Generator for Storms

Got a New Generator?

You felt pretty lucky when you scored a generator prior to the storm this year.  And it worked pretty well, didn’t it? You plugged in a couple of extension cords, kept the refrigerator humming and got to watch TV.

Unless you are knowledgeable about using machines like this, and the electrical load you can safely conduct through various sizes and lengths of extension cords, you may be a lot luckier than you imagine.

If you connected your generator directly into your home, and didn’t have a licensed electrician make the connections with proper equipment, according to the National Electrical code, now is the time to call a licensed electrical company.   Your operating generator could injure or kill a nearby power company worker, if proper electrical equipment is not in place, when they are working night and day to restore your electricity.   You can also have a fried generator when the power comes back on, in the absence of that equipment.  Electrical work is serious and not a job for amateurs.

Now take a look at the extension cords you used, are they grounded?  That means they have three prongs on each end; two are blade-like while the third one is round.  If they don’t have all three of these, you don’t want to use them again; ungrounded extension cords are dangerous.  The second thing to ascertain is the gauge of wire inside your cord.  The heavier the gauge or thickness of wire in an extension cord, the farther they can safely and effectively carry an electrical load.   If you use a small gauge extension cord, you can have voltage drop.  This means your refrigerator is running, but not well, because it’s not getting the power it needs, which can put significant wear on it; the same with other devices.

Where did you run the generator?  It must be outside and not in your garage, even with the door open.  The manufacturer paid experts to provide information on safe operation of the generator.  Now that your power is restored, take a few minutes to re-read those instructions. If you put it in a carport or screened porch, you will see that’s a no-no.  Carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas produced by running your generator, is colorless, odorless, heavier than air and responsible for many deaths every year.  It also displaces oxygen in a confined area, so you absolutely must operate the generator outside.  If yours is not supposed to be out in the rain, just wait until the rain stops, instead of compromising your family’s safety

I’ve had a small generator more than twenty years, so here are a few suggestions.

Buy non-ethanol gasoline and use a preservative additive.  Small engines like your generator, outboard motors, and chain saws, don’t operate well in the long run, with normal gas that has ethanol.  A preservative, like the brand Stabil, will allow you to have useable gas much longer than if you don’t add it.

Finally, make a note in your calendar to crank up your generator once a month for 10 minutes or so.  If you don’t do that, when something like Tropical Storm Faye comes along, you’ll be in the dog house when your neighbor’s generators are humming and yours won’t.  I speak from experience; that was me in the dog house during and after Tropical Storm Faye.

Risky Business

Risky Business – Hiring anyone to work on your place.

I originally titled this Risky Business-Hiring After the Storm, and wrote it for the Tallahassee Democrat after Hurricane Hermine, in September 2016. Actually, it applies to any person you ever hire to work on your property.


It’s happening again; it always does when a big weather event strikes somewhere. Someone, perhaps your neighbor, your friends or maybe your parents are agreeing to do business with someone who isn’t licensed and insured for the work needed. What are the clues?

They want to get paid in advance and are asking for at least 50% of the money up front. Don’t pay it. Legitimate companies don’t ask for that much up front.

They say, “You can save a lot of money, if you pull the permit yourself.”

That is a huge red flag; because no real contractor licensed by the State of Florida, would ever ask a client to obtain a permit. It means they don’t have a license and/or the insurance required to be a contractor, in this state. They may not have either one.

But, we all want to save money, right? So, what’s the risk?

You may have to pay someone legitimate to fix poor work, but that’s not the biggest risk. Do these people actually know how to do the work? If they flood your home when they cut a water line or cause a fire with faulty wiring, who will pay for to clean up the mess and repair your home?

Before we discuss more about contractors, please understand this: no one who does work on your home, can do so without a license, whether it’s a roofer, plumber, or general contractor. is the website to go to and check out anyone’s license. Anyone can print a business card, but no one shows up at unless they really have a valid license.

Trees a problem? Let’s put this in all caps; ANYONE who is going to work on your property, not just your house, must have the proper insurance. Anyone doing anything for money, needs to have Liability and Workers Compensation Insurance, valid in Florida, to protect you. PERIOD. That Mississippi guy may have great insurance, it just doesn’t extend across state lines.

