home unoccupied for an extended period of time, shut off your water supply and drain your water system.

  • Arrange to have someone check on your home if you will be away.

  • After the temperature warms above freezing and any frozen pipes have thawed, turn off your dripping faucets and keep monitoring your water meter for any unseen leaks.

Make sure you know where the water shut off is within your home. You won’t want to be searching for that in an emergency. And, just in case, have the number for your water company handy, should emergencies arise. Believe it or not, you’re more likely to face a burst pipe once the temperatures begin to rise again.

Keep The Inside Warm

Now that temperatures have dipped, you may notice it’s even harder to keep your home warm inside. We recommending keeping your inside temperature at 68-69 degrees and use an extra layer to keep warm. Remember that your furnace is having to work extra hard to keep temperatures up inside. Here are some easy things you can do to survive the bitter cold inside:

  • If you’re not using your fireplace, make sure the damper and doors are closed. We lose a lot of heat through the chimney.

  • Repair or replace weather stripping around doors and windows. In a pinch, a rolled up towel will do a good job.

  • If you haven’t put up your storm windows, consider installing sheet plastic window insulation on the inside of your windows.

  • Keep your drapes and blinds closed when your windows are not in direct sunlight.

  • Run ceiling fans on low in reverse (clockwise when looking up) to circulate warm air.

Home Care from the Outside In

Don’t forget to regularly inspect the outside of your home during extreme winter weather. Even if you’ve fully winterized your home, you’ll need to monitor the outside of your home to solve cold weather issues before they start.

  • Heavy icicles can pull gutters away from the house. Sometimes, you can just knock them off with your snow shovel.

  • Ice dams can often form in gutters as the water runs off the roof and freezes. They can be a sign of improper ventilation. Take a picture so you and a certified contractor can trouble shoot once temperatures rise again.

Looking for ways to prepare your home before winter weather hits? Check out our blog on home winterization tips and remember the 3 W’s of winterization: wind, water and wasted energy.

Jennifer Buchholz
Small Space, Big Impact

This hall bathroom has been totally transformed. Take a look at these pictures and you’ll be sure to agree that neutrals and subtle details can really pack a punch.  Talk about the art of subtlety! 

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We love how all of the neutral colors combine to create a relaxing and stunning space. This hallway bathroom contains a free-standing tub, a glass-enclosed stall shower and a one bowl sink with vanity. The shape of the floor tile, texture of the wood vanity and richness of the bronze fixtures really have a big impact.

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This vanity, sink bowl, countertop and mirror, all purchased from Signature Hardware, lend a spa-like feel to this space. 

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The soaking tub really makes this bathroom special. This tub, which is already something special, is taken to the next level with fixtures from the Trinsic Collection from Delta, all in Venetian Bronze.

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Venetian Bronze plumbing fixtures make another appearance in this stall shower. Our partners at GlassWerkes provided the shower glass. 

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Although it is so simple, the floor tile really makes a statement. Hamilton Parker provided the Rewind Peltro 8” x 8” hexagon tile in grey.

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Two wrongs don’t make a right, but two neutrals really make an impact. We love the contrast of the grey hexagon floor tile with the white ice bright subway tile, both purchased from Hamilton Parker. 

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The dark shower floor tile adds more drama to this space. You can find this tile, the Landmark Ceramics Shape Ancient Dark Mosiac, at Hamilton Parker. This smaller hexagon shape perfectly complements the larger floor tile. 


Interested in learning how we can transform the bathroom in your home? Contact us today to meet with one of our project managers. We’ll walk you through the steps to take your space from drab to dramatic.

Happy Christmas from The English Contractor!
 

Craig Russell moved to Cincinnati from the Black Country in England 8 years ago, introducing us all to his slang words, British foods and a regular tea time in the office.  Just when we think we’re getting a handle on what it’s like to be an ex-pat here in Ohio, Craig introduces us to a slew of new traditions, including how the English celebrate Christmas. While we have the same reason for the season, there are some pretty distinct differences. We thought we’d pass our learnings along to you. 

 

American Tradition

Nothing quite says Christmas like a festive beverage. You might enjoy some traditional eggnog. Or a warm mug of cider.


English Tradition

Our UK counterparts, we have learned, a more likely to imbibe with a glass of wassail, which is similar to a mulled wine. As part of the tradition for Twelfth Night, in early January, revelers would go “wassailing,” where they would go door to door, mugs in hand, toasting their friends.


