Thompson’s Tips for a Stress-Free Remodel

Making the decision to remodel your home is exciting. It’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed at first, so to help you prepare, we’ve compiled a list of tips to ensure a stress-free remodel.

  1. Research and collect photos of projects that you like.  Use websites like Houzz or Pinterest to create idea books.  Each will allow you to create a virtual scrapbook of photos that you like.  This will help to convey the aesthetic that you have in mind for your project.
  2. Find out if you need HOA approval and what the process is to get it.  Most communities have architectural guidelines for updates homeowners want to make to their homes.  Your HOA may have guidelines for simple things like replacing a fence or front door to more complicated items like additions or a new deck. Guidelines can include material specifications as well as style and aesthetic characteristics. Your HOA will tell you what these are and what is needed to get approval.
  3. Develop a realistic budget for your project. This is best done in consultation with a remodeler or contractor.  They will ask you questions about your project and will visit your home.  After gaining a good understanding of what you want, they can work with you to develop the budget you will need.
  4. Hire a professional remodeler.  This is very important! Hiring a professional will make an enormous difference in assuring your remodel goes well.  They will determine when you need permits, and in many cases will get them for you.  A professional remodeler will have a designer on staff to complete your design and work with you to make selections.  They will have seasoned craftsmen on staff that hold themselves to high standards, know building codes, and what to do when something unexpected occurs. Do your research on reputable firms in your area.  Make sure they are licensed in your state; check their ratings with the Better Business Bureau and other online review sites like Guild Quality, Yelp and Angie’s List.  Look at photos of the work they have done.  And of course, ask them about their warranty.
  5. Understand your project timeline.  Ask your remodeler for a schedule. Know what to expect and when. This will minimize your surprises and allow you to be prepared for things that might require you to adjust your daily routine.
  6. Get a written contract.  A professional remodeler will provide you with a written contract that will specify the scope of work, materials to be used, how change orders will be handled, payment schedules, and a completion date.
  7. Know whom to contact for issues and in case of emergency.  Make sure to find out who the daily contact person is for your project as well as who to contact in the case of an emergency.

We hope these tips for  a stress-free remodel are helpful.  If you are considering a remodel, we’d love to help you create a space that you love! With our 30+ years serving West Michigan, our process ensures your project goes as smooth and enjoyable as possible for you, our client. Call us today to discuss your project at 616.942.1866.

GR Business Journal Article ” Remodeling Via Radio”






Pat, Ben and Sandie Thompson, from left, bring a family feel to their Saturday morning radio show, “The Home Improvement Show.” The Thompsons take live calls every Saturday, so the show covers plenty of subjects.


Remodeling Via Radio

Kevin Murphy

Published: March 6, 2006


GRAND RAPIDS — It worked for Tim Allen, so why not Pat and Sandie Thompson?


Ex-Michigander Allen made a name for himself in the 1990s with his popular television program, “Home Improvement,” in which he played the bumbling contractor turned TV star, Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor.


The Thompsons might not have the clever nicknames or a national audience, but their weekly duties as hosts of “The Home Improvement Show” on WOOD Radio have won them a certain amount of notoriety, and some business to boot.


The Thompsons, proprietors of Thompson Remodeling Inc., took to the air in 2004, taking over for original host, Rob Blodgett, of Blodgett Construction & Home Improvement Co. Other than a handful of guest appearances on the program, they had no radio experience. What Pat, Sandie and their son Ben did have was a great reputation in the remodeling business, and an ability to communicate as a team.


“They wanted that family dynamic, like we were sitting around the kitchen table,” said Pat Thompson. Ultimately, he joked, it was his “radio face” that got them the job. More realistically, it was the Thompsons’ ability to answer home improvement and construction questions in a way that is both informative and entertaining.


“We approached the Thompsons to host (the show) based on their stellar reputation as home remodelers in our community, and also because of the fact that the Thompson family is so easy to work with. I mean, they are a team both on the air and off,” said Phil Tower, program director at WOOD Radio. “They are incredibly well-prepared for each show, and they sound great together as ‘The Thompson Trio.'”


Ben Thompson acts as the show’s producer, coming up with weekly topics and project ideas. On some call-in shows — such as National Public Radio’s “Car Talk” — listeners call in or e-mail their problems ahead of time, the producer chooses those that will best fit into the program theme, and then arranges to call them back during the taping of the show. The Thompsons have no such luxury. Their calls are truly live, and can therefore lead to dramatic swings in the show’s topics.


“The show turns on a dime, from someone with a clogged toilet, to another wanting to know when laminate, granite or solid-surface is the best countertop choice,” said Ben Thompson. “It takes all three of us to tackle what’s coming through the phone lines.”


Answering those questions on-air has been a unique challenge for the Thompsons. Describing remodeling and construction techniques is an innately visual process. Pat Thompson said that it was difficult at first to put some of his tips and techniques into words.


“Fortunately, each of us is pretty articulate,” he said. “So we got the hang of it.”


On the air, Ben Thompson tends to be the facilitator, while his father serves as the technical expert. Sandie’s perspective as a woman rounds out the discussion.


“Sandie adds a whole other level of insight to construction,” said Pat Thompson. “She really sees it from the softer side.”


