New Educational Class: Prioritizing Home Improvements
When it comes to remodeling your home, it can be easy to get carried away with a giant wish list. Ashley Hansen, a Castle designer since 2014, says she often goes to first appointments where clients describe a list of projects they want to eventually do. These projects range from handyman jobs, to exterior replacements, and more focused remodels like a kitchen or bathroom. “Often times, people seem overwhelmed when they’re talking about those things,” explains Ashley. “A person’s budget typically prevents them from doing their complete wish list all at once.”
This common challenge sparked the inception of a new class topic: Prioritizing Home Improvements.
“It’s important to first address home health issues vs. aesthetic issues,” Ashley continues, “That’s where I like to encourage homeowners to start. For example, addressing water in the basement, home mechanics that are not to code, failing exterior materials, and draftiness are projects that need to be prioritized. Ignoring problems like these can lead to a much more costly and inconvenient issues down the road. I prefer to not advise a homeowner to tackle aesthetic issues until the fundamentals are covered.”
Another thing Ashley tries to do is help people understand how to not work backwards. For instance, avoiding doing one cosmetic update when the end goal is to redo the whole room (causing that first cosmetic update to need to be ripped out and redone anyway). People often think they want to remodel a room in phases due to their limited budget… but in the end, doing a whole remodel at once vs. in phases usually saves money.
The photos above show projects from a past client who is a prime example of one who has done due diligence with prioritizing home improvements. Over the years, this homeowner has completed three different, large remodels with the help of Castle. First the exterior, then the kitchen, and finally the mudroom/bathroom/laundry area. Some things the homeowner considered when deciding order of projects included: preserving/protecting the home, budget, aging in place, use of space and what might be the best way to invest in the home’s value.
During the class Prioritizing Home Improvements, Ashley will talk more about functional vs. aesthetic updates and help Twin Cities homeowners create a more concise, actionable list that works within their budget. Sign up on our website to attend and bring your wish list to get expert advice on what you should tackle first.
Get on the Organics Recycling Bandwagon!
Castle is now recycling organics (composting) at our Warehouse / Production Headquarters. And it’s never been easier for you to do it at home as well! Watch this video to find out more.
PRODUCT FEATURE:Renovation LoansRenovation loans are the best kept secret in Home Financing. Call Dave to find out how you can benefit!Benefits of Renovation Loans:
Available to homebuyers as well as current homeowners.
Can be used to create a personalized remodeled living space now.
May add value and can create instant equity.
Takes into account the after-improved value to determine how much can be borrowed.
Minimizes out of pocket expenses.
Have you worked with Castle before? Use the links below to leave us a review!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23rd, 2018
Contact: Colleen Bursaw
Castle Building & Remodeling is offering free educational remodeling classes this spring and an exclusive talk from guest speaker, Larry Millett!
Castle is excited to announce the spring 2018 class schedule. including an exclusive talk by Architectural Historian and Author, Larry Millett. Millett has authored several award-winning books such as Minnesota Modern and Once There Were Castles. Castle is also offering classes on the most common remodeling projects, where the groups will discuss: design process, typical project budgets, cost savings ideas, homeowner participation in the remodel, rebates and incentives, timelines, and affordable design tips. Our Designers or expert partners will lead each class and answer questions about your remodeling project. All attendees will receive a certificate for $100 off design and planning services. To attend any of these free classes, please sign up in advance on Castle’s website: http://www.castlebri.com/education-class-schedule-sign-sheet/.
Castle Building & Remodeling, Inc. is a professional design/ build remodeling company that specializes in residential remodeling. Castle is a second-generation family business, founded in 1977, which has served over 3,300 past clients in the Twin Cities area. Its four unique design studios in Minneapolis and St. Paul allow Castle’s professional team to help clients plan any project. Castle strives to help clients get the best value and helps them to get a designer look on a budget they can afford. Castle’s detailed planning process allows a guaranteed favorable experience by ensuring there are no unforeseen costs and by providing a guaranteed completion date. Its professional design team and convenient showrooms sets Castle Building & Remodeling apart from the average remodeler. Visit us at www.castlebri.com to find out more.
PROJECT FEATURE: The ULTIMATE Game Day Spot – Woodbury Basement Finish with Built-in Nooks
These Woodbury clients came to Castle to transform their unfinished basement into a multi-functional living space.
They wanted a cozy area with a fireplace, a Â¾ bath, a workout room, and plenty of storage space. With kids in college that come home to visit, the basement also needed to act as a living / social space when they’re in town.
Aesthetically, these clients requested tones and materials that blended with their house, while adding natural light and architectural interest to the space so it didnâ€™t feel like a stark basement. This was achieved through natural stone materials for the fireplace, recessed niches for shelving accents and custom Castle craftsman-built floating wood shelves that match the mantel for a warm space.
A common challenge in basement finishes, and no exception in this project, is to work around all of the ductwork, mechanicals and existing elements. Castle achieved this by creating a two-tiered soffit to hide ducts. This added architectural interest and transformed otherwise awkward spaces into useful and attractive storage nooks. We incorporated frosted glass to allow light into the space while hiding mechanicals, and opened up the stairway wall to make the space seem larger. Adding accent lighting along with allowing natural light in was key in this basementâ€™s transformation.
Whether it’s movie night or game day, this basement is the perfect space for this family!
Designed by: Amanda Reinert
Reap the benefits of form and function. Clean lines and elegant ambiance never go out of style. A linear design and long ribbon flame form a broad and warming firescape. Several finishing options create a fundamentally modern look for any space. Select a front, interior option or a black reflective glass liner. Choose a traditional or driftwood log. Set the mood with LED lighting. Make the look your own. Operate your fireplace from an intuitive, smart and safe control. Add heat management and direct the heat where you want it.
Have you worked with Castle before? Use the links below to leave us a review!
If you hire Castle you will find that our tagline “The Best Value in Professional Remodeling” is our way of life. Our professional team strives to bring a luxury service to the masses. A clearly defined process, direct buying relationships, time tested systems, and efficiency allow Castle to provide a better value and guarantee a better experience. Through our three pronged guarantee we hold ourselves accountable so you do not have to. Our guarantees:
Castle Building & Remodeling, Inc. is a professional design/ build remodeling company that specializes in residential remodeling. Castle is a second-generation family business, founded in 1977, which has served over 3,300 past clients in the Twin Cities area. Its four unique design studios in Minneapolis and St. Paul allow Castle’s professional team to help clients plan any project. Castle strives to help clients get the best value and helps them to get a designer look on a budget they can afford. Castle’s detailed planning process allows a guaranteed favorable experience by ensuring there are no unforeseen costs and by providing a guaranteed completion date. Its professional design team and convenient showrooms sets Castle Building & Remodeling apart from the average remodeler. Visit us at www.castlebri.com to find out more.
Vote for Castle Building & Remodeling as your favorite remodeler (page 6 of the survey), email us to let us know, and we’ll enter you in an additional drawing for a $50 Target Gift Card!
PROJECT FEATURE –
Tudor Craftsman Kitchen Remodel w/ Opening to Dining Room
This 1926 Tudor home not only needed a larger kitchen, but the homeowners wanted to find a way to open it up to the dining room without losing cabinet or countertop space.
Expanding the kitchen with a 4’ x 6’ addition allowed for significantly more cabinet space, as well as an eat-in dining area. All new custom Alder cabinetry was designed to take advantage of every square foot of space. A unique tile backsplash configuration accents Soapstone countertops and stainless steel appliances. A durable and playful Marmoleum floor provides a perfect contrast to the cabinetry and countertops, as well as the classic wide Oak casings and baseboards.
Castle also created an enlarged opening to the dining room that brings the kitchen and dining spaces together without sacrificing functionality.
5 Reasons Recycled Glass Countertops are an Excellent Choice!
1. Customizable – Recycled glass countertops are created via made-to-order slabs, meaning you’ll get a one-of-a-kind work of art! Say, for example, you find a style you like but you want 30% more blue… they can do that!
2. Eco-friendly – These countertops end up being about 80 to 85% recycled material, most of which is glass that could not be recycled otherwise and would have gone straight to a landfill.
3. Local – Most of the glass used for Recycled Glass Countertops comes from our Twin Cities community. Plus, our two preferred vendors Dakota Surfaces and Element Surfaces are local companies so your business helps support the local economy.
4. Healthy – These two brands are made with zero VOC binder, so you can breathe easy knowing you’re not putting harmful chemicals in your home.
5. Easy to Take Care of – Recycled Glass Countertops are maintenance free and no sealing required.
With the help of Forrest Wozniak, local artisan, Castle Building & Remodeling’s Production Headquarters is getting a facelift!
Since the rebranding of The Natural Built Home Store into a Castle showroom, the hand-painted banner across the top of our ProHQ has been outdated. Lucky us- the original artist who hand-paints everything was available to help us modify the banner. Stay tuned for the final reveal of his masterpiece.
Traditional Emerald Green Bathroom with Claw Foot Tub
These homeowners came to us with an outdated and non-functional bathroom space. The tub/shower was a poorly-installed, handicapped tub in a very small bathroom. An adjacent room was so small it couldn’t even be used as a bedroom. They asked to take some of that space to make a walk-in shower, leaving the option to convert the remaining space to a walk-in closet at a later time.
With a love for the age, history and character of the home, as well as a sharp eye for detail, the homeowners requested a strictly traditional style for their 1902 home’s new space.
We’re already putting together the lineup of homes on tour for 2018. One project is a whole house remodel on Summit Ave!
Though this stellar home was built as a single-family home in 1920, it was converted to a duplex. Castle is excited about this amazing opportunity to return this rare gem to its original glory!!
The photo above shows a future mudroom area, but it’s currently holding some original wallpaper that was salvaged and will be repurposed on the ceiling of the 1st floor bathroom! This remodel, designed by Ashley Hansen, is a BEAUTIFUL combination of honoring the old character while updating function and comfort elements of the space.
Want to see more??
Make sure to visit the 2018 Castle Home Tour for an in-person look at the finished result!
*PRICE REDUCED! Was $2,000,Now $1,000
1920s Built-in Buffet | 45.5″h x 20″d 117″w
Perfect for holiday entertaining! Enjoy this 1920s Built-in Buffet with glass door side cabinets and mirror backsplash. Note, this item is being held at our warehouse (2710 E 33rd St. Minneapolis, MN 55406), please call 612.877.8376 to arrange a time to stop by.
Crystal Cabinetry Base | 48″W x 34.5″H x 25″D
Cherry wood. Cabinet includes Colonial Bronze hardware.
$75 each (2 available)
(New) Waypoint 18″ Base Cabinets
Cherry Java Finish, soft close door and drawer.
Various sinks, faucets, towel bars and so much more!
The images above include items featured. We also have many miscellaneous hardware, lights, tile, flooring, samples, and other building materials that you will need to come in to see.
Except where noted otherwise, all items are located at our Longfellow showroom (4020 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406) which is open to the public Mondays and Thursdays, 9AM – 5PM. Please stop in or email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about a piece.
All Salvage Room sales are final. Our sales staff is not liable for any missing pieces, providing model numbers, product info, etc. Please thoroughly inspect all items before purchase. All items are sold as-is.
Castle Building & Remodeling Inc. will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, and Friday November 24th.
Thank you to everyone who entered the 2017 Castle Home Tour Sweepstakes and participated in the Home Tour this year!
Here are the winners:
Grand Prize Winner: Ken Cassibo
Our grand prize is a $5000 certificate to put towards a future remodeling project of your choice.
Second Place Winner: Russell Evans
Second Place Prize – Bathroom Vanity Replacement with up to 5′ Waypoint vanity. Includes 10sf Cambria countertop with Kohler sink ($800 list allowance) and faucet ($300 list allowance). Includes design help and demo and install labor from Castle. $3,500 total value.
3rd Place Winner: Brian Woods
Third Place Prize – Field Outdoor Spaces $1,000 Landscape design services (Entries to win only available at Field landscape projects).
4th Place Winner: Nicole Wahl
Fourth Place Prize – Warner’s Stellian – Gift Card $1,000.
5th Place Winner: Chris Melius
Fifth Place Prize – The Woodshop of Avon Custom Closet Organization System. $1,000 value.
6th Place Winner: Katie Knott
Sixth Place Prize – Mercury Mosaics – $750 In Backsplash tile (2″x4″ Subway Tile or Morrocan Fish Scales)
7th Place Winner: Everyone who attended an All Energy Solar project on the tour.
Seventh Place Prize – $500 Gift Certificate to All Energy Solar
These prizes must be redeemed by October 25, 2017.
When you enter for our grand prizes you are also automatically entered for all of our door prizes. Contestants have a total of 26 entries for all prizes, if bonus punch locations and Field Landscaping projects are visited. Once a contestant has won a prize they are no longer eligible to win any other prizes. Castle holds the rights to deny any individual a prize at their own discretion. All prizes worth $1,000 or more must be redeemed by October 25, 2017. If winning prize is not claimed within 15 days of winning it will be awarded to a new person. Questions, comments and concerns about your winning prize may be directed to Colleen Bursaw, email@example.com.
but wait, there’s more!
8. Castle Salvage Room – $500
8th Place Winner: Leah Vogel
9. Cutting boards from Woodshop of Avon
9th Place Winner: Adrian Perryman
10. Kohler Ladina white undermount bath sink 2214-0 ($321.60 retail value).
10th Place Winner: Ted Schatz
11. Kohler K 8206 CM1 Cairn Under Mount Single Bowl Matte Black Kitchen Sink with Basin Rack 33 1 2 X 18 5 16 X 9 1 2 ($479.25 retail value).
11th Place Winner: Jon Messier
12. $100 Gift Certificate towards House Numbers or Switch Plate Covers from Clay Squared.
12th Place Winner: Katherine Meyer
13. 6 Yard Dumpster from Premier Waste.
13th Place Winner: John Friel
14. 3 Yard Dumpster from Premier Waste.
14th Place Winner: Sarah Voorhies
15. Warners’ Stellian Grill Tools Set ($125 value).
The Castle Educational Home Tour is designed to help people understand what a realistic remodel involves as well as, but not limited to, what is achievable within their budget to create a project that provides both an ROI (return on investment) and ROE (return on enjoyment). Our goal is to show more typical remodeling projects that the average family is more likely to complete.
The tour itself will feature 13 down-to-earth remodeling projects by Castle Building & Remodeling, 3 solar projects by All Energy Solar, and 3 amazing landscape projects from our sponsor, Field Outdoor Spaces.
When is the Castle Educational Home Tour?
Saturday, September 30th and Sunday, October 1; 12 pm – 5 pm daily.