American Tradition

The holidays are all about the desserts. Almost anything goes, but it’s hard to find a holiday meal that doesn’t have a traditional pumpkin or pecan pie and a batch of Christmas cookies. 


English Tradition

Christmas pudding is the traditional dessert, although it has more of the consistency of a fruitcake. Often, coins are hidden inside as a special surprise. You might enjoy a mince meat pie, which from what we understand, doesn’t include any meat at all, but a mixture of spices and dried fruits.


American Tradition

Santa Claus is the man of the hour. You know him. Red suit, white beard, jolly as all get out. 


English Tradition

He’s called Father Christmas in the UK. And this fellow doesn’t even live in the North Pole. Instead Father Christmas lives in Lapland, Finland.


American Tradition

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Maybe even a Feliz Navidad. But either way you slice it, that’s how we send our greetings for the season.


English Tradition

The English are famous for their slang. They might wish you a Happy Christmas, but Christmas is sometimes shortened to Chrimbo. And they may throw some rhyming words in the mix as well to celebrate the holiday with cockney slang. You may have heard an English person use the words “apples and pears” in place of stairs. During this holiday season, the word “believe” may be substituted for “Christmas Eve,” for example, “Do you Christmas Eve it? I have more gifts to wrap!” 


No matter how you say it, all of us at the English Contractor wish you the happiest of holidays! We look forward to working with you in 2019!

 
aaron friesen
The English Contractor Awarded NARI Contractor of the Year

We are proud to announce that The English Contractor team is the recipient of several awards of distinction from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Association of Remodeling Industry, NARI. NARI is the remodeling industry’s trade association, a not-for-profit group that certifies professional remodeling contractors and sets standards for the remodeling industry, as well as serves as an resource and ally to homeowners in our area, making sure that contractors are meeting the highest of industry standards. An award from NARI shows expertise, problem solving, craftsmanship and innovation in renovating, recognizing contractors who are the best that the region has to offer.

 

We were named Contractor Of The Year in four different categories and we’re proud to share more about these projects with you.

Entire House

Budget of $250,000-$500,000

This Hyde Park home underwent an amazing transformation this year, both inside and out, with an addition that included a stunning new kitchen, family room, mudroom, and master suit, including bedroom, bathroom and closets, making this home a showstopper on the street. (And we should know. We’re currently working on the neighbor’s home as well!)

This Hyde Park home underwent an amazing transformation this year, both inside and out, with an addition that included a stunning new kitchen, family room, mudroom, and master suit, including bedroom, bathroom and closets, making this home a showstopper on the street. (And we should know. We’re currently working on the neighbor’s home as well!)

Entire House

Budget of $500,001-$750,000

This home in Oakley is one of our proudest achievements to date. We loved working with the HGTV design team to bring this Dutch Colonial Revival back to life.

This home in Oakley is one of our proudest achievements to date. We loved working with the HGTV design team to bring this Dutch Colonial Revival back to life.

Residential Bathroom

Budget of $75,001-$100,000

We worked with the homeowner to overhaul this space from dated master bath into a true masterpiece. Although designed in basic black and white, this room is anything but basic. Luxurious and classic, this bathroom is filled with style and storage, with no detail left unturned.

We worked with the homeowner to overhaul this space from dated master bath into a true masterpiece. Although designed in basic black and white, this room is anything but basic. Luxurious and classic, this bathroom is filled with style and storage, with no detail left unturned.

Residential Interior Element

Budget of $30,000 or Over

This staircase is a true melding of craftsmanship and artistry. So beautifully designed, these steps are now a stunning focal point for the home.

This staircase is a true melding of craftsmanship and artistry. So beautifully designed, these steps are now a stunning focal point for the home.

Interested in learning more? We approach each and every project with the same critical eye and exacting standards. Give us a call and let's discuss how we can work together in your home.

What’s the Process?
 
Some of our favorite projects where the results of a great team of customer, architect, designer and builder. The details of your project will help determine the partners that you need.

Some of our favorite projects where the results of a great team of customer, architect, designer and builder. The details of your project will help determine the partners that you need.

