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My Amazing Experience with Angie’s List

Posted by on February 25th, 2014

In this post you’ll learn:

-About my Amazing Experience with Angie’s List

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting to work on our home office remodel.  I’ve got about 90% of the coffered ceiling framed out and I’ve applied for an electrical permit for the additional ceiling lights we’ll be adding.  I’m looking forward to shifting gears and actually doing some drywall work, which isn’t something I’ve had to do much of in our new house.  Am I any good at spackling or mudding walls?  I’m actually pretty good at it, so I hope I can share some tips on that subject if you’re interested learning.  Later this week, I’ll share some pictures of the ceiling work on our Instagram and Facebook accounts.


Today, I want to do something a little different and share with you one of my all-time favorite remodeling stories.  Now just so we’re clear, I’m not being paid to write this post.  I’m sort of on the fence as to whether or not I should start doing sponsored posts or not.  I have yet to write one.  Anyway, that’s a discussion for another day.  Even though this isn’t a sponsored post and I’m not being compensated for it, I just added Angie’s List to my affiliate portfolio.  That means if you visit the Angie’s List website using my link AND THEN purchase a subscription to their service, I get a kickback at no additional charge to you.  Affiliate advertising is a good deal for bloggers and there’s way more money in affiliate advertising than banner or Google ads.  Anyway, just want to be above board with our readers on this stuff.

So back to my favorite remodeling story….

It’s 2008 and I’m getting married in under three months.  I’m living in a row house that has been about 50% gutted.  The kitchen is gone.  The upstairs bathroom is non-existent.  All of my personal belongings are covered in a thin haze of horse-hair plaster dust.  I was just informed by Philly’s License and Inspections Department that I need to have most of my remaining remodeling work completed by licensed and insured contractors.  Philly has a policy where contractors are the only ones permitted to perform electrical and plumbing work.  Homeowners are allowed to do some basic remodeling like window replacements, framing, drywall, etc.  Not a popular policy among DIYers as you can probably imagine.  So, being the rule follower, I acquiesced and attempted to hire a plumber and an electrician.  Lucky for me, I had just signed up for Angie’s List.  A few years prior, I had renovated the first half of the house and hired out some roof work.  I quickly realized that using the yellow pages to find a roofer was a misadventure I didn’t care to repeat.  Let’s just say I burned through some serious vacation time waiting for contractors to eventually not show up to give me quotes.  It was infuriating.   So by the time 2008 had rolled around, I had already become an Angie’s List subscriber.

Now here was the challenge before me.  I needed to identify affordable, competent and reliable contractors to finish the electrical and plumbing work so I could finish the house in time to have my beautiful bride move in after we got married.  These contractors would have to both show up AND give me a quote, which in the days before Angie’s List was… well… a crapshoot.  Oh, and after all of that, I still wanted to build my own kitchen cabinets.  Needless to say, time was a critical factor.

Here’s how I pulled it off…  On a Monday, I called three electricians and four plumbers I found in Angie’s List.  I told them all I wanted them to come by my house on Wednesday and give me a quote for some work I wasn’t permitted to do myself.  I intentionally gave them all different times so as to stagger their visits throughout the day.  Right away, in Philly, this is like asking for the Pope to swing by with a fresh cheesesteak.  A couple responded with something like… “Meh, maybe Wednesday will work.  We’ll see what we can do.”   Then, as if reading from a script, towards the end of the phone call, they would each ask me where I got their number.  Was this from a previous job?  Did you find my number on a bathroom wall?  Where did you hear about our business?

This is my favorite part.  I would tell them “Angie’s List” and then listen for that audible silence on the other end of the line.  That “Oh crap, I better show up and better give this dude a quote” kind of silence.  They would all commit to being at the house that Wednesday.  They know that if they didn’t show up or blew me off, I could go onto Angie’s List and leave them a bad review or indicate a no-show.  That’s not good for business.

Wednesday rolled around and I literally had a dozen contractors in the house tripping all over each other to scope out the job.  It was an Angie’s List miracle.  Oh and that whole staggering thing went out the window once the morning rush hour hit.  I had three electrical contractors in the house at the same time eyeing each other up.  I think it ended up working out in my favor.  They knew there was competition.

Each and every one of those contractors showed up and all but one gave me a written or verbal quote.  One contractor did decline to provide a quote, but showed up anyway and after viewing the work, told me he wasn’t interested in the job.  Hey, at least he told me.

