Today’s post is written in partnership with Trane, who we worked with to install a Trane HVAC system during our beach house renovation. See that smiling picture of me above? Well, that’s largely because we finally have a place with a reliable HVAC system! You see, I am a very light sleeper and if it is too hot I really struggle to sleep. Our first NYC apartment was a charming brownstone but it had steam heat and for the entire year we lived there both my husband and I really struggled to sleep because it was constantly so hot. To be honest, that first year is a bit of blur because we spent most of it feeling sleep deprived! The worst was in the summer when the steam heat was locked on and it would like 90+ degrees in the apartment. Awful! So, when it came to renovating our beach house we knew from the outset how important it would be to invest and install a reliable HVAC system. Thankfully, we had the team from Trane on hand to ensure we did everything correctly.
As the first part of renovations start to come to a close out at the beach house I thought I would share with you five things I learnt from the construction and remodel in the hope it will be useful to any of you who are about to embark on a similar project. Let’s dive in!
1. Investment and reliability are key
I talk a lot about #MakeYouSmileStyle, and one thing that doesn’t make me, or anyone, smile is when things break down, right?! My husband and I did lots of research on appliances and mechanical equipment before buying or installing anything in the beach house. I’ve learned that cutting corners on the bigger projects only leads to extra costs and stress down the line. So when it came to choosing our HVAC system we choose to work with Trane as our extensive online research said that this was the brand that was most reliable. Plus, Trane was able to install the whole system from dampers to thermostats through to a remote control of the system on our smartphones. We really liked having everything in the HVAC with the same brand as we felt it would likely lead to a more smoothly running system – and it did!
For ease of reference, here is a list of all the equipment we had installed:
– Trane high efficiency XV-20 variable speed communicating condenser, with one (1) Trane Model: TAM9 communicating variable speed air handler
– x2 Trane Comfort Link II seven day programmable Wi-Fi thermostats
– Trane Power Humidifier
– x2 Trane motorized dampers and controls.2. Set realistic expectations
Hands up: I’m a perfectionist. Guilty as charged. Going into this renovation I had a visual in my mind of exactly how I wanted everything to come together and turn out. I soon realized that during a renovation you simply have to make compromises and accept that some of the things you had your heart set on just aren’t feasible. For example, both my husband and I had dreamed of having an open wood burning fireplace in the living room. However, it turned out that building the chimney and keeping everything in code was going to cost more than $40K. Obviously, adding a wood burning fireplace at that level of cost wouldn’t have added an equal amount in value to the property. At the start of the project I swore I would do anything to avoid having a gas fireplace but here we are at the end of the renovation with, you guessed it, a gas fireplace. And you know what? It’s absolutely fine – more than fine! It was the right decision, both right now and the future. It was a great learning curve for us about where to save and where to invest. The Trane HVAC system, for example, is something that was absolutely worth the investment: in the present we’re more comfortable when spending time in the house, and when we come to sell, we know it will add value to the property.3. Use moodboards to help with design decisions
It’s true: home renovations are overwhelming. Mostly because there seems like a never-ending list of choices and decisions to make – and often you have to make them when there’s no finished room to hold a sample up in etc. One thing I recommend to help temper these stresses is to create digital moodboards for every room so that you can start to visualize how everything will look in the space – even if the reality is that it’s still just stud walls! The best part is that digital moodboards are easy to create in everyday programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Pages. These programs will let you cut out products and then layer them over one another. From here you can quickly see how colors, textures, patterns and so on will work together. You can click here to see one of my moodboards I did for the beach house renovation.4. It’s all in the details
I learned that the smallest details in a renovation often turn out to be the most important. A mistake made in a quick fire decision on a site visit can end up causing a headache down the road. So, here are a couple of seemingly small decisions which I think you should be really careful about if you are doing a renovation:
– Shower head height. Make sure you get the measurements for your shower head correct and have someone stand in directly under the place where it is going to go. Remember to change your position depending on whether it’s a rain-head or an angled head. Pretend you are in the shower, washing your hair, reaching for shampoo etc. to make sure the height is right and you have enough space to move and wash comfortably. It’s important to physically stand there vs. just estimating the height, especially as you have to make decisions on rough plumbing etc. before the room is anywhere near finished, let alone tiled.
– Electrical outlets. If you have someone on site it costs little to add an extra switch or outlet, so take a long walk through your house and think very carefully about outlet placement. For example, do you plan to ‘float’ your couch in the middle of the room? If so, consider putting an outlet under the couch so you can easily plug in lamps, phone chargers etc. Also, if you are replacing any doors, make sure you check which way they will open.
– Sink and faucets. One of my biggest pet peeves is when faucets don’t reach far enough into the sink and your hands don’t fit under it properly. Annoying, right?! So make sure to double check before ordering.
– Lay out your tile in advance with the tiler. Don’t take for granted that your tiler will have the same vision as you for your tile pattern! Make sure you do a dry lay with your installer and don’t leave until you are happy it’s right. Then, take pictures of the dry lay on your phone and send too to the installer as reference when they are laying the tie as that way there can be no confusion.
– Buy systems that work seamlessly together. Our Trane HVAC system has a compressor and thermostat that work with Nexia, which allows us to control our heating and cooling from anywhere in the world. This is a great benefit as we can turn up the heating or A/C on our drive out from the city to the beach house so that the temperature is comfortable when we arrive. Plus, Nexia continually updates their systems and provides phone support. Before buying a system ask if there is a remote control option and what support is going to be offered going forward so you aren’t left in discomfort during extreme heat or cold.5. Pick contractors that will add value
Good contractors save you so much money with their advice and expertise and we were so lucky with our contractors. For example, Shore Mechanical, our local Trane dealer, helped us every step of the way with the planning and installation of our Trane HVAC system. After looking at the house in detail they talked to us about adding a humidifier. I am so glad that we decided to get one added because despite the additional cost it has made all the difference to our comfort in the house during the winter months. From our initial meeting the Trane and Shore Mechanical team were really solution focussed. As there was no existing HVAC system we had to have ducting added throughout the house. They worked so well with our general contractor to be able to co-locate the ducting with some other plumbing work we were having done. This saved us a lot of money and also means it now takes up less space in the house. They helped us right down to the visible design details, such as the colors of the grilles for the vents, ensuring they would tone well with the flooring etc. This was really important to me from an aesthetic angle.
My tops tips are one to ask friends in the local area for recommendations; don’t forget Facebook is great for this, too. Otherwise, do plenty of research online – I like to look at authorized dealers and then use Yelp reviews alongside the BBB and Angie list to make a shortlist. Happy renovation!