Having an architect, contractor and designer involved in a project can seem overwhelming. But more people don’t necessarily mean more money. In fact, choosing your team wisely can save you money in the long run. Although The English Contractor can—and often does—manage many a home renovation or addition project, larger scale projects can run much more smoothly with an architect in the mix. 

In fact, engaging with an architect can be a smart first step in a new build or major overhaul. And it works even better when you do so with a contractor right at your side. Your architect likely has some contractors to recommend—and a strong working relationship between your architect and contractor can pay dividends along the way. 

You’re likely wondering, though, does a designer need to be involved at this point? Shouldn’t you wait until your project is ready for those final details? It can be hard to think of finishing touches when you’re just starting to think about tearing down walls. 

However, we believe in the adage that a stitch in time saves nine. By having a good idea of design details from the very beginning can help your contractor adjust the process and save you money. For example, selecting your flooring, your contractor can adjust plans to accommodate position of built in cabinetry and door thresholds. If we know the size of your window and door trim, we can better plan for the placement of light switches. By working together in this way, we’ll provide you with a much better finished product!

 
Jennifer Buchholz
3 W's of Winterizing Your Home: Water, Wind and Wasted Energy

Steps you can take to protect your home this winter from water, wind and wasted energy.

Your home is among your biggest investments that you’ll make in your lifetime, so you’ll want to do anything you can to protect it. This can sound overwhelming, but it is really a series of little things that can make a big difference. Our staff at The English Contractor is known for their attention to detail—it’s this attention to these small details that make a big difference in your home as the seasons change.  We build homes and we build relationships with our clients, so a lot of theses steps that we’ve listed are things that we do for our clients.

Now you can take care of your home The English Contractor way!

To help you all prepare for the winter season, we’ve made many of our winterizing tips into a list that every homeowner can use. And to make it even easier, we’ve identified the three big winter enemies of any home and given you steps on how to protect your home and your family from each one: Water, Wind and Wasted Energy. As you’re walking through your own house, as you’re cleaning, decorating for the holidays or going about your day, keep in mind our 3 W’s to help you know what your priorities should be as the seasons change.

 


Wasted Energy

Furnace

Your HVAC system can be a big contributor to wasted energy. It’s a good idea to have a maintenance plan with an HVAC company and have inspections of your entire system twice a year, preferably before you’re about to turn on your heat in the winter and your air conditioner in the summer. This is a great time to trouble shoot and change filters to take care of any issues before the weather gets really extreme. Dirty filters not only restrict airflow, but they make your system work that much harder to heat or cool your home, which can drive up your energy bill and create increased wear and tear. Put a reminder in your calendar to change your filters once a month.

 Are you holding off on replacing your furnace in order to protect your wallet? You might have initial sticker shock at the cost of this big home improvement project, but an older, inefficient system can be costing you more in maintenance and energy bills. A new system will render some monthly cost savings, which will quickly add up. Plus, you might be eligible for a federal tax credit for a new furnace, that might cover a percentage of your total cost.

 

Water Heater

A lot of our work with water is keeping it away from the house. But down here in the basement, this is a good time to pay attention to the water we use in the house with the water heater. 

So, after you’ve checked on your furnace, give your water heater a check. This can happen any time of the year, but I feel like as we experience the swing in temperature in the winter, it is a good time to make sure all of your systems are running efficiently. 

Many home water heaters are set to 140 degrees when they are installed. However, most homes don’t need their water heated to that temperature.  Not only does heating your water impact your energy bill, but having water that is turned up to too high a temperature is a safety issues, particularly if you have young children in the home. Consider turning the temperature down to 120 degrees. It’s much safer and can lead to energy savings of up to 10%. 


Thermostat

Be smart about energy usage during the winter season and save some cash.

Be smart about energy usage during the winter season and save some cash.

Did you know that more than half of your energy consumed each month is from either heating or cooling your house? Are you heating your house when no one is home? Consider lowering your thermostat when you’re leaving the house. Every degree you lower, you save about 1% on your heating and cooling bill. Lots of our customers are installing smart systems to make this something you can even down when you’re away from home. Just don’t make your heat too low while you’re gone. We recommend no lower than 60-degrees to make sure your pipes do not freeze.

 While you’re checking your home temperature, check the vents in each room. Make sure that vents are open in the rooms where you live the most. You’ll also want to make sure that your vents are not obstructed by any of your furniture, which will restrict air flow and efficient heating of each room.