I was thrilled.  I ended up hiring two awesome contractors that’d I’d recommend in a second.  Actually, I’m working on a Resources Page and I will provide their info to anyone in the Philly area who’s looking for some quality guys.

All the work ended up getting done fairly quickly, which left me in a great position to build my kitchen cabinets.

So that’s my Angie’s List story.  If I ever need anything done by a contractor, which is rare these days, the first place Lisa and I look is “the List.”  The membership fee is outrageously affordable.  It’s under $4 a month and the cost drops even further if you buy a whole year or two subscription.  Lisa and I have even used it to look up our prospective doctors and dentists.  Forget “in-network”… are they on the List?

For $4 a month, if you hire a contractor once a year, it pays for itself immediately.

Just so you know, I’m never going to recommend a product or a service that I haven’t used or don’t hold in high regard.

I hope you’re having a great week and I’ll be back later this week with a home office update.

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,,

Custom Woodworking Plans

Posted by on January 15th, 2014

Since we started releasing our free woodworking plans to our newsletter subscribers, I realized that not everyone may be interested in building projects that are exactly the same size as the units in our house.  Fair enough.  So, I decided to open up an Etsy shop and sell custom dimensioned versions of the projects we make available to our newsletter subscribers.  If someone wants to build one of our built-ins for example, but would prefer it taller or wider, no problem.  You can buy the plans online and specify what final dimensions you would like and in a few days we can email you a customized set of plans specifically for you.

We’re also selling the same plans that are available for free to our newsletter subscribers.  Why would I do that?  Well, for one thing, it’s an opportunity to try and leverage some of the work we’ve done so far.  It’s also a great way of establishing value to our readers and subscribers.

Here’s a link to our Etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/OurHomefromScratch

This weekend, we’ll be back in our office finishing up our hardwood floors.  In our next post, we’ll be sharing some of the design process and layout options sized for our office.  We’ll get a chance to see what those ideas we considered actually look like in the space.

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,,

Our 2013 Blog Year in Review

Posted by on December 17th, 2013

Maybe this post is a week or so early, but with the holiday week fast approaching, I think it’s now or never.  I’m not sure how much time I’ll have next week for a wrap-up, plus I want to make some changes to our theme during my Christmas vacation.  I actually LOVE tweaking the html and css for our site.  Probably because it’s such a new thing for me and I get a kick out of it.  I’m sure it’ll get old eventually.  Over the holiday, I hope to add another set of plans for our subscribers and I’m shooting to add them by the end of next week.

Anyway, it’s always fun to look back on the year that was and take another look at the projects we attempted.  Key word here is “attempted.”

2013 Blog Year in Review

Let’s start with January…

ektorp popped screws

The first month of 2013, introduced our readers to our Master Bedroom and Sitting room.  You can actually get a tour of our whole house on the Home Tour page.  We bought an Ektorp couch from Ikea and upon opening the box, discovered it was broken.  Instead of returning it, I just fixed it.  Couches are heavy and I’m not a fan of returning heavy stuff.

prego lisa

We also got to hang out with Kristen from Popcorn on the Stove and met John and Sherry at a Young House Love book signing.

In February, we started off with a Wiggles Themed Birthday Party for our two year old.  Lisa made some graphics on Photoshop and we had a fun family party.

wiggles themed cookies

We finished up February by starting on our large built-in cabinet and also knocked out a custom wooden frame made from reclaimed lumber from a 200 year old barn.

reclaimed lumber frame

March was all about built-ins.  We did the bulk of the carpentry work for our large cabinet over the course of this month, including our tutorial video on building shaker cabinet doors.

inset shaker doors

I think April was our favorite month of 2013.  We added a daughter to our growing family and wrapped up our large built-in cabinet.  I guess the baby was slightly better than the cabinet.  ;)

baby hand

We put a wrap up post together for the built-in to make it easier to follow the flow of the build.

built-in cabinet

In May, we turned our attention to the outdoors and gave our mailbox an overhaul.  We also made our first attempt at a DIY concrete planter.

black concrete planter

mailbox flowerbed right

June was all about the garage.  In addition to giving it a good solid cleaning, in June, we bug proofed the windows and installed a pegboard over the workbench for added organization.

pegboard final

window with clear insulation

I’m happy to say that those windows are still bug proof!!  Big win.