And this, insurance or lack of valid, enforceable insurance, is where your biggest risk is when you hire those unlicensed and uninsured frauds.

State law says a valid workers compensation policy provides protection from being sued for all medical costs and loss of wages, by workers injured while working on your home. If they’re not covered by workers compensation, the injured worker can sue you to pay for all the injury related costs. Don’t think they are smart enough to sue you? Maybe not, but the hospital’s insurance is going to send a very sharp investigator to find someone who can pay all those medical costs associated with the concussion, broken bones, surgery, rehabilitation and wage replacement which that worker’s injuries racked up. Someone has to pay beside them, and that someone will be YOU, the homeowner.

Liability insurance covers your home, car and other property from damages caused by a company and their workers. So if the tree company you hired successfully avoids your home with that tree, but wipes out your carport with your 3 motorcycles, a generator and your tractor in it, when the tree doesn’t cooperate, you won’t pay to replace all of it out of your pocket, if they have the liability insurance to protect you.

So your biggest risk is hiring someone who doesn’t have up to date Workers Compensation and Liability insurance, valid in the state of Florida.

The biggest red flag, which should alert you, is the low price.

Got several quotations and one is really low? Didn’t your parents tell you if something seems too good to be true, it probably is?

One of the reasons why the price was too low is because someone isn’t paying workers compensation and liability insurance premiums, which those legitimate companies are paying.

When someone gives you an insurance certificate, say thank you. Then go somewhere private and call the insurance company and see if their insurance is currently in force. Many policies have monthly premiums; they may have been insured a few months ago, but if they haven’t keep up with the premiums, they aren’t. Which means right now, they have nothing, no insurance, just forms and you’re taking all the risk.

No one in the construction business, or any other business, can buy materials and pay workers and trades for 20-30-40% less than everybody else. If they could, why would they give you All of the savings? Why not just offer you a 10% discount, to get the job, while they make more money?

If you really like gambling, buy a Lotto ticket or go to a casino, but gamblling your home and family isn’t worth the risk.


Kip Carpenter, 2016 Chairman TBA Remodelers Council
Carpenters Construction Co., Inc., 29th Year
Aurora Award Winner 2013 and
2 Remodeler Showcase Awards 2013, 2014 & 2015
Since 2004 Leon’s 1st Certified-Aging-in-Place-Specialist

Painted and Stained Cabinets

Q:  Is there a really good reason to pick one over the other when considering Painted or Stained Cabinets?

A: Having built and remodeled a 100 kitchens or more, and visited hundreds of other existing kitchens, we’ve seen differences in colors, finishes and styles.

We’ve seen white kitchens or very dark stained cabinets be the “In Thing” then seen their popularity fade from fashion, in favor of other options, in cycles.

Here is what we’ve learned and our cabinet trade contractors agree is true.  Painted cabinets, like their stained brethren, all look great when they’re new, but suffer over time to a much greater degree than stained wood.  Paint gets scuffed, scraped and discolored easily and it shows up to a much greater degree on painted ones than those which are stained.  A number of times we’ve had a painter touch up a stained kitchen, which is in good condition, and put a new coat of clear finish on it, with very good results.  You can Never do this with painted cabinets.  They have to be completely repainted.  The paint finish on factory cabinets is far superior to what can be done in the field, because of more controlled factory conditions and the ability to use longer lasting, but toxic materials.  These finishes produce fumes which can’t be released in the atmosphere but in a factory, where fumes are scrubbed, captured and controlled they can be used.  If you ever want to repaint your kitchen later, you certainly can, just don’t expect the new paint finish to last as long as the original.

A medium brown stained cabinet, of which there are hundreds of colors and hues to choose, never goes out of style.  Their finishes look better and hold up longer than their darker stained cousins and any shade of painted cabinets.

We want you to be happy the day your cabinets are installed and for years to come, which is why we offer these observations. We shared this with clients over the years, many of which then installed painted cabinets and that’s fine with us, at least they had the benefit of our experience. Sincerely,


Kip Carpenter, 2016 Chairman TBA Remodelers Council

Carpenters Construction Co., Inc., 29th Year

Aurora Award Winner 2013 and

2 Remodeler Showcase Awards 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016

Since 2004 Leon’s 1st Certified-Aging-in-Place-Specialist


Top 10 Tips for Great Remodels & Not Losing Money

Hire a Remodeling Contractor

The license it’s where you start looking, not where you stop. Most contractors are not Remodeling contractors. Check: their license at; their credit; their suppliers; their clients.