How is the Tour Different From Other Tours Happening Around the Twin Cities? Because of the costs to remodelers to participate in other tours (about $1,000 – $2,700 per home) they tend to only show their largest and fanciest projects. Our goal is to show more typical remodeling projects that the average family is more likely to complete. This event is different because it is all projects completed by Castle or our partners. It is a weekend to showcase our best work to the public and educate them on our services. This weekend is also unique because while it is designed to help inspire attendees for their future remodels, it is more importantly designed to educate attendees on their future remodel.
Enter To Win $10,000 in Remodeling and Other Fantastic Prizes: We want tour goers to get something more than inspiration after seeing all of these great remodeled spaces. So, we’ve decided to offer up some BIG prizes! Each home you visit on the tour gives you an additional chance to win (2 stops are bonus punch locations!). Make sure to pick up an Entry Pass at the first home you visit, fill out your information and have that pass punched by the host, at the next house you visit have that host punch your pass and so on. At the last home you visit, deposit the pass in the envelop near the door to be entered. You can also enter the contest once on the website.
H18 1745 Lincoln Ave
H19 4543 17th Ave S
H20 4529 Beard Ave S
Click the map to get up to date directions!
Download the ‘Castlebri’ App to have the tour at your fingertips:
In an effort to save on printing expenses associated with guide books, we’ve built an app for The Educational Home Tour. The app features directions to each home, a photo gallery, updates and more! Download the app today on Google Play and iTunes:
Emerald Ash Borer is set to wipe out thousands of trees in the Twin Cities. Studies have shown that cities like Minneapolis have already lost 50% of the tree canopy compared to 50 years ago. Add the 2011 tornado that destroyed a wide swath of North Minneapolis and we are in the midst of an urban forest epidemic.
What are we doing about it?
A group of business owners calling themselves the Autonomous Collective, is jumping in to do something about it. Consisting of 10 local small landscape, arborist and remodeling firms, each in the business of building and improving houses and landscapes, the group is spearheading a direct approach – LET’S PLANT MORE TREES.
The Autonomous Collective reached out to Tree Trust in the spring and the two groups are working together on a project called Trees for NoMi. With cash donations from the companies as well as clients and friends, the Autonomous Collective has collected over $20,000 and will plant over 125 trees in private homeowner yards in North Minneapolis on October 6th. Hanes Brands Inc. has even donated brightly colored t-shirts for volunteers to wear, to keep them safe and identifiable. Tree Trust is running the logistics including soliciting planting locations and running workshops to make sure each tree gets in the right place and is cared for afterwards.
Autonomous Collective founders, Jason Rathe from Field Landscape and Jim Walsh from Vineland Tree Care, say they just wanted to do something simple and effective. Jim says, “We were talking over a beer about how somebody should really do something to make sure that we re-tree the urban forest… and realized that we were that somebody.” Jason has been amazed at the response from other businesses. “Pretty much all of the companies we talked to have been enthusiastic and jumped in to start donating and help with the planting. That isn’t surprising though. Contractors are really “let’s-just-get-something-done” kind of people.”
Local developer, Schaefer Richardson, has generously donated $5,000 to help set up donation matching for people interested in helping out (and will be participating in planting). Larkin Hoffman law firm is donating time to help the Collective set up non-profit status and consulting!
We’re partnering with MetroIBA to host a networking event at the new 4th Castle location, September 5th, 2017.
Connect with other Local Indie Business owners and Buy Local supporters when you attend a MetroIBA networking event. Casual and comfortable even for those who don’t like networking, enjoy light refreshments, great conversations and opportunities to promote your business. Your MetroIBA co-members are a great resource – come and connect!
Guests welcome – no RSVP needed
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
4:30 pm to 6:30 pm
Castle Building and Remodeling
4020 Minnehaha Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55406
The Natural Built Home Store will be converting to a 4th Castle BRI showroom, effective 9/1.
Three years after acquiring The Natural Built Home Store, Castle Building & Remodeling has
completed the integration of the store’s eco-friendly products and processes into its project
standards, and has therefore decided to convert the store into a fourth Castle showroom.
The transition in signage and hours will take place on September 1st, 2017 and will allow Castle to
focus on its goal of being the most professional and best value design/build remodeler in the
Twin Cities. The change will also allow Castle to serve the South Minneapolis and the
Longfellow neighborhoods with better proximity.
Castle Building & Remodeling will continue to offer eco-friendly remodeling, inclusive of all the
products from The Natural Built Home Store, in remodeling projects. Castle will no longer offer
material-only sales, flooring install-only services, or countertop-only replacements. This change
will allow Castle to focus on the continued growth of design/build remodeling services, which
centers on kitchen and bath remodeling. The widespread availability of eco-friendly building
materials at most retailers has made it tough to compete on this specialization alone.
A list of eco-friendly retailers that carry similar products and offer similar services is available at naturalbuilthome.com. As of 12/31/17 The Natural Built Home Store brand will be decommissioned with the website and Facebook pages will be taken down. All educational classes for the remainder of 2017 will continue as planned.
Castle Building & Remodeling, Inc. is a professional design/ build remodeling company that specializes in residential remodeling. Castle is a second-generation family business, founded in 1977, which has served over 3,200 past clients in the Twin Cities area. Its four unique design studios in Minneapolis and St. Paul allow Castle’s professional team to help clients plan any project. Castle Building & Remodeling strives to help clients get the best value and helps them to get a designer look on a budget they can afford. Castle’s detailed planning process allows a guaranteed favorable experience by ensuring there are no unforeseen costs and by providing a guaranteed completion date. Its professional design team and convenient showrooms sets Castle Building & Remodeling apart from the average remodeler. Visit us at www.castlebri.com to find out more.
Castle Building & Remodeling Increases Company Minimum Wage to $15/hour
Castle Building & Remodeling is committed to growing a progressive company and making the community it serves, a better place to live. In support of the recently approved Minneapolis $15.00/hour minimum wage increase, Castle has proactively formalized its own $15.00/hour company minimum wage policy, effective immediately. It believes that in order to provide a professional service with the best overall value, it needs to invest in its employees by paying a living wage. The company wholeheartedly agrees with the city increase and will not wait for the ordinance to take effect in 2022 to meet this standard.
Castle hopes to be a leader in this change, encouraging other small businesses to adopt the increase as soon as possible. It would like to thank the roughly 400 clients who enabled this substantial investment in its people, and pay a living wage to its 40 employees (over $2 million in projected wages in 2017).
Castle is currently recruiting experienced tradespeople to join its team and plans to add 3-5 skilled carpenters, tile installers, drywallers and painters in 2017. Interested candidates can find out more about joining the Castle team by visiting the Work@Castle page at: http://castlebri.wpengine.com/workcastle/
Castle Building & Remodeling, Inc. is a professional design/ build remodeling company that specializes in residential remodeling. Castle is a second-generation family business, founded in 1977, which has served over 3,200 past clients in the Twin Cities area. Its four unique design studios in Minneapolis and St. Paul allow Castle’s professional team to help clients plan any project. Castle Building & Remodeling strives to help clients get the best value and helps them to get a designer look on a budget they can afford. Castle’s detailed planning process allows a guaranteed favorable experience by ensuring there are no unforeseen costs and by providing a guaranteed completion date. Its professional design team and convenient showrooms sets Castle Building & Remodeling apart from the average remodeler. Visit www.castlebri.com to find out more.
Many consumers have had issues regarding the definition of clean-up as it relates to the construction project. Some contractors assume you don’t want to pay carpenters wages to have someone clean up the construction site. Some contractors clean up at the end of each business day and use terms like “broom-swept clean” to describe the amount of cleaning, and some do an extra clean-up at the end of the week. Some contractors provide a maid service to clean the whole house when the project is done. Some projects can look pretty unorganized if not downright dangerous. Some jobsites never have anything left out of place. It is usually never the condition of the project as much as it is the expectations. If the homeowner assumed one thing and the contractor provided another thing, there could be problems. Included in the contract should be clear statements stating what the contractor will and will not do along the lines of clean-up.
Construction is messy, smelly, and can affect other areas of your property that are not under construction. What precautions will be a part of the contract in regards to the rest of the house, the yard or the homeowner’s bathroom? For instance, if the contractor needs to do some excavation work, wouldn’t you like them to be careful with their equipment around that new shrubbery you just planted? If you are reusing appliances, wouldn’t you like the workers to be careful carrying that stove through your house? The key to minimal disruption is in the procedures and processes followed by the contractor to keep the mess, noise and smell to a minimum. The key to not having a problem is clear communication regarding these issues and trying to anticipate all of the possible conditions.
Unacceptable: Clean-up of any kind is not a part of the contract. You never know what you will find when you come home from work. It is not clear what is debris and what might be used tomorrow for the project. Your family’s well-being is at risk.
Good: The amount of clean up included in the contract is clearly spelled out.
Everyone is clear about who will handle what.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor never leaves the job site with a surprise for the consumer. The contractor has a checklist of all of the things that will be done at the end of the day by the last person leaving the job site.
Best: The contractor has a written agreement with all of his trade partners and suppliers that cover his expectations about clean-up. Everyone in the company works to back each other up if there is a problem, rather than having the attitude that it is someone else’s problem.
Some companies pay a lot of attention to your home’s details. They are concerned about matching the details of the trim, the windows or the species of the wood. Every house is unique in some particular way, especially if you live in an older home. Do you want some thought given to the project and these details? Do you have some details that you would like to respect and copy in the new parts of your project? Craftsmanship and attention to detail are not developed overnight. They are developed over many years of working in homes like yours and gaining experience. Here is another instance where looking at past jobs helps you determine the capabilities of the prospective contractor. Attention to detail is also a personal trait. A carpenter may be perfectly capable of quality craftsmanship, but his personality will decide whether he has an eye for detail. The same can be said about companies. Will the contractor put in the extra time necessary to achieve the final look desired? Will they support this endeavor or will they cut corners to get the job done?
You can tell a lot about the quality of the carpenters and their attention to detail by observing how they work. If their tools are just thrown in the back of the bed of the truck, causing the carpenter to spend a lot of time digging around looking for a tool, if tools aren’t sharpened or cared for on a regular basis or if materials are left all over the job, your project will likely look and be organized in the same fashion. These skills are acquired early in life, and are not changed overnight. Skilled craftsmen have already made the dumb mistakes that all inexperienced tradesmen have made in the past. They have learned the good, better, and best way to complete a project. Don’t pay someone to learn on your project!
Unacceptable: The crew is short on experience and has limited skills in limited areas. When asked for solutions to problems, the worker is short on experience and can’t even make a recommendation.
Good: The contractor has experienced employees. He matches their skill level with the tasks at hand. You are comfortable with the level of craftsmanship as evidenced by the daily progress and the finished product.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor cares about the architectural details particular to your home and your project and has all of the resources to complete the task.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor has been in business many years and has found many trades people with the special skills and talents to help him produce anything required in any project.
There is often a lot of confusion about guarantees and warranty work, both on the part of the homeowner and the contractor. Many contractors fail to be clear about the guarantees they make about their finished products. In response to this, the State of Minnesota has a law that says the dwelling shall be free from major construction
defects due to noncompliance with the building standards for a ten year period after the warranty date. Defects caused by faulty installation of plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems have a two-year warranty. Everything else has a one-year warranty. All projects are subject to this condition and warranties survive passage of title.
A guarantee is an assurance that certain conditions will be fulfilled, especially that a product will be of specified quality or last a certain period of time. A warranty is a written guarantee promising to repair or replace an article if necessary within a specified period of time.
The clarifications that need to be done in the contract can often be many and complicated. What is guaranteed? Who is making that guarantee? Who will service that guarantee? If a product fails, is the work or labor to replace it also a part of the guarantee? A reputable contractor guarantees his workmanship and services, and in addition guarantees all of the work, services and products provided as a part of the project, whether provided by him, his employees, his trade partners or his suppliers. Many times the manufacturer of a product makes guarantees and these become an important part of the equation. For home improvements, the warranty begins when the project is completed, so it is important to know what defines completion.
Some contractors have been known to puff up their warranty or offer longer guarantees as a sales incentive. It does not matter how long the warranty is nor how it reads if the contractor never intends to do any warranty work. This goes back to past issues about the contractor’s stability. Will your contractor be in business as long as necessary to honor your warranties? The homeowner can take action against the contractor for breach of warranty and may recover damages up to the amount necessary to fix the problem.
Unacceptable: The contractor doesn’t have a written warranty. His verbal guarantee is vague and he is hard to nail down on the particulars. His guarantees sound too good to be true, are much longer than anyone else in the industry or seem puffed up.
Good: The contractor has a written warranty that is a part of his contract and it satisfies state law requirements. The obligations of the consumer and the contractor in regards to guarantees and warranties are clearly stated.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor has provisions for providing to the homeowner in an organized fashion all of the manufacturers’ warranties for products used in the project. It defines clearly the nature of the warranties for labor, if different than the warranties for materials.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor has a process of notifying the consumer a short time before the warranties are due to expire to see if there are any issues that need to be addressed.
So many times projects cry out for creative ideas that will help the project really reach a satisfying level. A professional contractor will be able to contribute many creative ideas that will enhance the project. A professional contractor has professional relationships with a wealth of designers, architects and other creative people often necessary to your project. So many times, these elements are overlooked by less professional or inexperienced contractors. Ask your prospective contractor enough questions to find out if he is in a position to contribute these services.
Ask your prospective contractor if he has a designer or architect on staff or if he has a working relationship with an architect or designer. Does he work with a particular interior decorator or interior designer? Has he run into problems like yours before? Do any solutions come to mind at this time for this particular problem? Usually, if something has been a problem and needs a solution, it is of particular interest to the consumer. It might even be the main impetus for the whole project. Can the contractor give this the necessary consideration and help solve this problem?
A creative contractor can help you work within your budget by suggesting alternative materials or plans that achieve the look you want with less material and labor cost. A creative contractor can also let you do some of the work or show you what parts of your project can be completed later. Every project has a budget which requires many skills to meet it.
A professional contractor with a lot of experience garnered from many years of working on projects has a wealth of experience. Over those years of experience, many ideas, concepts and solutions have been talked about and advanced. He has gotten a chance to be a tremendous resource for your project. Being able to tap into this experience can add tremendous value to your project.
Unacceptable: The contractor has no concept of creativity. If he offers a solution, it seams more like a shortcut or trick to deal with the situation.
Good: The contractor has many ideas for solutions to the problems. If he can’t come up with a solution readily, he says so and offers to work on it.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor has many people on his team that he consults on a regular basis to bring a wide range of ideas and solutions to the table. These ideas are openly shared with the consumer. This experience and knowledge and the willingness to share it adds value to the project and enhances the relationship.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor understands the value of working in a collaborative fashion. Everyone on the team has a unique contribution, and his ability to draw the ideas and creativity out of the members of the team greatly enhances every project and adds value to the relationship.
