Tips for HIP

gray nails beside beige wooden planks and hammers
We were part of the 2017 HIP cohort for our frame home. After our experience and listening to those of other members, I have compiled a list of Tips for HIP.  Please join in the chat to share additional tips and suggestions.

We selected only one optional improvement – covering and sealing our trash door which was already sealed by a previous owner, but the unusable door remained. With a comparison of winter 2016-2017 versus winter 2017-2018, our house maintained 8 degrees warmer (we only use 3 of our 5 baseboard heaters) while our electricity bill averaged plus or minus $15 from the previous winter. With a bill that was relatively the same, our house was warmer and we were significantly more comfortable.

Submitting Your Survey

  • Surveys are due February 15, 2019! Make sure you get your forms in on time. This is the most important thing to make sure you get the choices and options that you want.

HIP Help Sessions

  • Attend a HIP Help Session.  These sessions have been held each year.  I haven’t seen the dates posted by GHI yet, but keep an eye out for the dates of these upcoming events.

Making Your Selections

  • Get ideas from other members. We walked around GHI to see the other homes that had gone through the HIP process. We looked at color combinations for doors and siding, compared door styles, and looked at options that other members had chosen to get an idea of what we liked.
  • Plan for other updates to the exterior of your home. We knew that we wanted to update our mailbox, light fixture, and house number after our renovations were complete. We spent a lot of time looking at other members’ mailboxes, light fixtures, and house numbers, as well as shopping online as part of our selection process.

Research the Optional Improvements

  • Decide what optional improvements you want.  As I mentioned, we only chose one optional improvement, to seal and cover our trash door.  Look into the other optional improvements and find out what is best for you.  Share your comments about the optional improvements you selected in our chat.

Prepping Your Yard

  • Be prepared to prune and/or remove plants.  We didn’t have to do this, but one of our neighbors had a number of plants that were either too close to the house to allow work on siding or had to be pruned/removed to make room for the scaffolding.  Try to find out in advance what plants may have to be moved so that you can replant them if necessary.
  • Know that your yard space may be used as storage.  I found that the yards of end units were the ones mostly used for storage space.  Be aware of this as it could be multiple weeks that your yard is used as storage for doors, siding, windows, or other old removed items.  It is very possible that it could cause damage to your yard, such as dead grass, so try to speak with the contractors about this.
  • Check your yard daily.  Not only do you need to check for debris (screws, nails, and scraps of wood, metal, and siding) to ensure that it is safe to walk in your yard, you also want to check your plants daily.  We had one plant right next to the parking lot that the contractors continually walked through.  Check the status of your plants and bring your concerns to the attention of GHI and the contractors.

Baseboard Heaters
We did not have thermostats, nor did we purchase new ones to be installed. Even without thermostats, we noticed that the new heaters maintained temperature better than the old heaters.

  • Find out the options for thermostats. When we looked into thermostats, we thought that some would be wired and others would be wireless. We later found out from the contractors that the current wiring of the house would determine which thermostat option would be installed. I suggest finding out what the options would be for your house before selecting them or not.
  • Make space around the heaters during the installation. The contractors really do need a lot of space to complete the work. I used this as an opportunity to clean underneath furniture that hadn’t been moved in years!

We, unfortunately, had a very bad experience with our doors. We had three doors installed (all the incorrect size) before ending up with the one we have now.

  • Know the measurements of your current door. It will be important to compare in the event that the wrong size door is ordered and/or delivered. As mentioned above, our door was ordered and delivered 6″ too narrow; knowing our door measurements and having them recorded ahead of time was crucial for getting this fixed
  • Make it known if you plan to keep your storm door. We put painters tape on storm door and labeled it “KEEP THIS DOOR.”
  • Plan your color. Plan the color combinations of your door to match the color of your new siding or current brick/block.
  • Ask the contractors to frame your door to the correct size for your storm door. We were told that the contractors do not have to frame the doors to any specified size, so if you know you need a certain size, be sure to make that clear.  We weren’t aware of this at the time, as it was never made known to us by GHI or the contractors.  All of our neighbors who had planned to reinstall their storm doors had a pay out-of-pocket expenses to fix the door frames in order to reinstall their storm doors.
  • Storm doors will not be reinstalled.  If you are reinstalling your storm door or purchasing a new storm door (not through the optional HIP items), you will have to reinstall it yourself.  This is not part of the HIP process.