That blend of viewpoints is among the reasons for the program’s popularity. In the fall 2005 Arbitron ratings, “The Home Improvement Show” was the No. 1 program in the market during its time slot. Not only was it the overall leader, it also garnered the highest ratings in several age demographics. The ratings confirm what the Thompsons already knew: There are a lot of people listening to their show.


“We’re shocked at the variety of people who listen to the show,” said Pat Thompson. Ben Thompson said that he often runs into friends and clients who have called into the show. But much more frequently, he hears from people who are just fans of the show, regardless of whether they do any of their own home improvement work.


Of course, in addition to providing a public service, and giving the Thompsons something to do on Saturday mornings, “The Home Improvement Show” is a big publicity tool for Thompson Remodeling Inc. Ben Thompson said that the show has certainly added to the company’s name-recognition, but he’s hesitant to say whether it directly inspired any listeners to choose Thompson for their remodeling projects.


“Everybody who walks through the door says, ‘I love the show,’ but I think that’s just pleasantries,” said Ben Thompson. “But, it is certainly good for our top-of-mind awareness.”


He went on to say that more than 90 percent of the company’s 2005 business came from repeat customers or referrals. He can’t say whether the radio show inspired any of those customers to return, or to recommend Thompson Remodeling to their friends. Regardless, hosting the show certainly doesn’t hurt business. Throughout the year, the company handles around 80 projects, with an average price tag of $34,000. On the weekends, they handle a few more.


“Saturday mornings we take on the home improvement questions of the other 524,000 households in West Michigan,” said Ben Thompson. “On the radio we’re helping more folks from a distance, anonymously, without commitment. In our remodeling projects, we’re helping families on a much more personal level. Both mediums are a lot of fun. And with both services we’re aiming to be a part of improving all of West Michigan’s homes.” BJX

Love Where You Live – Again

We buy a house because of the vision we have for it.  We see ourselves living here.  We see our family future here.  Then slowly we begin to look at our house differently.

The kids are gone and our vision for our future is somewhere else and we begin to view our home as a dog house.

Here’s the question – did you once love your home?  Have those core reasons actually changed?  Are the items that currently separate you from Loving Where You Live changeable?  Is the value in Loving Where You Live higher than the investment it will take to transfer your home to someone else, buy someone else’s home, and customize it to meet your needs?

A client story: Larry & Bonnie loved their home – location, square footage, the fact that it was a very nice walkout ranch vs. a two story.  They loved the memories they made raising their family in their home.  They assumed they were going to move to a condo.  They hunted for a condo.  They couldn’t find one they loved.  They determined that they’d have to give up everything they loved about their home, and spend an additional $100,000+ to get into a condo they maybe wanted.  They hired someone to mow the grass and we fixed the problems with the house.

Problems & Amenities Addressed:

1. Reconfigured the Master Suite – Huge barrier free / doorless shower

2. Opened the kitchen to the great room

3. Fixed the back entrance traffic jamb

4. Upgraded and updated all the flooring, trim, millwork, entry doors & finish colors

5. Brought up the level of finish in the basement to match the main level of the home

6. Opened up the staircase to connect the main floor & lower level

Over 250 times in 2010 people sought us out to share their story and have us facilitate this conversation with them. We discuss the value versus the investment it will take to Love Where You Live – Again.

Historic Work Trip

Twice per year I surround myself with a small group of individuals that represent the best and brightest of the national remodeling industry. We submit ourselves to a process of peer review, an exacting yet loving business community where we trust each other enough to help us become better people who happen to be professional remodelers. This act has enabled me to grow in large (easy to quantify) and more subtle ways. The bottom line, because of these people pouring into my life, I become more helpful to my clients. It is the process of perfecting my craft.

This meeting was housed at Normandy Farms in Blue Bell, PA. Their website Next time you’re visiting Philadelphia I highly recommend you allow them to accommodate you. Normandy Farms is the inspiration of this month’s column.

The property dates back to 1730 and only 4 families have controlled the property since William Penn deeded it to make the property the largest non-bisected gentleman’s farm in America at 4,000 acres. I can’t even grasp the size for one thing, but I certainly cannot comprehend what’s changed in 279 years.  Here are 5 questions for your consideration, inspired by an absolutely amazing work trip.

1) What stories does your home hold from your family’s history?

Our meetings were held in the hayloft of the original barn. Executive chairs, white boards, and projectors are in the same place thousands of hay bales over-wintered.

2) What spaces can you dynamically re-purpose in your home?

Walnut paneling adorns the stairwells and a loft above the dining room.

3) How can your home benefit from an upgrade in amenities?

The food was regional yet inspired by the world travels of the chef.

4) Is your home reflective of your experiences and tastes?

The people I was with are friends who challenge me and the space was conducive for productive work.

5) Do the work spaces of your home (kitchen, laundry, home office, bathroom) support you in your work and comfortably house your family & guests?

I hope these questions bring up images of your home and the homes of your friends, family, colleagues. Is now the time to step out and help them? If so, you know where to reach me.

Thompson Tips – Remodel vs. Move

Move vs. Remodel when every room in your home is too small.  Enlarging or even adding one or two rooms won’t solve the problem.
Remodel vs. Move when your kids leave the house.  Reconfigure the bedroom wing of your house into the master suite.  It’s rebalancing your portfolio by making every square foot earn its keep.