A contractors’ business has to exist someplace. A contractor can’t operate in a void or with complete disregard for the community it serves. That same contractor is dependent on a healthy, thriving community, and it is significant if a contractor plays a vibrant and supportive role in the community. What role does your prospective contractor play in your community? What organizations does he support? Of what groups is he an active member? Does he attend neighborhood meetings? Does he go to church in your community? Are his children in local schools and is he active in their education? Does he sponsor a local sports team? Are the employees involved in community groups and organizations? Many times, the importance of participating and giving back to the community is overlooked by disreputable contractors and their employees, but appreciated by professional contractors.
Community involvement often shows a respect and understanding of the community at large. They are familiar with community issues and local problems. They are also familiar with the age and type of architecture in the area. Involvement shows commitment to the community and its people. You can often find this information in community newspapers and at community meetings.
Is your prospective contractor active on the larger city-wide level? Has he played a role in local elections, served on the school board, held office or volunteered for community functions? Many neighborhoods and communities have home tours or home improvement shows. These are usually set up to support some segment of your community. Has he participated in these? Is he active in the governance of the community? Ask him these questions and afford him the opportunity to share how he participates.
Unacceptable: The contractor does not participate in any community activities. He has no understanding of the history or culture of the community. He doesn’t have any connections to civic-minded groups in your community.
Good: The contractor takes an active role in the community. You meet him at numerous community gatherings. He understands the value of community and has an overall understanding of the community values and priorities.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor has taken the time to serve in different community organizations. He knows other leaders and is comfortable in leadership roles. He understands this service makes him a valuable asset in the community.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor is a key player in the community. He has served for years on the Board of Directors of local organizations. He knows their mission and values their contributions to the community. He has given his time and money to community functions. He can be counted on as a staunch supporter of community endeavors. A lot of his employees live in the local community and he does business with many of the local businesses.
In the same sense that you will talk about a doctors “bedside manner,” many contractors are rated on their customer service. So many factors can contribute negatively or positively to a consumer’s perception about a contractors’ customer service.
Does he believe the customer is always right? Does he emphasize service and value a trusting relationship with you? Does he listen to and understand your needs and wants and works with you to ensure that the plans accurately reflect your expectations? When you discuss your priorities, does the contractor show enthusiasm for your ideas and suggest ways to make them work within your budget? Professional contractors can make suggestions or give examples of how their company has solved similar issues for other customers. They take the time to establish a personal rapport with you.
Does the contractor engage in high-pressure sales tactics? How do you feel about working with this person? Is he honest, trustworthy, sexist, racist, chauvinist, ageist or judgmental? In short, do you feel comfortable with the person? It is next to impossible to have a healthy, constructive working relationship with someone you dislike. The construction process can be tough enough by itself, without adding some of these painful dimensions. This is not saying you have to be friends with the person you are asked to deal with, but shouldn’t there be mutual respect and a good working relationship?
A remodeling project that is not carefully planned can cause real headaches for the customer in terms of mess, delays, and missed deadlines. You will have to work with, spend time with and interact with the contractor on a regular basis throughout the duration of your project. It is worth a little time at the beginning of the process to choose a contractor that provides great customer service, has a sense of all of the elements needed in the relationship and with whom you get along.
Unacceptable: The contractor is rude, does not listen well, interrupts often and is trying to control the whole relationship. There is uneasiness about all of the interactions you have had with him.
Good: The contractor understands that he has been asked to make an improvement on your home and is very appreciative of the opportunity to work with you. He takes the time to get to know and understand you and tells you who he is so you can visualize your future working relationship.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor finds out how you make decisions, what your taste is, what your long-term commitment to the house is, what your values are and what your budget is in an effort to better serve you and create a successful project. He understands how to be in relationships and he values what good relationships contribute to the process.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor has programs in place and ongoing training for all employees at all levels so that this kind of customer service becomes a part of the company culture. These values have been clearly communicated to the trade partners and suppliers also.
Talking to a contractor about where the bulk of his business comes from can tell you a lot about the company. Some contractors don’t know where their business comes from and have never bothered to figure it out. Some companies only have a couple of customers and all of their business comes from them. Some companies have a lot of past customers and their business comes from past customers or referrals from past customers. Some companies advertise all over the place with big splashy ads and must rely on a lot of new calls. What about repeat business? Shouldn’t a contractor who does quality work eventually not have to advertise as much as a new contractor due to repeat business and referrals from past customers?
Every successful contractor, without exception, has satisfied customers by providing a good value. Providing a good value should lead to referrals and a consistent base of customers. Good leads are the lifeblood of every company. Without this base, a contractor cannot succeed. Most established contractors’ primary source of new customers is word of mouth. While every contractor has occasional customer problems, if a company gets too many unhappy customers, no amount of advertising dollars can overcome this situation. Unsatisfied consumers tell too many others of their misfortune.
Unacceptable: The contractor does not know where his business is coming from. He does not know why you called him or where you got his name.
Good: The contractor understands the importance of the lead source. He tracks leads and knows where his leads are coming from. He values leads that come from one source over leads that come from another source.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor tracks leads and has a lead qualification system that helps him understand better which leads are right for his company. He knows the percentage of leads that convert to sales calls, the percent of sales calls that convert to sales, and works leads based on the anticipated fruition.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor focuses his marketing and advertising strategies to attract the kind of leads that best suit the company. He has come to realize that everything he does creates a perception, and he is careful that the perception he creates is aligned closely with the direction the company wants to go.
So much of the success of a project can hinge on the communication skills of the people involved in the project. There are so many details, decisions and factors to consider, and all of them are usually significantly affected by time. The construction process usually goes through phases, such as design, estimating, bidding, contract negotiating and production. The success of all of these phases is greatly dependent on the communication that takes place in each phase, while subsequent phases are dependent on the communication in previous phases.
What if you are unsure if it is OK to ask questions? What if it isn’t clear who to ask? What if you find yourself always waiting for a return phone call or an answer to your e-mail? What if you find yourself passed to a new person or new phase every time you just get comfortable with someone? What if there is a salesman for sales, a designer for design, an estimator for estimating, a production manager for production and no real connection between any of them? What if the process isn’t clear and always seems to catch you off guard or surprise you? What if you end up feeling like you have to figure out the right question to ask before it is too late to ask it? What if everybody you are dealing with only seems to know about their particular small part of the project and no one can answer the broader questions? What if every question you ask leads to the discovery of a problem in the whole project? These are serious early signs that communication will be an issue in this project.
Communication is a skill no less important than floor sanding or electrical wiring and can be the glue that holds a project together. You should feel that the contractors’ job is to answer every question openly and honestly. You need that kind of information to make good decisions. You have a sense about another person that tells you if you like and trust the way that person answers your questions and communicates with you. Trust that instinct. If you are having trouble with the communication process early in the relationship, the chances are very good that you are not the only person that is going to have communication problems with this person or this company.
Unacceptable: The contractor has poor communication skills. He does not answer questions directly, the answers are evasive or the answers confuse more than help.
Good: The contractor understands the value and importance of clear communication.
He values your questions and practices clear communication.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor makes sure there are no misunderstandings and asks for feedback on a regular basis about the communication and understanding to date.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor has attended workshops or classes on communication to improve his communication skills. He has learned some public speaking skills and keeps those skills sharp by offering to speak publicly on a regular basis.
Does Your Contractor use Employees or Trade Partners?
It seems to matter greatly to some consumers whether or not a contractor will use his own employees or use trade partners. There are several legitimate issues associated with this question, but it really is not an issue in most cases. It just seems consumers have been warned against a contractor who mostly uses trade partners. Understand that the contractor is just as responsible for the trade partners as he is for his own employees. It is solely the responsibility of the professional contractor to decide how and by whom the work will be completed. The contractor needs a wide margin of flexibility in this area because problems may arise and he needs to have the ability to solve the situation in a timely fashion. Some aspects of the remodeling process can only be legally completed by trade partners while some can be completed by just about anyone, but it is only the person performing that task all day, every day that becomes proficient and is cost-effective.
Contractors who have their own employees tend to be more stable and in control of all aspects of the project. It takes a steady flow of work and a steady flow of projects to effect steady employment for quality carpenters, leaving them engaged and satisfied. The carpenters tend to control the flow of the day-to-day operation on the job and guide the trade partners in the absence of the contractor himself. Having the same workers there every day leads to better projects. A contractor is familiar with his own carpenters and their strengths and weaknesses.
Contractors who subcontract all of the work lose some of the control of the whole process and spend a certain amount of time trying to anticipate everything that could happen. Contractors spend a lot of effort conveying to the trade partners how the work should be done and what has been sold to the consumer. The longer a trade partner has worked with a general contractor, the more these things happen without intervention. Trade partners may send a different crew each time, creating the necessity to stay on top of the project better so everyone is “on the same page.”
Unacceptable: The contractor hires carpenters and other workers on an hourly basis from a day labor work pool. No one on the job is in charge. Every worker is doing “his own thing” and no one is supervised. There really is no plan. Workers come and go in an unpredictable fashion.
Good: The contractor has had the same group of employees for years. These employees understand the general contractor’s systems and every one is working together with clear communication between all concerned parties.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor has invested time and money for his employees’ continued education. Many of the employees have taken classes or participated in ongoing education to further their knowledge and understanding of their trade. They take great pride in their contribution to the project as a whole.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor knows the strengths and weaknesses of all employees and has good personal relationships with all of them. The carpenters have secure jobs and they know it. There is room for advancement in the company and the company encourages and supports the growth of all employees.
There are many areas where the schedule affects the satisfaction of the project. Did the contractor take too long to get the proposal done or to get back to you with answers to your questions? Did the contractor promise to bring over samples and then have to be reminded? Is the contractor too busy to give you the attention you want? These kinds of things could be early warning signs that schedule may be an issue throughout the project.
If you missed all of those early warning signs and signed the contract, schedule still has a real chance of adversely affecting your satisfaction with the job. Did the contractor say he could fit you into his schedule and then something changes at the last minute? Was the permit pulled before the work started? If special materials were needed for your project, did they get ordered so the workers would have them when they needed them? Were trade partner agreements negotiated in a timely fashion? If there were delays, did the contractor anticipate them, have an acceptable alternate plan and inform you of the anticipated changes?
In general, scheduling are either always an issue for a contractor on every job or are rarely an issue. Companies have systems and habits, and they seldom do things differently.
Do you have special scheduling considerations? Do you want to have your new living room done for Christmas? Do you want this work completed while you are on vacation? These are extremely important considerations since many contractors schedule work many months in advance and many jobs have several elements to coordinate. Find out how you fit into his schedule and be upfront and realistic about a timeline.
One of the things that happens most often in remodeling projects is that the scope of work changes by Change Order but the contractor didn’t make it clear that the additional work would add to the timeline of the project. There are many subtle things that can change the flow and progress of the work. The more experience your contractor has, the more these things can be anticipated. The kinds of things the contractor can’t anticipate are how long it takes you to make decisions, how long it will take you to visit showrooms and pick out products or how long it will take you to do your part of the project.
Unacceptable: The contractor has no sense about how long the project will take. He can’t count on his trade partners or their schedule.
Good: The contractor gets back to all clients in a timely manner. The contractor provides a job schedule to the clients prior to commencement.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor posts the schedule on the job, the lead carpenter is always managing the job on a daily basis and all changes are communicated to everyone who is affected by the changes.
Best: In addition to the above, the schedule for your job is on the contractor’s web site and everyone who is affected by the schedule has access to it on the web site. The schedule is regularly updated. All scheduling concerns are addressed in a timely fashion and to everyone’s satisfaction.
Trade partners are specialty contractors. They have one set of trade skills. They are required to have special licenses for their particular trades, i.e. electrical, plumbing, heating or stucco. In some cases, general contractors are not allowed to perform the work of the trade partner because they are not licensed to do that work. Trade partners are a very key element in almost every project and can make or break them. They are not employees of the general contractor, so the contractor literally has no control over their schedule or how they do their work. If he did, they would be his employees, losing their independence and creating tax ramifications. The relationship between a professional contractor and a trade partner is nurtured over many years of concerted effort on the part of both parties.
It is important on every project to identify the key trade partners that will be involved in the project. Your task is to determine what kind of relationship your prospective contractor has with his trade partners. Has he worked with them for years? Has he ever had a problem with a trade partner that was not resolved satisfactorily? Do any of his subs have a history of not showing up, not following through or not taking care of warranty work in a timely manner? The trade partners are essential to keeping the job running smoothly. Your general contractor is always only as good as the others on his team.
The cost of your project can be greatly affected by the cost of the trade partners’ contributions. When a general contractor is bidding a project, there is always a great temptation to find a cheaper trade partner in order to bring the total cost of the project down and have the bid be more competitive. This practice can compromise the project and begs the question about price, bids and the overall cost of the project. There is a correlation between the quality of work and the cost of the trade partner. I think some consumers fear that a general contractor will give a lump sum bid for the job and then use the cheapest trade partners and the cheapest products to produce the project, leaving the most profit attainable left for the general contractor. There are ways to structure the bid so that the homeowner gets what is bid and pays for what they get. Some contractors use allowances for the costs associated with the trade partners, sharing the trade partners’ bids with the consumer.
Unacceptable: The contractor hires the cheapest trade partner every time so his bid is the lowest. The jobs suffer for the lack of professionalism.
Good: The contractor has a working relationship with trade partners and shares the names of those trade partners with the prospective clients.
Better: The contractor has evidence of long, healthy working relationships with professional trade partners and involves them in the project early.
Best: The contractor has developed a core group of trade partners in the various areas that he always uses. He knows their workers and managers and how to get a hold of them. Expectations are clearly spelled out in a separate Trade Partner Agreement written up and signed by both parties outlining all policies, procedures and safety issues.
Consumers believe that size mattered in their failed relationships with contractors. They complain that the contractor was a “one-man operation” and that he took forever to complete the job. Some may also feel that they were dealing with a huge operation and never talked to the same person twice. They experience contractors being “in over their head”, or get handed off to the next division of the company so many times they lose track. All of these experiences relate to size. All of this could have been avoided if the consumer had asked simple questions and the contractor had made simple disclosures on the front end. Do you want to work with a huge company or a small, specialized company? As a rule, a smaller company does fewer jobs and can devote more personalized time to your project. Conversely, large companies typically have more efficient systems, a greater division of labor and are capable of a far greater range of projects. Normally, when working with a small company you will have one or two points of contact versus a large company where you may have more points of contact and a greater chance for miscommunication. Is there a part of you that “likes to deal with the owner?” Is there a part of you that needs to have a relationship with the person doing the work? Is there a part of you that likes to give the business to the little guy? It is just as much a mistake to ask a large company to replace your storm door as it is to ask a handyman to put on an addition or do a whole house remodel.