  • Plan your color. If you don’t like the idea of having the same color as your neighbor: ask. We spoke with our neighbors on both sides to find what color they were choosing before we chose ours. We didn’t want to match on either side, so we prepared ourselves with a first choice and a second choice in the event that one of our neighbors chose the same color as us.
  • Make a decision about the mailbox back panel. On most frame homes, you may have seen the white back panel behind the mailboxes. Decide if you want one and be sure to make it clear if you don’t. If you plan to replace a mailbox, purchase it early so the back panel can be made to the specified size.
  • Check the details. As one can expect with renovations in mass production, there will be mistakes. Check the caulking, how things line up, and other details. I found that taking pictures was an easy way to refer to what needed to be fixed when the contractors and GHI came out for the punch list.
  • Replace your house numbers.  For many frame homes, as was the case with ours, our gardenside numbers were stickers attached to our siding.  When our siding was replaced, the numbers went with it, and we didn’t get new numbers to replace it.  You will have to go to GHI maintenance to get new numbers.  Make sure you do this – we didn’t realize we had to, and we didn’t pass our yard inspection that year as a result.  This was also another opportunity for us to update the serviceside of our house by purchasing new numbers. As you may have seen, a number of GHI members have chosen to customize their unit numbers to a design similar to the original style of GHI house numbers.


  • Make space around the windows during the installation. Clear the area around the windows and take down your curtains and blinds. This was a great opportunity to wash our curtains!
  • Check the window frame for cracking or cuts. Again, take pictures so the repairs can be addressed more easily.
  • Check the caulking where the windows and siding meet. This is where we had the most issues that needed to be fixed later. We took pictures of this as well to quickly and easily show the contractors and GHI.


  • Find a safe location for your pets. Pets will most likely need to be moved out of your house during the window and baseboard installation, as well as during a number of other optional improvements. Siding is also very noisy and disruptive, so we moved our dog for these days as well. If possible, find a friend, neighbor, or family member who can take care of them during the day for these times. Be aware that the dates may get delayed and it may take fewer or longer days than scheduled. If possible, take them somewhere that you will not have to pay for unneeded days.

Watch for Yard Debris

  • Look out for nails, screws, and other debris.  We found an incredible number (close to 100 items) of debris items in our yard.  This included nails, screws, and scraps of wood, metal, and siding.  Contracting crews are supposed to sweep through yards for this debris, though there will inevitably be some left in your yard.  Check carefully daily before letting children and pets in the yard and check around your car to prevent flat tires.

Getting Details Fixed

  • Be prepared to check and add to the punch list. GHI employees and the contractors will be out at a later date to make a “punch list” where they will create a list of all the details that need to be fixed. Find out when that date is, and be sure to share your list and photos with GHI before that date as well as ask to check what items the contractors have added to their list.
  • Ask questions. It is understandable that there will be many parts of the process that you do not understand. Take the time to ask the GHI employees and contractors if you have questions or concerns about the process.

Hopefully these tips should be helpful in making HIP go smoothly for you, your family, and your pets. Please add additional comments and suggestions to the chat here.

Author: Lauren Wisniewski

Lauren is a lifelong Greenbelter. She grew up in GHI as a child and returned to GHI as an owner in 2009.

One thought on “Tips for HIP”

  1. I went through the HIP in 2019. I am retired so it was easy for me to remain home during the work. I agree with Lauren that when the work is done you need to inspect everything that has been done very carefully including smaller things such as caulking. Also the members in my row checked the work on each others’ units. After all this is your home. I ended up with a number of items that needed to be corrected, and I found it was important to note these issues in emails and attach photos. I also felt the need to periodically send email reminders to the HIP office about what was still outstanding and to confirm that I was satisfied with what had been completed. (I should add I found I had to do the same in the past when I personally contracted improvements to my home with private contractors.) By being on-site, I also was able to let the HIP staff and the crews know when I thought they did a good job which seemed to be appreciated.
    The biggest problem I encountered was with the trim on my back door. The trim was not reattached correctly by the worker and also was damaged by him, but by sending photos to HIP and GHI maintenance, I was able to have the trim replaced. While the trim was primed, it was my responsibility to paint it which I didn’t mind.
    Pets – I have exotic pets and despite the crews’ efforts to clean up after themselves, the work creates dust that spreads throughout the house. Also the noise and vibrations from the work can be extra stressful for exotic pets, such as reptiles and birds. This is particularly true if your siding is replaced. I also found residue from the work in my cages, despite screened tops or tempered glass doors on my cages. One of my snakes developed an infection which my vet attributed to the dust from the work. If you have pocket pets, birds, rabbits, reptiles or amphibians, I recommend removing them from your home during the work.
    In the end it is all worth it! In particular I love my full view doors and the extra light in the house that I now enjoy despite my woodland yard. (I requested and was granted a Board exception to have a full view door on my service side.)


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