Before plans. Don’t just think it, INK it. Write down, the main reason.
Photos from magazines; Ideas on paper.  Can be a simple pencil sketch some place to start.

Plans: Get a professional & take time choosing the best one.  Some Remodeling contractors can do your design work, check them out.
Don’t buy plans from plan books.

Professional Remodeling: making it looks like it has ALWAYS
been there.  Seeing previous Before and After photos is a Must.

Permits: Your contractor will handle all permitting.  It’s his license and he is responsible for the job. RED FLAG if they ask you to do this.

Complexity The more complex the project, the smaller the field from which to choose must be, to protect the homeowner.

Quality: is what you don’t see so remember: Ceramic tile “Mud base”, Copper electrical wiring; Plywood on the roof not OSB.

Contractor Paperwork: Contract: binds the parties If you have doubts get legal advice; Waiver of Lien forms: ensure every one got paid; Specifications: The next two paragraphs are examples of the details;

Remodel the master bath which includes removing all plumbing fixtures, lighting, cabinets, ceramic tile and replacing almost all of it, while relocating most of it, within the same area.  The exceptions are, the toilet will be reused when relocated and the shower will be reconfigured and remodeled, but not relocated.   (In the plumbing section we didn’t include changing the handle and fill valve to brushed nickel, but it should have be shown.  We did change those to match)

Interior Doors

Most new interior doors will be the Owner’s choice of Bahama style with louvers on top and panel on bottom half; the door from the hall will be a 6 panel door, similar to the existing doors; all new doors will be paint grade, solid wood units, an upgrade to original proposed doors and which don’t match the existing doors; the only new doors will be in the suite for the bathroom, bedroom and three bi-hinged doors for the new closets.  The new door into the suite will be a solid core unit, for noise reduction.  The bathroom door will be a sliding door on over head track.

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Dust Control & Floor protection: protects your family’s health & your home.

Insurance: EVERYBODY who works on your home must be insured:
LIABILITY INSURANCE: If something breaks or they drive over or into something, someone has to pay. WORKERS COMPENSATION: If they get hurt working on your home, WHO PAYS?

NO NOs: Don’t set up any deliveries.  Don’t hire someone to do other work your home while you’re under contract. Don’t walk through during construction, it’s dangerous, and spreads dust.

Hire the right person: In the final analysis it always comes down to this,

The company and the work is only as good as the person who stands behind it.

Thank you for spending your time with us.

Kip Carpenter                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Carpenters Construction Co., Inc., 29th Year                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Aurora Award Winner 2013 and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Remodeler Showcase Awards 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016                                                                                                                                                                                   Since 2004 Leon’s 1st Certified-Aging-in-Place-Specialist                                                                                                                                                                                      850-878-0010




Plans from Books

Q: We are thinking about building a new house and found plans, in a plan book, which only need a few revisions.  Anything we should know before we order the plans?

A: Many plans are site specific so the first question we would ask is whether you already have your land.  A one story, sprawling, ranch style plan on a zero lot line, a basement plan from up north, a cedar shake roof, a two story plan in a subdivision of all one story houses are all examples of mismatched and/or inappropriate plans for specific lots or this geographic area.

Given that have got your eye on something that fits with your land, please consider the following prior to such a purchase.  Construction in this state is now governed by one uniform code.  The building code changes periodically.  This means plans drawn for this area, even a year or two ago could require some modification.

All plans require, at the minimum, a wind load analysis by a licensed engineering firm. This wind load requirement also includes all additions on an existing home (if over 100 SF).

When you noted that only a few changes were necessary to those book plans, did you consider who is going to do this?  Copyright laws govern such work and alterations are subject to the approval of the creator of these works.  Occasionally a local designer has a working relationship with a few of the larger producers of plans.  If you happen to have chosen that particular plan company, the local person may be able to contact them and have the CAD drawings sent to them.  In these rare instances, they don’t have to draw the entire plan from scratch.  They can make the alterations, pay a licensing fee, and turn out the final product in a timely manner.  This is not very likely, so locally produced plans are always the best choice.  Locally produced plans should address the foundation, wall and roof details necessary to conform to the Florida building codes.  These codes vary tremendously from other states, which aren’t prone to the conditions in our state and have issues which we do not.