Many companies change size over time and this usually affects the type of work they do and the size of projects they take on. Many small companies are flexible, have fewer rules and are more unpredictable. What you see is what you get. Larger companies have put systems and best practices in place because they can’t leave outcomes to chance. For many years, our industry tended to be more of the small companies. They were good tradesmen but often lacked the business skills to grow the business or be financially successful on a consistent basis. In recent years, the industry has changed greatly. National companies have put franchises in place. Many TV shows feature home improvement and design. The housing stock is getting older. The workforce is changing drastically – the trade schools have all but disappeared and young workers growing up in the trade are a thing of the past. These, and many other issues like the internet, have changed our industry greatly.
Unacceptable: The contractor doesn’t understand what his capabilities are. He doesn’t understand the relationship between size and capabilities.
Good: The contractor has an understanding of the size of the workforce it will take to complete a project and he does not make commitments he can’t meet.
Better: The contractor has a careful hiring process and only hires when he feels that the quality of work will be improved. The contractor has a tracking system so he knows the amount of work on the books and the backlog of work sold. This enables him to clearly communicate his job schedules to his customers.
Best: The contractor has a carefully-projected growth strategy for the next 10 years. The contractor has divisions of labor and people are hired for their overlapping skills. The contractor has working relationships with many other contractors, trade partners or labor providers so that his work force can expand or shrink as work load dictates.
There are many projects that require some level of design. Almost every job that needs a permit needs plans. Some jobs require structural engineering or a registered architect. Some customers want an interior designer to help them with the features of the project. Design can play a small role in some projects and a very large role in others. Design is the process of creating a plan or drawing to show the appearance and workings of something before it is built. There are different levels of design detail in every job and the trick is to match the design skill level of the contractor with those required by the project. First, determine at what level design will play a role in your project. Do you have special features of your home that you would like to match or replicate? Are there special challenges that need sound solutions? Will parts of the project need to be calculated by a structural engineer? Are there special elements that only experts understand and handle? Second, determine what design skills will be required for the project. Do you need a draftsperson, an architect, a structural engineer or an interior designer? These are all people that possess special skill sets that contribute to the overall design of the project. Third, determine if your prospective contractor offers these skill sets and is able to provide the necessary design to have a project that is satisfactory to you. Does the contractor offer these design services? Does the contractor have these people on staff or does he have working relationships with them? Can he show you projects and explain how all of these people collaborated on other projects he has completed for other customers? Do you want to be on the design team and does this fit with the contractor’s practices? How does the contractor balance cost with design?
Some contractors and some consumers just don’t value design. They don’t believe it contributes significantly to the project and they are unwilling to provide it or to pay for it. Some consumers and some contractors are very highly motivated by good design. The trick is to match the consumer’s level of desire for design with the contractor’s level of capability to provide design. The benefit to finding out the consumer’s desire for design and the contractor’s level of ability to provide design is to match the levels. There is nothing more frustrating to both parties than a mismatch. Ask questions to find out if the contractor you are considering is a good match. They will seldom change into something more satisfying after the job has started.
Unacceptable: The contractor pooh-poohs the need for design. The contractor represents themselves as a designer or an architect when they don’t have the credentials or skills to back it up.
Good: The contractor understands and has respect for the relationship between design and construction. These services are talked about and decisions are made to incorporate these services into the project as needed.
Better: The contractor has a designer on staff and can offer design services. The contractor knows when to involve other professionals in the project. The contractor has many good ideas, can share solutions that he has used in other projects and is willing to work collaboratively with a team.
Best: The contractor has an architect on staff, or a working relationship with an architect and knows when to involve them in a project. The contractor does mostly projects that are design-driven and has a reliable reputation.
Some contractors find little need to belong to organizations, while others are “joiners.” There are many obvious benefits to belonging to organizations, yet some contractors seem to belong for all of the wrong reasons. Many businesses belong to the Better Business Bureau because it looks good and consumers expect it of them. Some contractors belong to an association to project the image of professionalism. They do it to buy credibility. The trick is to ask enough questions to determine which kind of contractor your prospective contractor is.
Local, state and national organizations help to keep their members informed about new products, construction techniques, business practices and industry issues. Through certification programs, these organizations confer designations on those who meet the requirements. Ask your contractor what, if any, associations or organizations they belong to. Ask them about the length of time they have been members. Ask them about what level of participation they have taken in these organizations. Do they go to meetings, seminars, conferences and trade shows? Ask them if they have taken any classes to further their knowledge of the industry or if they have held any leadership positions in these organizations. Ask them if they hold any designations or certifications, have won any design or construction awards or are members of a specially designated group in their industry. Membership should be a given, participation is expected (you only get what you give) and active leadership should speak volumes. Call these organizations and associations and verify the contractor’s claims with the office personnel.
Seek referrals from local trade associations, such as your area’s local Minnesota Builders Association, National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) or local Remodelers Council.
Participation demonstrates a contractor’s commitment to professionalism and the industry. With all the recent changes in materials and techniques, membership in a professional association is the best way for a contractor to keep up to date and informed through publications, seminars and annual trade shows of professional products. These organizations and associations exist to promote these businesses and have a vested interest in your satisfaction with their members. Peer review and peer pressure is one of the most potent motivators in a contractor’s business experience. These associations are one of their most valuable resources to obtaining professionalism.
Unacceptable: The contractor does not belong to any professional association.
Good: The contractor is a member and has paid his dues on a continual basis. He attends some meetings and seminars.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor participates on committees and assumes leadership roles. The contractor enters design and/or construction award competitions and has received industry recognition.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor is an officer and/or has assumed other responsibilities in associations. The contractor has a list of recent awards and is quoted in industry publications. The contractor is featured in local publications and is a resource to others in the industry.
Many professional contractors are very proactive about the type of organization they are. They have determined whether they want to be large or small. They have chosen whether they want to be a corporation, a limited partnership or a sole proprietorship. They have decided if they are a general contractor (performing many if not all services) or only provide a specialized service. They have a target market and know they only work on residential, commercial or industrial projects. Some companies only work in certain areas or on certain types of structures. Some only perform certain types of projects (additions, second stories, kitchens, restorations, or insurance work). Some companies seem to have a labyrinth of organization and others seem to operate by the “seat of their pants” on a day-to-day basis, reacting to every situation as it comes along. Which type of company are you most comfortable with? Their level of organization will play an important role in the day-to-day interaction they have with you as a customer. Do they complete most of their work with their own employees? Do they subcontract a lot or all of the work? Do they have standards that they share with you outlining their expectations for their employees, their trade partners and their suppliers? Ask to see a job in progress to get a feel for how a contractor does business. Try to imagine the work site in your home. Would this drive you crazy?
Many times, a professional contractor will pass on a certain kind of lead, a type of job or a certain type of customer. The longer most contractors have been in business, the better they know what kinds of jobs and customers are right for them. Often it is hard to explain to a consumer why a contractor is passing on a lead, but usually it has to do with incompatibility issues that center around the type of organization the contractor has put together. Sometimes they know their organization isn’t set up to do that kind of job efficiently. Sometimes they feel uncomfortable asking their workers to do that kind of work. Sometimes they have a past experience with a similar situation that makes them reluctant. Sometimes they are unfamiliar with the work. Some contractors will pass because your house is too old, too new, too messy or too clean. Some contractors will pass because your job is too complicated, too simple, too big or too small. Realize the best situation is a good match. Both the contractor and the homeowner have to ask enough questions to determine if it is a good match.
Unacceptable: The contractor has no real organizational structure. His lack of organization and scheduling delays jobs. His poorly-maintained tools lead to poor quality work. Good suppliers and trade partners have severed working relations with him.
Good: The contractor maintains no formal organization, but gets the job done.
Seldom, if ever, is there an issue with the workmanship.
Better: The contractor has systems and processes in place for all parts of the projects. These systems and processes allow the owner to complete more projects, satisfy more clients and grow a successful organization.
Best: The contractor can document and follow all areas of the project at any time. The contractor is able to take on any size job under many pre-existing conditions and has the wherewithal to complete even the most challenging projects. This is not meant to convey that bigger is better.
Some companies don’t have any history and some companies have a short history. Some companies have a very long, well-documented history. Some companies have changed over the years. Their focus has changed as well as the type of work they do. How they service their clients has changed. Some companies have experienced quick change every year they have been in business and find it hard to predict where they will go next year. Quick growth can put many strains on a company. Unless a person has served a strong apprenticeship with another contracting firm, it will be almost impossible for an individual to rapidly put together a company and make it grow in an organized fashion. It is difficult to develop a system that ensures great work while a company changes rapidly. Longevity suggests financial stability.
There is a fine balance of skills that a successful contractor must have. He must understand both the business end and the building end of the business. The business won’t be successful unless he can at least deal with both ends. For instance, he may have been a talented carpenter before he started this business, but does that mean he can keep the books in order and do payroll for his workers? There are a lot of hats a contractor must wear, and the success of the business depends on his understanding and ability to handle all of these functions.
Ask your prospective contractor enough questions to determine where he is on the continuum. There are a lot of acceptable places to land, but many homeowners seem to end up feeling blindsided if they find out later that there was something about their contractor that was different than they had assumed. Many older companies describe periods in the past that had specific characteristics – when they were a small company, when they had one location, when everything was run by the one owner, when they only did a specific type of job or a time before they had a successful business organization. Some companies never seem to change and they are still doing business the same way they did thirty years ago. How will these issues play out in your working relationship with this company? Are the decisions they made that make up their history acceptable to you? Do you think they made good decisions?
Unacceptable: The contractor has worked for or started several failed businesses. He has multiple bankruptcies in his history. He has a very short history with this particular company.
Good: The contractor is willing to openly share the history, structure and workings of his business. He may be young, but he takes on jobs he is capable of handling.
Better: The contractor has systems in place to ensure the proper functions happen for each job. He manages work flow efficiently.
Best: The contractor has office workers dedicated to managing specific areas and has delegated authority to competent people. His employees have job descriptions. He has had slow, steady growth over a period of years. He is willing to share the history of the company and can be proud of many of the accomplishments the company has made.
It seldom occurs to homeowners to ask a contractor for professional references. This is an entirely legitimate question and concern. A professional contractor brings many business enterprises to the table to help complete all of the work they perform in a year. Their performance on your job is dependant on the level of the other professionals they have on their team. They can only be as good as the weakest link in their chain. What if their cabinet maker is less than adequate and the custom cabinets they are proposing for your job are a very important element of the whole project they are proposing for you? Does the contractor possess a trustworthy reputation among peers, suppliers, trade partners and other people involved in all aspects of the industry? Ask the contractor for references from his associates. If there is a large element to the contract that you are particularly concerned about, ask to meet and visit the trade partner or suppliers’ facility. Ask those other professionals about their relationship with your prospective contractor. If you determine there might be a strained relationship or worse below the surface, you could become the unfortunate benefactor of that relationship failing. All professional contractors have a reputation in the industry. You need to ask enough people to find out what that reputation is before you are in the contractual relationship. The length of the relationship is generally accepted as the best indicator of the success of the relationship. Just as in marriages, it takes a lot of concerted effort to stay in a relationship and make it work over the long haul.
Another type of professional reference should be from the financial industries associated with your prospective contractor. A professional contractor should be willing to provide enough financial information so that you can determine the stability of the company. In general, banks will not share any information because of privacy issues, but if a contractor offers financing, it is fair to trust your prospective contractor’s relationship with the lender.
If a supplier will not do business with the prospective contractor, why would you? Chances are, when a supplier will not do business with a contractor, that supplier has not gotten paid for products or services. Let something like this speak very loudly to you that this contractor is not a good character.
Unacceptable: The contractor has burned a lot of bridges with trade partners and suppliers and has a reputation amongst trade partners and suppliers for being difficult to deal with. He won’t give any references. He is on a COD basis with some/all suppliers and trade partners. He has no established credit.
Good: The contractor is willing to share the names and contacts of all of the members on the team. He has a good working relationship with them.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor shows evidence of long, healthy relationships with trade partners and suppliers.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor will show testimonials from trade partners and suppliers on their team. The contractor will help you visit or talk with all other important team members so you are assured of the compatibility. The contractor is willing to speak openly and honestly about the professional relationships he has fostered over the years. The contractor might even have won industry-wide recognition for his professionalism.
Many times, unsatisfied customers have made the statement, “I just could never track him down.” Does your contractor live in the community? Is it easy for you to determine this contractor’s business location or address? Be sure to watch for those who have no verifiable address or phone number or that just have a P.O. Box number for their address. It is important to a lot of people to keep their business in the community. It is important to a lot of people to know how to contact the people with whom they are doing business.
There are a number of great reasons to choose a local contractor. Local firms are compelled to perform satisfactory work for local homeowners in order for their business to survive in the community. Local firms can be easily checked through past customers. Because they are tax-paying members of your community, they care about the community.
Also, it is much easier for the contractor to stop by and check in on his workers if he works/lives nearby. Many jobs fail because of lack of supervision. Considering the time it takes to check a job, the travel time is a definite factor in choosing a contractor. In addition, he will be more familiar with the styles of housing in the area, local building codes, soil conditions, common building practices, the age of the construction and may even be familiar with the people who lived in or around the home before you did. In addition, he must do a good job because he feels that the neighbors are watching and scrutinizing his every move. His chance for a positive referral from you determines his future in his community. If he is local, this is his neighborhood too and he wants other work in this community.
Unacceptable: The contractor has come in from out of state, possibly chasing a hail storm. He only has a PO Box address, so you don’t know how to find him.
Good: The contractor has a central location from which he does his business.
Better: The contractor has a local office location with a sign up. It is clear that his business is a member of your community. Good neighborhoods need viable businesses and professional businesses need thriving neighborhoods.
Best: The contractor has a place of business with a showroom that displays past work. He is open regular business hours. You can make an appointment to visit the showroom. The contractor is called out many times over the course of a year as a supporter of local sports teams, local churches, local neighborhood efforts and other community-minded endeavors.
This discussion about referrals will have two different but related elements. The first part will talk about asking your contractor for referrals and the second part will talk about asking acquaintances for referrals to help you find a professional contractor.
One of the most widely used and trusted practices in checking out a contractor is talking to past customers. These are people who have had first-hand experience with the contractor you are considering. It is always important to ask for and check out referrals from past customers. These referrals should be current and should be for a job similar to the one you are considering. The referral should be willing to answer all questions openly and honestly. Ask your prospective contractor to give you references of similar past jobs they have completed.