 

Windows, Doors & Outlets

There are lots of places in a home where energy can escape.  Think about it in terms of entry points to the home. Doors and windows are an obvious place. But also pipes, that allow water to exit and enter the house. Just by spending time in your home in the colder months, you can probably pretty easily locate drafty areas within your home. Those drafts are places where you are losing money! The winter is not a great time to start replacing windows and doors. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer all winter long. If you notice drafts coming from a window, try adding caulk or weather stripping around the window. If you notice a draft coming from your door, you can add weather stripping, but sometimes a rolled up towel will do the trick. Insulation added to pipes on the inside of the house can keep them from losing heat or from freezing. The basement and attic are other places where you can lose a significant amount of heat. You may want to consider scheduling an energy audit. You can do this by calling Duke Energy. They will often provide an energy audit for free and give you lots of tips on improving the energy efficiency of your home.

 

Wood Burning Fireplace

Will you be using your chimney a lot as the weather turns cold? Call a good chimney sweep to make sure you chimney is clean from ashes and creosote. To keep your chimney running well, make sure it if fitted with a cap to keep out birds and rodents. Inspect the damper to make sure it is opening and closing properly. (And make sure it is open before you start a fire!) You’ll want to make sure your fire wood is stored in a dry place, ideally away from the house, since it is a great hiding place for critters. 

 It is important to note that masonry fireplaces are pretty energy inefficient, as heated air from the room is drawn up the chimney. If you have burning embers in your fireplace when you go to bed a night, you’ll want to keep your flue open to protect yourself from carbon monoxide. Don’t keep your flue open all of the time because you will lose a great deal of heat this way.

 

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are everyone's favorite summer budget-saver. But they can help out in the winter months as well! Have your ceiling fans move in a clockwise direction so they push hot air along the ceiling towards the floor. If they're going counterclockwise, they won't be as effective. 

 

Safety Measures

While this step doesn’t quite fit into our 3 W’s, as we work harder against energy waste and weather elements, we have to think about safety from carbon monoxide and fire. That’s why its important to think about your home alarms. The usual rule of thumb is to change your fire and carbon monoxide batteries with the seasonal time change. But if you haven’t done that yet, take the time to do it now. A fire in the fire place and the use of space heaters increase the hazards for carbon monoxide and for fire, so having these alarms in good working order is critical for your safety. While you’re at it, think about other supplies you might need in a weather emergency. Now’s the time to stock up on flashlights and batteries, candles and matches and perhaps bottled water and canned food, in case of a multi-day power outage.

Start the season off right with a clean fireplace and a well-working flue.

Start the season off right with a clean fireplace and a well-working flue.

Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer cooling!

Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer cooling!



Water

Roof & Gutters

Leaves have been falling! Have they been collecting into your gutters? Make sure they get cleaned out. Gutters help direct water away from your home. You want to make sure they are able to do their job. And consider installing leaf guards in the spring. This small investment can help save you time and money in the fall and winter. Do a visual inspection of your roof. Do you have loose shingles?  Is your flashing loose? Make those repairs before it is snowy and icy or before the wind takes loose shingles and sends them flying!

 

Outside Water

In the winter, water is not your friend as temperatures drop. Make sure you disconnect garden hoses and drain all external water sources. If you use an automatic sprinkler system, you should have your service provider out to blow the water out. If water is to freeze, you could have a broken pipe on your hand, which will be costly to repair. Does your air conditioner have a water shut-off valve? If so, it’s time to turn it off. Once again, if you’re leaving the house for a vacation, make sure you keep your heat set to at least 60-degrees to save your pipes.


Wind

Landscaping 

Take a stroll around your home. Are tree branches hanging near your home or exterior wires? Time to call a local landscaper or tree service to make sure you remove low hanging branches. If these branches get heavy with ice, they could cause a lot of damage. A strong wind storm can end up doing a lot of damage

 

 Equipment

Do you have the equipment you need? Does your snow blower need a tune up? Do you need new show shovels? How’s your supply of ice melter? It’s easier to stock up now than when an impending storm is approaching. Summer is over, but don’t neglect those garden tools. Now is a time to make sure everything is clean and put away safely. While you’re at it, this is a good time to put away your deck furniture to protect it from elements and to protect your home should heavy winds turn outdoor décor into projectiles

It’s easier to protect your home all winter long if you have the right tools. Invest in them now!