July may not have been everyone’s favorite month since we did more than a few posts on website coding and WordPress theme design.  While I’m not going to bore you with details of coding again, I am thrilled that we were able to get away from our standard theme and design something custom tailored to our needs.  It’s always a work in-progress though and I’m continuing to make some tweaks here and there.

web design process

We also finally found some time to add UV window film to our front entrance.  Tricky to put up, but it’ll prevent our floors from getting sun damage.

installing uv window filters

In August, we spent some more time in the garage adding an electrical outlet and plumbing in some compressed air so I could move my compressor out of the garage and into the basement.  Love the extra space that move has given me.

compressed air in garage

finished outlet

In September, we finally re-epoxied our garage floor.  You could literally eat off it now (I still wouldn’t).  We also wrapped up our summer long garage improvement series by revealing the after photos.

garage floor epoxy after

organized garage

In October, we took it back inside and started design work on our custom media cabinet.  October was pretty much TV stand month as we only posted about the build of this piece.

50 inch side view

November saw the completion of the TV stand project.  This cabinet has only been around for a few weeks and we’re big fans of it so far.


In December, we kicked off our brand new newsletter and rolled out our next big project: our home office.  We also released our first set of woodworking plans to our newsletter subscribers.  Fun times.


So that was our 2013.  Pretty exhausting if you ask me.

We’re super excited about 2014.  We’re really going to try to go crazy with this home office.  We’re going to be adding a lot more woodworking plans and possibly open an Etsy store for custom furniture designs similar to what we did in SketchUp for the TV stand.

Thanks for following along and we genuinely hope you learned something from our experiences this past year.  I mainly write these blog posts with the intention of passing along some of the experiences I’ve gained over the years so you can approach your own home improvement projects with more clarity and confidence.

All the best,

John and Lisa

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,

Instagram Christmas Ornament Party

Posted by on December 2nd, 2013

It’s that time of the year again around here.  Lisa is digging through our Christmas decor bins and dressing up the house.  While holiday decor isn’t really my thing, I do enjoy laughing at some of our older ornaments as we pull them out of the bins.  It’s a fun tradition.

Since we could use a break from the whole cabinet construction thing, we’re going to do something fun this holiday season.  We’re kicking off an Instagram Christmas Ornament Hashtag Party.  Here’s the theme: Weird or Funny Christmas Ornaments.

I’ll start..


If you’re not sure what that is, there’s nothing wrong with you.  I promise.  It’s Captain Kathryn Janeway from the TV series Star Trek Voyager.  My folks bought it for me back in Christmas of 1998.  Why I’ve kept it this long is the real question here.

So here’s how this Instagram party will work.  Take an instagram photo (or Twitter) of the weirdest, oddest or funniest Christmas ornament you own.  Use the hashtag #WeirdestOrnament2013 or #FunniestOrnament2013 when you post it.  You can also post it on our Facebook wall.

In a week or so, I’ll share the photos in a post.  Let’s keep it lighthearted and safe for work, if you know what I mean.  Okay?  Cool, have fun.

Posted in Blogging,Holiday,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,

Our New Weekly Newsletter

Posted by on November 27th, 2013

Wanted to check in with everyone before Thursday!  I forgot to mention in our media cabinet wrap up post that our total cost was approximately $155.  Originally, I had hoped to build it from leftover material from the bigger built-in, but I ended up needing more wood than I thought.  We’re happy with $155 considering it’s pretty much exactly what we were looking for and we probably would’ve had to have spent more than $200 to get something similar.

The other update I wanted to mention is our new weekly newsletter.    You may have noticed the opt-in form to the left of this post.  We’re primarily starting the newsletter as a way of keeping our readers more in the loop with our projects and posts.  As an incentive, to subscribe, we’re going to be including content that you may not see on the blog.  That content will include tips and tricks for DIY and carpentry projects.  We’re going to try and keep up with the newsletter broadcasts on a weekly or as-needed basis.  We promise not to spam.

The most compelling incentive we’re giving our readers to subscribe is coming soon.  In a few weeks, we’re going to start releasing our project plans for all of the woodworking projects we’ve done since the blog started in 2011.  The plans will include a full tutorial as well as a materials list.  Of course, the plans will be absolutely free to our subscribers.  If you’re 100% not interested in subscribing, but still want access to the plans, I’m going to sell them on Etsy as well.

I encourage all of our regular readers and new visitors to subscribe to our new, free newsletter.  There’s an opt-in form at the end of this post that you can use to subscribe as well as the form on the sidebar.

We’ll make it worth your while.  I promise.

Lisa and I hope all of our American friends have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!!  See you next week!

Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,,