When you contact another homeowner, ask them questions about the contractor and their satisfaction with the job. Would you hire this company again? Did the company maintain a reasonably neat and safe jobsite and haul away debris? Did the company keep labor and material delays to a minimum so that the job could be started and completed on time and within budget?
One of the best ways to find a reputable contractor is to hear about him from someone who has had a working experience with him. Seek referrals from friends, family, neighbors, coworkers and others who have had remodeling work done. Contractors love to be referred to future business. Many have systems in place to encourage referrals. Having a referral gives the contractor a “leg up” on all of the other contractors you might be considering. Ask a lot of questions. Was the work done on time? Were any delays for good reason? Did the crews conduct themselves properly? Were the lines of communication open and clear? Were the materials and workmanship as specified? Did all work pass the first inspection? Did the firm make timely callbacks? Have you had any unexpected problems since the completion of the work? How were warranty issues handled? Was the job completed within the original estimate? Would the customer use the firm again?
Most firms are consistent. If others with similar tastes and budgets were happy or unhappy with the services provided by a contractor, most likely you will receive the same results.
Unacceptable: The contractor can’t or is unwilling to give you referrals. He pooh-poohs your requests for them, or says he will get you some and then forgets.
Good: The contractor has referrals and is willing to share them upon request.
Better: The contractor has a list of recent referrals for your type of job and provides names, addresses, phone numbers and/or email addresses so it is easy to check out the references.
Best: The contractor has testimonials from recent past customers for your type of job. The contractor has a history of completing successful projects on time, on budget and meeting all customer and code requirements.
Many seasoned contractors will denigrate the “new guy on the block,” but all of us were new to this industry at one time. Whether new or seasoned, the contractor should be willing to share the level of experience they have in the industry and in particular to the job you are asking them to complete. A higher level of experience contributes greatly to the job.
There are many questions you can ask to better understand the contractor’s level of experience. How long has he been in business? Has he performed a number of jobs like the job you are considering? Ask to see examples or pictures of jobs similar to yours and to visit past and current jobs. Talk about the quality of the work and decide if it will meet your standards. Interview past customers who had jobs like yours completed by the contractor. An experienced contractor should be able to offer a wide array of options, thus demonstrating knowledge of and experience with a variety of products, materials and techniques.
Does the contractor have a working knowledge of the many types and ages of homes in the area? Knowing what is likely to be behind a wall or under a floor helps the contractor provide reliable estimates. An extremely low bid may indicate lack of experience or an inability to later cover the actual costs involved in the job.
If a contractor underestimates costs of too many jobs, they will ultimately go out of business. Nine out of ten businesses in our industry fail in the first five years. Little or no experience is the most common cause of business failure. If your contractor goes out of business halfway through your project, it will be very difficult for another contractor to take over where he left off. The first contractor may have used materials or techniques that are not familiar to the second contractor. Plus, unless there are very specific drawings, the second contractor may not understand your wishes in the same way that the first contractor did.
Unacceptable: The contractor hasn’t picked a niche yet because his business is too new and he is inexperienced. This contractor will go on every lead and take every job and then figure out how to do it.
Good: The contractor’s business is developed enough that he knows his core competencies and only follows leads that his business can handle.
Better: The contractor has picked a niche, is very focused on what his business does and knows they are good at it. The business has lead qualification systems that help the contractor rate and determine if a particular lead “fits” their company.
Best: The contractor has a clear picture of his niche, brands his business in this niche and works to develop a public image within this niche.
After all decisions have been made, the design has been completed and the negotiations have taken place, the contractor of choice is usually asked to put together a contract. The contract should be in writing and, at a minimum, should include (1) a summary of work; (2) provisions for permits; (3) estimated start and completion dates;
provisions and procedures for handling Change Orders; (5) the schedule of payments; (6) a Lien Notice; (7) the Notice of Cancellation and (8) Warranties.
A “summary of work” can take many forms. Some contractors list all work included in the proposal, some have an estimating system that breaks the work into categories to share with the owner, some write a detailed description of all of the elements involved in the project, some refer to the drawings or plans for the details of the project and some use a combination of the above options. The intent is to convey the scope of the work as clearly as possible so all parties understand what the finished project will look like. Some contractors also go out of their way to list the things that are not included in the proposal, further eliminating the possibility of a misunderstanding. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to review the contract and have a clear understanding of its contents. If something is unclear, take the time to ask the questions and clarify all aspects of the contract.
The provision for the acquisition of permits should include an understanding of who is responsible to pull the necessary permits and call for the required inspections. There are only a handful of small jobs that do not require a permit. Check with the governing bodies to determine the thresholds in your jurisdiction. The person or company pulling the permit is responsible for all of the permitted work. If a contractor is unwilling to provide the permit, it could be an indication they are not licensed or are unwilling to do the work in a manner that will pass code. If you agree to pull the permit, you will be held responsible for all of the work being done to code and you will be responsible for additional costs of anything required by the inspection process.
The starting and completion dates should be a part of every contract. Delays can and do occur, so a statement allowing for reasonable delays is a good idea.
The provision for Change Orders is a necessary clause in every contract. This is an agreement that the contract cannot be modified without the written consent of both parties.
The schedule of payments is an area that often comes into play with unsatisfying relationships. The payment schedule should be tied to performance and risk exposure on the job. A down payment is customary, but should not be more than a small percentage of the total job. There are situations where a large order of custom cabinets or special order of windows (as examples) can affect the amount of the down payment. Any contractor who insists on a large down payment, with no obvious explanation, should be avoided. On the other hand, many contractors are small businesses with the need for cash flow to buy materials and pay wages. In this case, you should set up a schedule that reflects the work done to date. The ideal is to have an even balance between what has been accomplished and what you have paid. The situation to avoid is one where the contractor has collected the bulk of the money and has little or no incentive to complete the project in a timely manner, especially if some things have started to go wrong. There are many fair ways to schedule the payments that satisfy both the owner and the contractor. Some contracts have a “holdback clause.” This allows you to withhold a final payment (usually about 10%) until sometime after the job is completed, allowing you to inspect the work. If there are any problems, this can serve as incentive for the contractor to remedy them.
The contract should outline all pertinent information about guarantees and/or warranties. A professional remodeling contractor guarantees all workmanship for a specific length of time and extends the warranties offered by the material suppliers and the equipment manufacturers. Every state has laws regarding the length of time certain warranties on workmanship are in effect. Do your homework and understand fully the extent to which your project is covered by warranties or guarantees.
The above outline is intended to capture the most essential elements needed. The time it takes to have a sound understanding of what is outlined in a well written proposal is time well spent. No one wants to argue over petty misunderstandings and create an adversarial relationship.
Unacceptable: The Contract and Change Orders are verbal, rather than written. Nothing is documented. Any one of the above elements is missing or dismissed as unimportant. Issues are poorly covered in the document. Statements are vague and confusing.
Good: The contractor produces a proposal that includes all of the above elements. Any blank spaces to put in dates, amounts, or choices are filled in so nothing is left to chance later.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor has formal, complete and professional contract documents and explains all of them thoroughly, creating a complete understanding of the project and all related elements.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor has systems and procedures that they follow for every element of the contract process. This attention to detail and thoroughness makes every part of the contract relationship predictable. In the end, all of the contract documents are positioned to eliminate misunderstandings or surprises.
One of the most confusing stages of dealing with a contractor can be “getting bids.” Different people attach different meanings to words, and it can be very confusing to consumers and contractors alike. There are subtle differences between the words bid, estimate, proposal and contract. A bid is an offer to do something, with certain conditions, for a certain (usually) lump sum price. An estimate is a calculation or judgment – a written statement giving the likely price that will be charged for specified work. A proposal is an offer, a proposition (price) for something, i.e. for this money, we will do this work. Some proposals include an allowance. An allowance can be a lump sum number, such as “$8000.00 for appliances.” An allowance can also be for a unit cost of material, such as “$4.00 per square foot material cost for ceramic tile.” An allowance is usually given because an exact product, process, or type of material has not yet been determined. A bid or estimate is usually the first step in determining the conditions of a project, and all it tells you is the projected cost of the project. The bid or estimate is usually followed by a proposal. A proposal outlines all of the other terms and conditions that will be included in the final agreement between the parties. The contract is the final agreement between the parties. The next section of this paper is devoted to the things that should be in the contract.
Homeowners are always cautioned against accepting a verbal bid. Many contractors will verbally tell you what things cost, pulling these numbers from experience or price books they have acquired over the years. The caution applies to accepting a verbal quote as “the contract.” Always do business with all elements in writing in a binding contract. Verbal statements never hold up in court. That is where the expression “he said, she said” comes from. A judge has a hard time knowing who to believe or who is telling the truth. Beware of contractors who refuse to give a written estimate or contract.
A reputable contractor will not give you a sketchy proposal on the back of an envelope. He prepares a comprehensive set of material and labor specifications, carefully estimates costs and offers you a detailed proposal, at a package price, covering every aspect of the job from removal of existing materials to a thorough clean-up when the job is done. Some contractors choose to leave certain items out of their proposal, either because they do not choose to perform that line of work or because they are trying to make their proposal less costly.
Homeowners are always encouraged to obtain several bids, and most contractors will give homeowners an estimate of what they think the project will cost. It isn’t until all of the details have been determined that a contractor can give a firm bid on the whole project. The smaller and less complicated the project, the easier it is for the contractor to put together an estimate. When the project is more complex, involves design and/or has unique specifications, many contractors charge for estimates. Nailing down all of the details, getting bids from trade partners, finding products that satisfy the customer and designing the details of the project take a long time and involve a lot of work. Assuming that all contractors are supplying the same quality materials and performing the same labor, there shouldn’t be big differences in the bids. Even allowing for shrewd buying and greater efficiency on the part of one contractor over the others, there shouldn’t be more than a 10%-15% difference between the high and low bids. View bids from contractors that are way higher or way lower as bids that might be suspect or need extra understanding to explain the differences.
Unacceptable: You are sure to have trouble if you accept verbal estimates because nothing is documented and everything is left to chance. Be cautious if a contractor leaves whole areas of work out of the bid. Some contractors put in very small allowances for things like fixtures or appliances. Again, this could be to keep their bid the lowest. Some contractors minimize the job on the front end and then write a lot of Change Orders for extras, making the project cost a lot more than initially expected.
Good: The contractor listens carefully to the customer’s wishes, offers good suggestions and produces a bid that includes all the elements of the project for which the homeowner asked.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor has a system for checking off all the elements that are necessary to complete this type of project. The contractor produces a document that makes it clear what the estimate or bid is based on, shows you samples, has you pick out elements of the project at showrooms or on websites and helps you understand what you will get for what you want to spend.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor specifies in detail the make, model, and color of the pieces of the project. He keeps the design and estimate reflective of each other. The contractor usually has a way to show what the parts of the project cost, i.e. with a line-item estimate, so that the customer has a clear understanding of the elements that drive the total costs associated with the project. The contractor is willing to share constructive ideas with the customers about decisions that will help the project meet budget. The allowances in the proposal are adequate to purchase the products desired in the project.
A contractor’s reputation is one of his most valuable assets. A good contractor is very willing to share his reputation with his future clients. Does the contractor have a record of unresolved complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or other associations, like the City License Bureau, the State Department of Commerce or with any of his clients or competitors? These agencies investigate complaints from consumers alleging violations of laws and rules, and when necessary, take disciplinary action against a contractor’s license.
How does the BBB work? When the BBB receives a complaint, it presents the complaint to the business and requests its assistance in working out the problem with the unhappy customer. Most companies are grateful for the opportunity to resolve problems with their customers since it often means their patronage will be preserved.
members agree to respond to consumer complaints presented by the BBB, and lose their membership if they do not. Most other companies, regardless of whether they are BBB members, also cooperate with the BBB because the BBB can still report on a company if they are not a member. Your local BBB is listed in the telephone book and online at Minnesota.BBB.org.
A reputation is something that sticks with a contractor for years. It takes years of reliable work, many satisfied customers and enduring relationships with suppliers to build up a good reputation. Conversely, it takes years of shoddy work, unsatisfied customers and adversarial relationships with suppliers to create a bad reputation. If a trusted friend, colleague, family member or supplier tries to steer you away from a contractor or is vague on the details, listen to your gut! Since contractors don’t receive report cards, this is a very important part of finding out about them. Every contractor has a reputation.
Unacceptable: The contractor doesn’t have any references that he is willing to share, or hasn’t been in business long enough to have any references. The contractor has a history of being in small claims court with customers or suppliers. The contractor has a reputation of not paying his subs or suppliers timely or at all. The contractor doesn’t have a standing in the community, no one has heard of him, no one knows of the company and no one has had a relationship with him.
Good: The contractor will give references upon request. These references may or may not be recent and may or may not be related to the project you are considering.
Better: The contractor has a list of references for recent jobs that are like your job and willingly shares them with you.
Best: The contractor has many references, has testimonials from past customers who had projects like yours and exhibits a history of pleasing his customers and completing his jobs in a satisfactory manner. Any problems that may have arisen have been resolved in a positive manner. People in the better or best categories understand the idea of reputation and are proactive in maintaining a good reputation.
The other piece of advice given most often to consumers is: “Get several bids to compare prices.” It is important to understand the pitfalls of only considering price. In order for you to accurately compare price, all bids must be for the same project, products, specifications and quality of work. This is almost impossible to realize. If you took one small, easily definable part of the project and asked a couple of contractors how much they would charge for that element of the project, most contractors would try very hard to give you what you want at the price you want to pay. They may even find cheap products and inexpensive trade partners to help you meet your budget. Remember that the bid is only the starting point in your negotiations with the contractor.
Keep in mind that the lowest bid may not necessarily be the best bid, and that an unusually low bid may be cause for alarm. Perhaps the contractor did not fully understand the project’s scope. He may be inexperienced and underestimated the amount of labor and materials required or may be planning to cut corners by using inferior materials, low-paid, inexperienced workers, or by not following local building codes. Contractors may play a little game, giving you a bid for something that is slightly different from their competitor’s so that you can’t compare evenly. A good contractor will listen to you and be respectful of your budget. He won’t try to sell you things you don’t ask for or that are different than what you want.
Unacceptable: The contractor gives you a dollar amount on the back of a business card, or hand-writes a one-page proposal that is short on details. The contractor presents a very low bid (to get the job) and then adds in extras which weren’t included in the original bid or are upgrades from the allowances.
Good: The contractor prepares a complete proposal that refers to plans and gives you a “Notice of Cancellation” and a Lien Notice.