It’s easier to protect your home all winter long if you have the right tools. Invest in them now!

Trim branches before strong winds or ice do damage to surrounding structures.

Trim branches before strong winds or ice do damage to surrounding structures.

Need more tips on protecting your home? Follow us on Facebook @TheEnglishContractor.

Home Renovation Partnership
 

A major home renovation project is often the result of an amazing partnership, a combination of craftsmanship and art, a shared vision, and a well-honed relationship between contractor, architect and designer. Although there are many types of projects of different scope and scale that The English Contractor can act as your full-service provider, there are certain projects that depend on this beautiful partnership. But how do you know what professionals to call in for your home renovation project? First, it is important to understand which role that each professional will play in the process. It’s so much more than a business transaction—it’s an ongoing partnership!

 
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Architect

For large scale home renovations, additions or completely new builds, we recommend that you start with an architect. They’ll listen to you for an understanding of what you hope to accomplish for your new space, as well as your budget, so they can help put together a plan to make it all happen. Additionally, you can hire an architect to manage your project from start to finish, making sure that your initial vision remains in the forefront throughout the process.

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Designer

A designer can take your architectural plans to the next level by adding beauty and style to form and function. A designer can help you finalize and customize your floor plan with the addition of details like built-ins or cupboards. What’s more, a designer can often help with color and material ideas—including furnishing the finished product.

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Contractor

The job of the contractor is to bring all of these plans to life. Once they have the architectural and designer plans in hand, they can help you nail down the final cost of the project, including labor and materials. They will manage the nuts and bolts of the project, bringing in the right people at the right time, like carpenters, plumbers, and electricians. A contractor will oversee the project from beginning to end, at times working with the architect and designer to tweak final designs. Your contractor is on the front lines of the project, bringing it to completion and tackling hurdles along the way. That’s why we think it’s important for a contractor to have an eye for detail and a bit of creativity, in addition to skilled craftsmanship.


Of course, there are plenty of home projects that don’t require a complete team. Are you wondering what types of projects are best for the architect/designer/contractor triumvirate and which ones a builder like The English Contractor can handle on our own? If you’re ready to start planning your Cincinnati-area home renovation or new build, give us a call!

A Star is Born!
 

Hollywood’s got nothing on Cincinnati! And while building a new home or undertaking a huge renovation is not all fun and games, we sure had a great time working with the team at HGTV on this year’s Urban Oasis.

In many ways, the HGTV Urban Oasis home began like any other project: with a phone call. And that’s how it usually begins for us. With a phone call, an email or a message on Facebook. Because as we all know, there is a huge vetting process with hiring a contractor. You want to know if they have handled similar projects before. You want to know what problems they have encountered and how they’ve addressed them. Do they stick to their budget? Do they reasonably mange timelines? But of course, in this case, our mysterious client wanted to know if we could manage all of the above, while completing the project in complete secrecy.

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The HGTV Urban Oasis home is a show stopper and its Cincinnati red curb appeal makes it a traffic stopper too.

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Working in secrecy has its challenges.

When we manage a large project, the project is given a name—usually the client’s name—to help us manage our queue. We need the last name to help with our deliveries—things like building materials, or, ahem, an outdoor loo. As a nod to our English heritage, this project was nicknamed Windsor. Could be a common last name, could be royalty? Who knew? Although we know that some of our vendors, suppliers and neighbors were suspicious, we tried to explain everything away. You saw a camera? We’re filming a commercial. An HGTV celebrity sighting? Surely it must be a Cincinnati doppelganger. You must be seeing things! Although we typically take before and after photos, our crew was under strict orders not to breathe a word of it or take one picture. We stuck to the letter of the law. We know it can be difficult to keep a big secret under wraps, especially in a small city like Cincinnati. But if the secret got out early, we can guarantee, it wasn’t from one of our crew.

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Of course, now the word is out. The show has aired! We’ve given televised tours of the home. And the home is frequently in the background of many an Instagram selfie. Have you been following the star of Cincinnati’s latest reality show? The HGTV Urban Oasis home is a show stopper and its Cincinnati red curb appeal makes it a traffic stopper too.  Post your picture and tag us on Instagram @theenglishcontractor.