Engineering analysis, can take from 2 weeks to 2 months depending on the engineering firms work load, the complexity of the project, if the numerous code requirements are included or if the plans have to be sent back to the designers for changes.

In addition to variations in plans, mentioned initially, i.e. having plans that are workable on your property, other attributes of plans should be considered.  Plans drawn by someone anywhere north of Atlanta, and this can span across the entire country, probably include snow load designs for the roof and short over hangs due to this snow load. This is the opposite of the more desirable longer overhangs, we like to incorporate here, to block sun from hitting directly on our windows during the hotter months.  Northern plans have specifications for freezing and thawing because the freeze line in northern states can extend several feet into the ground, whereas it barely extends to the soles of your shoes here.

Custom home plans are the opposite of stock book plans, because book plans are not designed for anyone in particular.  Stock floor plans frequently give little consideration to your need for wall space for furniture, bookcases, artwork, towel rods and other things that are placed against the wall.  The flow through the house and traffic patterns within, are many times sacrificed for artistic flair, which look good in books.  The result can be homeowners wishing for larger rooms, better flow and fewer design features that look good but don’t work well.  We’ve changed numerous 45 degree angles to 90 corners because as nice as the former may look, as a design, it’s not half as useful as the later.   A great plan should be a blend of the aesthetic and the practical, sacrificing neither form nor function for the sake of the other.

The best plans are also subject to the Owners changes, and over the years we have experienced that the most changes were usually made by those that were sure they wouldn’t change anything during the construction.  When you see a great idea and realize that with only a little effort and money you can have a better house, you’ll want to take advantage of the opportunity.  A change in the plans before you build, for a small fee is smart instead of changes after walls are framed.

A mirror image is something that you would see if you could turn the page of plans over and look through the back of the paper.  Some times the plans are just perfect except we need a mirror image.  A fancy copier can make the mirrored image (basically flipping the plans over) but the written specifications will all be reversed.

Over the years we’ve had one consistent use for book plans and that is for clients to tear out pages of specific features, a master bedroom suite here, a kitchen-family room layout there, a façade they really liked so that the local designers would have one or two things that the Owners already like, even though they didn’t like much else about the specific plans these parts came from.

The roof example, snow loads you don’t need, wind loads you must have, changes during construction, and mirrored images, are only a few of many reasons we could cite, to suggest that your local home designer should be your first and is the best choice, for any type of building plans.


Just one man’s opinion.



Kip Carpenter, Leon’s 1st Certified-Aging-in-Place-Specialist
Carpenters Construction Co., Inc., 27th Year
Aurora Award Winner 2013 and
2 Remodeler Showcase Awards 2013 & 2014

Introduction to the Blog

In December 1999, I became President of the Tallahassee Builders Association.  One of my first acts was to meet with the Tallahassee Democrat. The proposal I offered that day was to provide a column on remodeling named

Ask the Remodeler

The idea was to put a half page or more in the Sunday section, twice a month, which would answer questions and provide details regarding working on adapting, modifying, changing, refurbishing, renovating, and sprucing up homes.  Any and all of these simply come under the heading of Remodeling.   And much of what we provided was also useful information, for new home construction, too.

As a charter member of the new Remodelers Council, and former chairman of the council, I encouraged participation from other members, a few of which contributed a column occasionally.  The column ran for 3 ½ years until someone else took the helm of the column for the TBA.

So I’m resurrecting the name and using it for my blog.

We’ll try to add a new blog every week.  We’ve answered so many client questions over the years, that every once in a while we were smart enough to save them, so we’ll also share those with you. We saved a few of the things I wrote in various places, and we’ll dust them off and see if any of those might still be something, you may find interesting. And of course, we’d love to answer your questions so send them to

We enjoy writing about houses, almost as much as we like designing and working on them, but its just one man’s opinion.


Kip Carpenter, Leon’s 1st Certified-Aging-in-Place-Specialist
Carpenters Construction Co., Inc., 27th Year
Aurora Award Winner 2013 and
2 Remodeler Showcase Awards in both 2013 & 2014