Better: The contractor has a presentation that breaks down different areas, allowances are clearly spelled out, options are clearly outlined, plans accompany the proposal and the proposal names specific brands and models.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor has a system for design and estimating and presents all costs associated with this process. He helps establish a budget with which you are comfortable, shares design ideas with you, provides a line-item estimate, and helps you understand how your decisions affect the cost.
Consumers are often advised to “make sure your contractor is licensed, bonded, andinsured,” but bonding or insurance requirements must be fulfilled in order to get licensed. The real question should be, “Are you a licensed contractor?”
In order to obtain a license in Minnesota, contractors must (1) Have an owner or manager pass a written exam on technical and business matters, (2) Provide proof of Liability and Property Damage Insurance as well as Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Insurance, (3) Disclose the organizational structure of the business, (4) Pay a license fee and contribute to the Contractors’ Recovery Fund, and (5) Obtain seven hours of Continuing Education Credits each year.
How do you verify that a contractor is licensed?
Minnesota law requires residential contracting companies (not individuals) working on 1-4 unit family dwellings to be licensed and to display this license number on all advertising. Ask the contractor for his state license number. Next, call the Minnesota Department of Commerce at (651) 296-2488, extension “4.” They can tell you if the contractor is licensed, if he has been involved in any legal actions and if there have been any complaints filed against him as well as the general results of any actions. Licenses are extremely important to good contractors and they go to great lengths to keep their record clean. There is no recourse against an unlicensed contractor, but remember that a license is not a guarantee of any kind.
How do you find out if a contractor is insured?
Ask the contractor for the name of his insurance provider and the insurance agent’s name and phone number. Call the insurance provider directly and ask them to send you a current Certificate of Insurance. This will tell you what kind of insurance the contractor has, what levels of coverage exist and when the policy expires.
What is the Contractor’s Recovery Fund?
The Contractor’s Recovery Fund exists to compensate consumers for losses incurred due to a contractor’s fraudulent, deceptive or dishonest practices, conversion of funds or failure to perform. All licensed contractors pay an annual fee to the fund. Be advised that the total amount that can be paid out against any one licensed contractor is $75,000. If multiple claims are filed against the same contractor, each claim is prorated and you may not be able to recover your entire loss.
Unacceptable: The contractor doesn’t have insurance, a current license, or the license exists in another company’s name.
Good: The contractor has all necessary insurance and a license. He shares his insurance company’s name with you so that you can follow up on proof of insurance.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor shows you a copy of his State License and his Certificate of Insurance, taking care to provide you with a current copy.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor will make all arrangements to have a copy of his Certificate of Insurance made out and sent to you. He helps you understand the insurance and licensure process, explains the value of the process and shows you how you can check out any contractor with the state. The contractor has a higher amount of insurance coverage, which demonstrates stability. He carries an umbrella policy and liability insurance and has a system in place to check that his trade partners are licensed and have the necessary insurance. He has a current Certificate of Insurance on file for all of the firms with which he is working.
This sneak peak 2017 Home Tour project included adding a 2nd floor dormer bathroom to an attic space that already had 2 finished bedrooms, as well as renovating the kitchen.
The kitchen was a full renovation with a new, more functional layout. The cabinets were custom made with traditional details like inset doors and drawers, and stiles that run to the floor to add old character and charm. The new layout makes the kitchen feel much larger, although no square footage was added or gained from adjoining spaces. A trash/recycling/compost center was added under an existing window, and the homeowner’s original banquette seating area was reinstalled with a new wood top and fresh coat of paint. The backsplash is a handmade, traditional craftsman style tile, but in a fresh, modern size to maintain an updated look. Hardwood floors were installed to match the existing in the rest of the home, and traditional fixtures we used to reinforce the old-style charm.
The attic dormer was completed for a new ¾ bathroom on the upper level where the master bedroom was. This modern bathroom oasis features a grand Carrara marble shower with shaving ledge and storage niches, a beautiful porcelain heated tile floor, and new traditional cabinetry to match the new kitchen. The plumbing fixtures, lighting and accessories all enhance the space – adding a little sparkle and keeping with the more traditional feel.
See this project, and more on this year’s Home Tour, September 30- October 1st. See more details on the 2017 Castle Home Tour.
Product Spotlight: Soapstone Countertops
As used in this featured Home Tour project, charcoal soapstone countertops offer a wonderful matte texture, that will patina over time. An excellent choice for virtually any style remodel, but especially those with a historic feel.
Educational Spotlight: Soapstone Maintenance
In order to create and maintain the dark look to soapstone countertops, many people choose to apply mineral oil (available at pharmacies). Mineral oil helps the stone oxidize, and in return, gives it the rich, gray color many homeowners prefer. This oil should be applied every 1-3 months, as desired to maintain the look, but you’ll know you need another application when water spills start to leave noticeable marks.
If deep scratches occur, the nice thing about soapstone is that you can buff them out with fine sandpaper, and then simply reapply mineral oil! NEVER use harsh cleaners on soapstone- mild dish soap will do the trick!
Reminders & Information
FREE Educational Remodeling Classes All classes are FREE to attend! Classes are held Tuesday evenings from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. and a few Saturday mornings from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. All classes are instructed by a knowledgeable Castle employee or one of our trusted Trade Partners. Class space is limited, please sign up online to guarantee your spot. For a full 2017 class list, please visit our website!
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Low maintenance, impressive show, and longevity – you get it all with granite as compared to any other stone. Below is advice to follow on how to care for granite natural stone countertops.
A very sturdy stone, second only to diamond, granite is generally unaffected by most chemicals. Yet it is always advisable to use only neutral, mild, and vegetable oil-based cleaners in the company of scrubbing pads to clean granite countertops.
Wipe the counters regularly
As soil can prove to be abrasive and may damage the surface of the granite countertop, it is suggested to wipe the counters regularly. Because harsh cleansers may discolor the stone, it is always wise to choose a pH-balanced dishwashing liquid as a cleaning product. You may occasionally use an electric scrubbing machine or a rather forceful hand movement with a stronger solution of a neutral cleaning agent, to get rid of the tougher stains on the granite countertops.
Though granite is a reliable stone that can withstand just about any hot and harsh item on its surface, it is not prudent to leave acidic (lemon, vinegar, soft drink) liquids on its surface for long as this may create a slightly dull surface in the area of contact.
Do not use granite as a cutting board
Your knives will quickly dull and repeated cutting may damage the countertop’s surface with light cut marks and eventually an abrasive surface. Any conspicuous cracking and chipping must be dealt with the help of professionals.
Avoid dragging utensils
Granite is comprised of many minerals and certain ones may scratch or chip. Therefore, it is only logical to avoid dragging utensils, pans, pots, and appliances across the granite countertop.
Use sealant once a year
As regular polishing is essential to keep the stone as good as new forever, it is suggested that a penetrating sealant, as recommended by your countertop installer, must be applied once a year. DO NOT go for a stone sealer that shall not penetrate granite, as these harsh solvents are hard to remove eventually.
Polish with a fine steel wool
Mend minor damages to the surface of the granite countertop by polishing with a fine steel wool. Scrape off a hard substance stuck to the surface of the countertop with a hard and thin object, like a debit card.
A Paver patio looks beautiful when it’s new. After a few seasons of harsh weather and backyard parties, pavers start to show the strain. If you are looking to get a new patio hire paving stones for patios, they are amazing.
Check for any cracked or chipped pavers. Hopefully, when you installed your pavers you bought extras just in case. Replace the damaged pavers. If your pavers are set with an adhesive or Polymeric sand, removal will be more difficult, but not impossible. Carefully, using a hammer and chisel, break out and remove the old paver and replace with a new one.
Use dishwashing soap and water with a stiff bristle brush to scrub away stains and just to give the pavers a good wash might save you a cleaning appointment with the pros. If you have an oil based stain, soak up as much of the stain as possible with kitty litter. Leave the kitty litter on overnight and sweep up. Use a degreasing product such as Lestoil and a scrub brush. If the stain is deep, it may be easier to just replace the paver.
If you have rust stains on your pavers use care in choosing a product or remedy. Many of these home used cleaners can actually damage your pavers depending on the paver material. If dishwashing detergent, hot water and a stiff brush don’t remove the stain, your best bet is to go to a home improvement store and buy a product specifically made for your type of pavers. To avoid rust stains, make sure your metal patio furniture or grill feet are sealed with a rust inhibiting product.
Paint stains can be removed with a paint thinner. Apply paint thinner to the stain with a rag and carefully scrape the paint stain away. Make sure you wash the area well after you clean the stain.
Allow your pavers to completely dry. Apply a sealer specifically made for your type of pavers. Do not allow anyone to use the patio until the area is completely dry.
Materials available for asphalt driveway maintenance include emulsified liquids, plastic fillers and solid cold-patches. For complete driveway rejuvenation, you may need all three.
Before tackling any maintenance or repair, check your driveway for these conditions:
Impressions left by car tires after the car has been parked on the drive overnight. This is an indication of poor construction.
Heaving or tilting during cold weather, or buckling or cracking with the spring thaw. These are signs of poor drainage.
To repair these troubles, you’ll need a new driveway. Fortunately, such problems are not common. More likely problems are minor cracks, crumbling and chuckholes, which are relatively easy to repair.
The procedure and materials used depends on whether you’re repairing cracks, filling low spots, patching or seal-coating your driveway. Your local retailer can help you select the products you need for making repairs.
You should fill any cracks in a blacktop drive as soon as possible to keep water from getting under the slab and causing more serious problems. Cracks that are 1/2″ and wider are filled with asphalt cold-patch, sold in bags and cans. Narrow cracks are treated with crack-filler, which is available in cans, plastic pour bottles and handy caulking cartridges.
Use a masonry chisel, wire brush or similar tool to dig away chunks of loose and broken material from the crack (see image).
Sweep out the crack with a stiff-bristled broom (see first image below). Your shop vacuum will also work well.
Use a garden hose with a pressure nozzle to clean off all dust. If the area is badly soiled or covered with oil or grease drippings, scrub it with a strong commercial driveway cleaning agent. For a patch to adhere, the crack must be free of all such things. After using a cleaner, rinse the area with water.
For a deep crack, fill it to within 1/4″ of the top with closed-cell plastic backer rod or sand before applying a patching compound.
Apply the crack-filler (see second image below).
FILLING DEPRESSED AREAS
Depressed areas, sometimes called “birdbaths,” cause water puddles on the driveway. If not too deep-less than an inch-these areas can be filled so they’re even with the surrounding surface. Sweep away all dirt, hose down the area and remove any oil or grease by washing with a detergent or cleaner.
The surface may be slightly damp when applying the patching material, but make sure there is no standing water.
To help the new material adhere to the old, prime the area with emulsified liquid asphalt, which is often simply called “driveway coating.”
Then, use a trowel to spread asphalt cold-patching material into the depression, filling it level with the surrounding surface (see image above). Smooth the patch, then tamp it with a metal tamper or a 5′ to 6′ length of 2×8 or 4×4 lumber. Used vertically (see image), the lumber has the surface area and weight for successful tamping.
Allow your blacktop patch to dry for 24 hours before seal-coating the entire driveway.
For chuckholes or potholes, first dig out any loose material and dirt down to a solid base. It’s best to undercut the edges slightly to provide a “key” for the patching material (see image). Make sure the edges of the asphalt around the hole are firm.
Clean all dust and debris from the hole and surrounding areas.
If the hole is very deep, fill it to within 4″ of the top with gravel. Tamp this down firmly.
You don’t have to work with hot-mix patchers as professionals do-cold-mix patching products do an excellent job of repairing driveways. Fluid cold-patches that come in cans may need to be stirred before use. Use a strong stick or a stirring attachment chucked into your electric drill.
You can prime the repair area by painting it with emulsified asphalt liquid. Priming helps the new material bond to the old. Then apply the cold-patch material, patting it down occasionally with a shovel or trowel to help compact it and prevent air pockets from forming (see image).
Put in a 2″ depth of cold-patch and tamp it firmly or roll it with a garden roller. Add more material in 2″ lifts, tamping each lift. The next-to-last lift should fill the hole to within an inch of the top. Tamp it as shown in the first image below.
Now add more patching material, filling the hole and mounding it slightly above the surrounding surface. Tamp it down as firmly as you can. You can tamp it by hand or by repeatedly running your car’s tire over it (see second image below).
Fill in any low areas with more cold-patch mix. Compact it until it’s even with the driveway surface.
Allow the repaired area to cure for 12 to 36 hours before driving on it, and give it two to five days to cure before seal-coating the entire driveway.
SEALING THE DRIVE
Use a sealant to coat blacktop surfaces every few years. The ideal time to seal your drive is after you have completed any repairs. Sealer gives a fresh, new look to a driveway. And it does more than that-it provides protection from sun and moisture and from grease, oil and gasoline drips and spills, as well as other damaging substances. Sealer guards against everyday wear and tear. It also fills hairline cracks that aren’t serious enough to require individual patching.
The blacktop surface must be clean before you apply sealer. This includes dust, dirt, grease, oil and debris. Sweep it clean. Remove grease and oil spots with detergent or cleaner. End the cleaning by rinsing the area thoroughly with water. Squeegee water from any puddled spots. It is not necessary that the surface be thoroughly dry before applying the sealer, but don’t do the job when rain is forecast.
Stir the sealer to make sure its ingredients are well-blended.
Some sealers can be applied with a long-handled paint roller (see image). However, the best tool for this is a combination squeegee/broom made for the purpose and available from your retailer (see image below). Apply the sealer only to a small area of the driveway at a time. Pour it out and spread it around evenly with the squeegee, brush or roller. Don’t spread the sealer too thin-one good coat stands up for a long time. Allow small cracks and weathered areas to drink in the sealer.
Be very careful to avoid splashing sealer onto walls, garage doors and yourself. Moreover, plan the project so you will not have to walk across the treated areas. Use care-this material can make a mess of house floors.
Improve traction on sloped areas by adding sand to the sealer mix. Stir it in thoroughly before applying, and keep the mix stirred during application.
You can sprinkle sand over a sealer surface that’s still wet. Excess sand not captured by the sealer can be swept up later.
Allow the sealer to cure for 24 hours before using the driveway (products vary in the setting times, so check to see what’s required by the one you use). Erect string barriers at the street end of the drive to remind family members to keep off and to discourage casual traffic from spoiling your efforts.
Mark Benzell is our go-to designer when it comes to additions and exterior remodels. We asked him to give a few tips when it comes to updating the exterior of a home:
“Enhancing front entries, or front elevations of homes,” explains Mark,“has become very common, especially for post WWII homes that tend to be a little more basic in exterior design, and not tied to a traditional architectural style (like Tudor or Craftsmen). Also trending, is updating older siding materials to lower maintenance products, like cement fiber board and steel.”
Amy Hinck, Design Manager, adds, “Ideally you would start planning an exterior remodel about 4 months prior to a desired construction start date. And be mindful that the prime time of exterior construction is April-October. Some work can be done in winter, but you’ll just need to wait for finish touches like painting/concrete/stucco to be done when the weather cooperates.”
Mark continues that exterior remodels are a bit different than the traditional interior remodel, “For any exterior remodeling project, we always want to inspect a home for possible water intrusion, ice damming, and material deterioration. The effects of rain, hail, snow and wind over time can have an damaging impact on any home. Using heavier weight shingles, water resistant sidings materials and water tight window and door installations goes a long way to ensuring a low-maintenance home exterior.”
In this featured project, custom details added on the exterior include new concrete steps and walk, flower boxes, and new bracketed overhang at the rear entrance. Field Landscaping was a key partner in this project, and were able to advise on plants that could do well in our Minnesota climate.
Depending on the home, a small entry expansion or addition can have a huge impact on a home’s curb appeal. Even a new front door can make a difference.The exterior of your home is not only a first impression to visitors, but can also be utilized as “livable” space, if done right!
Product Spotlight: Therma-Tru Entry Doors
One easy way to transform your curb appeal is a new front door. Designer, Mark Benzell, recommends the brand Therma-Tru. Mark adds, “In most cases, we try to make any exterior remodel, either look like it fits with the current style of the house, or that it belongs with the style of the neighborhood.” So while you want to show your own personal style, keep in mind that a new front door should complement your architectural style, for optimal results.
With a front door by Therma-Tru, not only will you see an increase in comfort, energy efficiency and performance, you will also see an increase in curb appeal. In fact, you can increase the perceived value of your home just by adding a Therma-Tru entry door system.
To learn more about this company and eligibility for federal tax credits with your Therma-Tru products, click here.
Educational Class Spotlight: Evaluating Solar for Your Home
Is solar energy ideal for my home? How much does it really cost? How does solar energy even work?
All Energy Solar will be able to answer all of your questions and more during this class on Saturday, May 20th at 10am at The Natural Built Home Store. There is no cost to attend. Please register here.
Reminders & Information
FREE Educational Remodeling Classes
All classes are FREE to attend! Classes are held Tuesday evenings from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. and a few Saturday mornings from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. All classes are instructed by a knowledgeable Castle employee or one of our trusted Trade Partners. Class space is limited, please sign up online to guarantee your spot. For a full 2017 class list, please visit our website!
Did you have a great experience with Castle?
We’d love to hear about your experience with Castle, how you’re enjoying your new space, and any general thoughts or comments you’d like to share. Tell us your thoughts today!
There are various problems that can occur with painted surfaces. Fading, yellowing, peeling, cracking, sagging and wrinkling are the most common issues and all can be easily fixed.
Fading is described as premature and/or excessive lightening of the paint color, which can occur on surfaces with sunny exposures. This is relatively easy to see because hidden areas such as eaves will not usually fade. Fading/poor color retention can also be a result of chalking of the coating (e.g. primer, paint or stain).
• Colors will fade slightly when exposed to intense sunlight. As the coating ages, the fading can become more noticeable. Slight fading is acceptable, provided it is gradual and uniform so as not to be noticeable. Excessive chalking of the paint film will cause colors to appear lighter.
• Interior-grade colorants used outside will fade.
• Adding more tint to the coating than is recommended.
• Interior coatings may also fade if they are near windows and there is significant sunlight exposure.
If the substrate is in good condition except for fading, clean as needed and repaint using a paint that is fade-resistant. Follow label and data page directions for surface preparation for the coating.
Yellowing is defined as the development of a yellow cast in aging paint, most noticeable in the dried films of white paints or clear varnishes.
• Alkyd/oil based paints, because of their curing mechanism; tend to yellow, particularly in areas that are not exposed to sunlight.
• Oil-based varnishes start with an amber cast and will darken with age.
• Heat from stoves, radiators, and heating ducts.
• Lack of light, for example, behind pictures or appliances and inside closets.
• Tobacco staining or other environmental contaminants.
If there are no other problems and the yellowing is not offensive, repainting is not necessary. Repainting using a latex paint will reduce the amount of yellowing, but if the environmental conditions that caused the previous coating to yellow continue, any new coating will likely yellow as well.
You might be interested in this article on how to fix white paint that has gone yellow.
Peeling is the loss of adhesion of a coating to the substrate (e.g. the surface that was painted) or an earlier coating. Where there is a primer and topcoat or multiple coats of paint, peeling may involve some or all of the coats.
• Seepage of moisture through uncaulked joints or worn caulk.
• Leaks in roof or walls, or excess moisture escaping through the walls from the interior.
• Painting over a dirty, wet, or glossy surface.
• Painting over a coating that already has marginal adhesion.
Remove old, loose, cracked caulk; prime as needed; and caulk with the appropriate product
Find and repair any source of water.
Follow label and data page directions for proper surface preparation methods for the coating.
Test the coating in a 6″ to 12″ radius around any peeled areas to be sure its adhesion is adequate.
Here is a nice step-by-step guide (with pictures) on how to fix peeling paint. Check it out here.
Cracking is the splitting of a dry paint film through at least one coat. In its early stages, the problem appears as hairline cracks; in its later stages, flaking occurs.
• Use of a paint that has lower adhesion and flexibility properties.
• Over-thinning or over-spreading the paint.
• Inadequate surface preparation, or applying the paint to bare wood without first applying a primer.
• Excessive hardening and embrittlement of paint as it ages, the coating loses the ability to expand and contract with temperature and humidity changes.
Remove loose and flaking paint with a scraper or wire brush, sanding the surface and feathering the edges.
If the flaking occurs in multiple layers of paint, use of a spackling compound may be necessary to make a uniform surface. Test the coating surrounding any peeled areas out about 6″ to 12″ to be sure the adhesion is adequate.
Prime bare wood or plaster before repainting.
Apply the coatings at the recommended spreading rate (e.g. the recommended total area that can be painted) and using the recommended thinning rate (e.g. the recommended percentage that a coating may be diluted).
Sagging is downward “drooping” of the paint film immediately after application, resulting in an uneven coating.
• Application of too heavy a coat of paint.
• Application in excessively humid and/or cool conditions.
• Application of over thinned paint.
• Painting over a glossy surface, which does not provide enough of a profile to which the coating to adhere to.
• Painting over a surface contaminant.
If paint is still wet, immediately brush out or re-roll to redistribute the excess evenly. If the paint has dried, sand and reapply a new coat of paint.
Do not thin the paint unless recommended on the label or data page.
Follow label and data page directions for the appropriate environmental conditions for the coating.
Sand glossy surfaces dull to provide a profile for the coating to adhere to.
Follow label and data page directions for the appropriate spreading rate (e.g., the recommended total area that can be painted) for the product. Two coats of paint at the recommended spread rate are better than one heavy coat.
Wrinkling is a rough, crinkled paint surface, which occurs when uncured paint forms a “skin.”
• Paint applied too heavily.
• Painting under extremely hot conditions or cool damp conditions, which causes the paint film to dry faster on top than on the bottom.
• Exposure of uncured paint to rain, dew, fog, or high humidity levels.
• Applying topcoat of paint to insufficiently cured primer or first coat of paint.
• Painting over contaminated surface (e.g., dirt or wax).
Scrape or sand to remove the wrinkled coating; sand the surface smooth to blend it in to the surrounding coating. Make sure the surface is thoroughly clean. If needed, prime bare areas with the appropriate primer, allowing it to dry completely. Reapply the coating following the label and data page instructions for spreading rate and environmental conditions.
Note: Some imperfections in wall and paint surfaces can be expected. Per Castle Building & Remodeling, Inc. contract the Residential Construction Performance Guidelines as published by the National Association of Home Builders will be used to determine acceptable workmanship. The guidelines state “A nail pop, blister, or other blemish that are readily visible from a distance of 6 feet under normal lighting conditions are considered excessive.
Choosing Your Paint Finish
Even after a homeowner has chosen the perfect color for a room, there’s another very important decision to make. With 5 or 6 paint finishes to choose from, you should learn the benefits of each and determine the right one for your job. Should you use flat or satin and why? Browse these tips on selecting the perfect paint finishes for your interior home applications.
Whether called flat finish or wall paint, this type of interior paint has a matte surface. This paint finish is usually used on interior walls. It’s especially good if you have to camouflage small wall bumps, cracks, or other imperfections, as this finish does not reflect light. While some flat paints are advertised as washable today, you may need to touch up scratches or marks by covering with a bit more paint, so be sure you keep some on hand after you’ve finished painting.
Flat enamel is a paint with a durable flat, matte finish. It’s a good choice for powder rooms and halls, as it holds up to occasional cleaning.
If you can picture the very low sheen of the shell of an egg, you have an idea of how an eggshell paint finish will appear. With only a slight hint of shine or gloss, it’s good for walls and holds up better with cleaning than a flat finish paint.
Satin finish paint has a smooth, velvety look with a bit more gloss. It is most often used for windows, doors, trim, or ceilings, but can also be used as wall paint. This is particularly suitable for kids’ room walls, kitchens, or bathrooms, or in areas which get a lot of traffic. Paint with a satin finish is formulated to hold up to cleaning and light scrubbing.
Semi-gloss paint is most often used on doors, trim, and cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms. It is easily cleaned and lays down a nice, subtle shine, without being too glitzy. Take care with pre-paint preparation work, as poorly prepared surfaces can be a bit distracting when highlighted by a semi-gloss surface.
High gloss paints have an almost reflective quality, as their shiny finish mimics the look of enamel or plastic. Tough not widely used in home interiors, it is becoming more popular for a dramatic look on cabinets, trim, and furniture in very formal and very contemporary settings. This finish will magnify any surface imperfections, so careful preparation and sanding is essential before painting with high gloss paints.
*Additional resources: Check out this neat website with photos for end products of each type of paint finishes.
Cleanability and Durability
While most manufacturers have developed all paint finishes with good cleaning qualities, a general rule is that the shinier the paint finish, the better it will stand up to washing and cleaning.
While most manufacturers have developed all paint finishes with good cleaning qualities, a general rule is that the shinier the paint finish, the better it will stand up to washing and cleaning.
When painting children’s rooms, many painters recommend using an eggshell or satin paint on the walls and semi-gloss for doors and moldings. These finishes are formulated to better withstand repeated cleanings.
In order to give a worn or old look, use flat finish paints for walls or furniture. If cleanability is an issue, you might select a flat enamel for trim or an eggshell finish for walls.
High Gloss Looks
Rather than choosing a high gloss paint for a whole room, use it sparingly in select locations, such as doors and trim. The brilliant surface can appear a bit cold and uninviting. Remember to spend extra time preparing the surfaces to be painted glossy, as this finish tends to really point out any surface imperfections.
If you’re looking for a basic white ceiling, you can buy pre-mixed, matte finish paints off the shelf at almost any paint or home improvement store. Because cleanabiltiy or coverage is not a particularly important consideration, some ceiling paints use cheaper formulations. If you need an exact color match for the color scheme of your room, choose regular tinted flat wall paint.
Ceilings in most rooms are painted with a flat finish paint. You could also select an eggshell finish if the surface of the ceiling is flawless. Choose a glossier finish for good light reflection, but only if the ceiling is newly resurfaced and has no blemishes.
Kitchens and Baths
Any room, such as a kitchen or bathroom, that will be exposed to water, splashing, or steam, is best painted with a semi-gloss paint. A guest bath or powder room which will have less-frequent use, could be painted with lower-gloss paint, such as satin or eggshell finish.
Homeowner Done Painting
Many homeowners choose to paint themselves to help save project costs. We have put together some tips to help you understand the responsibilities of acting as the painter on a remodeling project.
The first step is to schedule the painting. Your job as the painter is to work with the Lead Carpenter to schedule the painting. Traditionally painting can occur at two different stages of the project. Painting can happen immediately after sheetrock which eliminates considerable prep, taping, etc. but can lead to nicks, dings, and scratches while the rest of the work goes on. To be safe plan on touching up walls if painting is done early in the project. Painting can also wait until after the rest of the project is complete. This requires more prep and masking but reduces the chance of work related damage.
Part of scheduling the project may be coordinating the delivery of trim and casing in advance of install so you can paint before it is needed by the carpenter.
As the painter it is your job to prepare the space as needed to protect adjacent surfaces and areas. This includes masking windows, taping trim, taping ceilings, using drop cloths, and putting up poly curtain walls if needed or not included in the Castle line-item estimate. Another part of preparing the space is to wipe down the walls and clean the surface to be painted.
After prepping the area to paint there is usually some caulking and spackling of drywall imperfections. Trim and casing also require some touch up to hide nail holes and close gaps at the wall.
Use the mildest method you can to make the floor look clean again. Vacuum or sweep regularly to remove dirt before it gets ground in. Wipe up spills at once. When soil won’t come up with vacuum, mop with damp mop squeezed out of cool to lukewarm water. Rub only enough to remove dirt on surface.
Wash only when dirt will not come off by milder methods listed above. Use solution of warm (not hot) water and detergent; apply small amount with mop or sponge, rubbing only enough to loosen dirt; take up with mop or sponge. Rinse off all solution thoroughly with clean, cool water; always rinse well no matter what the detergent or cleaner says about not rinsing. In cleaning, try to remove soil without destroying the wax film on the floor so rewaxing does not have to be done too often.
Removing Old Wax
If too many layers of wax build up, especially in non- traffic areas, floor may discolor or look yellowed. Removing all the wax requires harsher cleaning than ordinary cleaning, and should be done no oftener than once a year, and not that often when not necessary. You can buy commercial wax removers, some made to remove certain types of waxes, or use a homemade solution. If you know the brand of wax on the floor, follow directions on its label for removal.
If you want to make a wax remover:
1. Mix from 1/2 cup to 1 cup of ammonia (start with less and add more if needed) and one cup laundry detergent in 1 gallon warm water.
2. Test in an inconspicuous area to see if it softens the wax film. After several minutes, the area where the solution has been applied with a sponge mop should turn cloudy and soften.
3. Then scrub that area with a stiff brush, electric scrubber or very fine steel wool pads to loosen old wax.
4. Repeat process in another area until entire floor is stripped of wax.
5. Rinse thoroughly with clean, cool water.
6. After drying thoroughly, apply one or two coats of wax depending on conditions of floor, drying between coats according to wax instructions.
Wax a thin coat of self-polishing wax on dry, clean floor, when washing does not bring back shine. Wax flooring when new, and always keep it protected with a coat of wax. Regular wax will give more protection and shine than one-step wax-and-clean products, but will build up over time. Polishing wax (solvent based) to be buffed with electric polisher, may also be used on vinyl if desired. It must be thoroughly buffed, following directions on wax label. It will not build up.
Linoleum-Care and Cleaning
Linoleum is an older floor covering that may be found in some older homes. It needs waxing to preserve its surface, usually water-based self-polishing wax, but solvent-based wax to be polished with electric buffer can be used. It dents easily, and is badly damaged by alkalis.
Damp mop using a mild detergent and water for day to day cleaning. Keep water away from seams and edges to prevent loosening of the tiles. To preserve the linoleum floor you may wish to add a capful of baby oil to the mop water. Clean with a mild detergent and water solution and rinse thoroughly. Do not use ammonia or strong alkalis. If water-base wax has to be removed, use Isopropyl Alcohol . To remove old wax by mopping, mix a solution of 3 parts water to 1 parts rubbing alcohol. Scrub this in well and rinse thoroughly. Be sure the area is well-ventilated and wear gloves.
For Rubber Tiles : Mild Detergent. Avoid oils, solvents, and strong alkalis as they will harm the surface. Wash with clear water, a mild detergent, and a clean mop.
Cleaning Vinyl No-Wax Floors
A vinyl or polyurethane finish has been applied on the surface to keep a shine without waxing; the urethane is more durable. To keep it shiny, keep it clean. When washing with a detergent solution, be very sure to rinse it all off. One-step “clean-and-wax” products may leave a film that covers the shine; test if using them. Occasional buffing will heighten the shine.
Eventually all finishes will lose some of their shine as the finish coating wears. Renew it by applying a water-based self-polishing wax. Special vinyl floor finishes sold at flooring stores may also be used, but usually cost more. If a sculptured pattern, apply thinly so no pools of wax collect in low spots. Club Soda. Remove buildup by pouring a small amount of club soda on a section. Scrub this in well. Let it soak in a few minutes and wipe clean. or Vinegar. A few drops in the cleaning water will help remove grease panicles. Dull, greasy film on no-wax linoleum can be washed away with 1/2 cup white vinegar mixed into 1/2 gallon water. Your floor will look sparkling clean.
Applying a self-cleaning floor wax or finish to the “no-wax” vinyl floor can protect from gritty dirt that will eventually scratch the surface. It will also prevent wear in traffic lanes. Removing dirt promptly with the top-rated model of vacuum cleaner and damp-mopping when necessary will also help reduce scratching of the surface.
Castle is committed to reducing waste and strives to have the least possible negative impact on the environment. To that end, the companies Castle utilizes to provide dumpsters all dump and sort each load of debris so that only what is necessary ends up in a landfill. Although this is a start, Castle would like to offer to our clients who wish to see more of their discarded building products recycled these additional resources. In addition, by donating used materials to non- profit entities, you may be able to claim a tax deduction. Here are several resources:
Better Homes & Garbage is a privately-owned environmentally focused (not yet for profit) business. They salvage and collect quality reusable building materials and offer them for sale to the public (via www.bhandgarbage.com). Viewing and Sales are by appointment only.
Salvage opportunities – If you have quality cabinets, doors, hardware, millwork, lumber, windows, etc. that need to find a way back into use, please contact them at 612-644-9412 or joe@BHandGarbage.com. They can dismantle and pick up items from your site or discuss other options on how to keep them in use.
Bro-Tex Inc. has pioneered the use of new processes and technologies that allow them to recycle used Post Consumer Carpet (PCC) for a variety of applications. They accept carpet directly at Bro-Tex, or through a network of collection centers. At Bro-Tex they thoroughly inspect and test the carpet by type of material and construction to determine where it can be used. The materials from this carpet could become new carpet, plastic resin for making plastic parts, plastic drainage pipe, new carpet pad, acoustic matting, sorbent material for water pollutants or an energy substitute for natural gas and coal.
Must be dry, no wet carpet or pad
Rolled residential carpet accepted
Commercial carpet accepted only with prior approval
Molds are simple fungi, usually microscopic in size, that occur naturally in large quantities. Molds are part of the natural environment. Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided.
How does mold affect my health?
Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and in some cases, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins). Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
According to Mold Busters of Montreal, mold spores are airborne and are everywhere, and because of their small size, there is very little that people can do about that. What people can do, however, is to make sure that the environment in their home is not a place where these spores can grow.
Mold spores need a warm, humid environment to grow into mold, so to prevent their growth, you must prevent this ideal environment in your home.
Indoor humidity is probably the biggest factor in indoor mold growth, and it is also the factor that you as the homeowner have the most control over.
Some signs that you have excess moisture in your home can include:
frost and ice on cold surfaces
discoloration of building materials
rot and decay, sweating pipes
water leaks and dripping
peeling, and blistering and cracking paint
How do I monitor and reduce humidity in my house?
You can get an inexpensive gauge to measure relative humidity at any hardware store. Indoor humidity should be between 30-50% during the winter.
Remodeling your Home can Affect your Indoor Air Quality
In Door Air Quality
In the past several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. The levels of pollution from any one individual source by itself may not pose a significant risk to your health, but most homes have more than one source of pollution that contributes to indoor air quality. When you combine that knowledge with the fact that most people spend 80-90% of their time indoors, you are looking at a potentially serious problem.
Indoor air quality problems are caused by a combination of indoor pollution sources and inadequate ventilation. Indoor pollution sources can include particles like mold spores, animal dander, and particulates from cooking or tobacco smoke. Gases such as radon, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde, as well as aerosol sprays, emissions from building materials, paints, and cleaning chemicals can also contribute to indoor pollution. Many of these are quite common in homes, and they are usually not a problem if the home is adequately ventilated.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers recommends a ventilation rate of 0.35 ach (air changes per hour) for your home. This means that 35% of the air in your home is replaced every hour, or that the air is completely replaced about every three hours. Unfortunately, many homes do not get even half this level of ventilation. If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose negative health effects.
Remodeling your home provides you the opportunity for improving indoor air conditions. However, it can also bring exposure to higher levels of indoor air contaminants if careful attention is not given to potential pollution sources and the air exchange rate. Remodeling itself is often stinky, dusty, and messy, but this can be minimized by workers following practices to keep dust and fumes out of living spaces. Express your concerns about indoor air quality to your remodeling contractor and enlist the team’s cooperation in taking measures to provide good indoor air quality. Talk both about purchasing building materials and furnishings that are low-emitting and about providing an adequate amount of ventilation to the work area. You and your remodeling contractor can work together to improve the air quality in your home – both during your remodeling project and into the future.
Providing a mechanized exhaust system in your home such as a bath fan, stove hood exhaust, or kitchen exhaust fan can drastically improve the rate of air exchanges in your home and improve the air quality in your home.
Here are several tips to consider when running your bathroom exhaust fan to minimize issues or water damage.
– Run your exhaust fan for 15-20 minutes after completing your shower/bath. Although most of the moisture can be removed from the air the system needs to run additional time to remove the accumulated moisture from the vent piping that exits through the roof or side wall. If the fan is cut off prematurely and there is significant moisture build up remaining in the ducting the moisture can freeze in place due to the temperature differential in your attic and then drip back into the bathroom when the attic gets above freezing.
– If you are concerned about leaving the bath exhaust fan on all day consider getting a timer switch for the fan that will turn off automatically. The switches are inexpensive and easy to install.
Here are several tips to consider when running your hood or kitchen exhaust fan to minimize issues or water damage.
– Always run your exhaust hood when boiling water. Boiling water can put a lot of moisture into the air.
– Run your hood exhaust fan for 15-20 minutes after completing your cooking or boiling of water. Although most of the moisture can be removed from the air the system needs to run additional time to remove the accumulated moisture from the vent piping that exits through the roof or side wall. If the fan is cut off prematurely and there is significant moisture build up remaining in the ducting or on the flaps the moisture can freeze in place or the flaps can freeze open allowing cold air to come back into your home.
– Note: It is quite common to feel cold air or a slight draft at your hood vent. This is one of the least insulated places in the house as there is often a direct show to the exterior with just a screen and set of vent flaps stopping cold air from entering your home.
Most commercial landscapers use sod to establish a lawn after a building has been completed. Many new homes are left with a barren landscape that the homeowner must tend to. Laying sod is much more effective than planting grass seed. The seeds are often eaten or scorched by the sun and require multiple plantings that lead to unprofessional results. Laying sod is a faster and more effective way to get your lawn started. Sod is tender and must be cared for with dedication, but you will have a plush, full lawn after a few months of work.
Watering Your Sod
Sod should be watered at least 4 hours per day (2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening) for the first two weeks unless there is sufficient rainfall. Each time you water you should give the new sod approximately 3/4″ of water. A good way to measure how much water you are giving the area is to place an empty tuna fish can or anything flat that can hold water and turn your sprinkler on. When the water reaches the top of the tuna fish can or the equivalent on another container you will know 7how long to run your water for. Most people overestimate the amount of time they are actually watering so if your sod starts turning brown after the second day of watering, you may need to reassess your watering time. You also don’t want to overwater, so cut back if you get standing water. Continue to water at this rate for approximately 12 days or until the grass takes root.
Mowing Your Sod
Let your sod grow for at least two weeks before mowing. Mow the new grass at the highest blade setting.
Fertilizing Your Sod
Sod needs to be fertilized within two weeks with a 100% organic fertilizer. The most common types of organic fertilizer are ironite and milorganite and they can be purchased at any home improvement store. Do not use a chemical fertilizer until the sod has rooted into the ground. Chemical fertilizers can burn the roots of the sod, killing it. After initial fertilization, use 16-4-8 fertilizer a recommended rate Care and Maintenance of your Sod in March and September. During the summer use only an organic fertilizer such as those listed above.
Keeping Your Sod Healthy
During the late spring, summer and early fall we require that you put fungus control on your new St. Augustine grass. We can almost guarantee that it will get fungus and we feel it is better to pretreat (but this will not completely prevent) then to potentially lose your new grass because of it. We recommend Scotts Lawn Fungus Control because it is a granule and will stay around longer than a liquid.
If you still experience fungus problems after repeated treatments, especially in saturated areas, you should consult a company to come out that can spray using higher strength fungicide. Do not let the fungus go: you can lose your entire lawn!
The following are frequently asked questions regarding the care and maintenance of Cambria Quartz surfaces from the ones that know best… Cambria!
Q: How do I maintain Cambria’s natural beauty?
A: Maintaining your Cambria is easy. Simply wash with warm water and pH neutral, nonabrasive cleaners such as Formula 409® or Simple Green®, with a clear water rinse. For dried spills, a wet cotton cloth should be used.
Avoid bleach; alkaline (high pH) cleaners such as oven cleaner, abrasive cleansers such as Comet®, Soft Scrub® products or products containing pumice, SOS® pads and other similar products, paint removers, furniture strippers, tarnish or silver cleaners or the like.
DO NOT apply any sealers, penetrants or topical treatments to Cambria under any circumstances. If you have any questions about whether a specific product is acceptable, please contact Cambria.
Q: Is Cambria resistant to surface damage?
A: Yes, Cambria is structurally more resistant to surface damage than other stone. However, all stone can be damaged by excessive force or pressure. Cambria will resist stains from fruit juices, food coloring, coffee, tea, grape juice and nail polish. Cambria’s high gloss finish and extremely low moisture absorption provides maximum resistance to staining and fully eliminates the need for any sealing. Its low absorbency greatly reduces the potential for bacterial growth, mold or mildew.
Q: How does Cambria withstand heat?
A: Natural stone can be damaged by sudden and rapid change of temperature, especially near the edges, as well as direct or sustained heating of the top. Cambria may not withstand the direct transfer of heat from pots and pans and other cooking units such as electric frying pans and griddles, and some crock-pots, roaster ovens and heat lamps. Therefore, the use of a hot pad or trivet is always recommended.
Q: Can I cut on my Cambria countertop?
A: Yes. Cambria is pure natural quartz, giving it superior strength and beauty. Quartz is a 7 in strength on Moh’s Hardness Scale. (A diamond is a 10) You will find that Cambria is so durable, even your finest cutlery won’t harm it.
Q: Will Cambria fade, yellow, or discolor over time?
A: No, unlike other surfaces made of plastic and polymers, Cambria’s luster and color is natural and everlasting.
Q: Is it possible that assuring the beauty of my Cambria can be this “care-free?”
A: Yes, it is really this easy. Cambria’s care-free benefits and everlasting performance gives you more time for the things that matter most to you.
For further information, please contact Cambria by calling 1-866-CAMBRIA.
Inside the panel, connections are made to the incoming wires. These connections are then used to supply power to selected portions of the home. There are three different combinations: 1) one hot, one neutral, and ground: 110V circuit. 2) two hots, no neutral, and ground: 220V circuit. 3) two hots, neutral, and ground: 220V circuit + neutral, and/or two 110V circuits with a common neutral.
(1) is used for most circuits supplying receptacles and lighting within your house. (3) is usually used for supplying power to major appliances such as stoves, and dryers – they often have need for both 220V and 110V, or for bringing several circuits from the panel box to a distribution point. (2) is usually for special 220V motor circuits, electric heaters, or air conditioners.
(1) is usually wired with three conductor wire: black for hot, white for neutral, and bare for grounding.
(2) and (3) have one hot wire coloured red, the other black, a bare wire for grounding, and in (3) white wire for neutral.
You will sometimes see (2) wired with just a black, white and ground wire. Since the white is “hot” in this case, both the NEC and CEC requires that the white wire be “permanently marked” at the ends to indicate that it is a live wire. Usually done with paint, nail polish or sometimes electrical tape.
Each circuit is attached to the main wires coming into the panel through a circuit breaker or fuse. There are, in a few locales, circuits that look like (1), (2) or (3) except that they have two bare ground wires. Some places require this for hot tubs and the like (one ground is “frame ground”, the other attaches to the motor). This may or may not be an alternative to GFCI protection.
Electrical codes arose in the 1880s with the early commercial introduction of electrical power. Many conflicting standards existed for the selection of wire sizes and other design rules for electrical installations. The intention of wiring safety codes is to provide safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from the use of Regulations may be set by local city, provincial/state or national legislation, perhaps by amendments to a model code produced by a technical standards-setting organization, or by a national standard electrical code.
The first electrical codes in the United States originated in New York in 1881 to regulate installations of electric lighting. Since 1897 the U.S. National Fire Protection Association, a private nonprofit association formed by insurance companies, publishes the National Electrical Code (NEC). States, counties or cities often include the NEC in their local building codes by reference along with local differences. The NEC is modified each three years. It is a consensus code considering suggestions from interested parties. The proposals are studied by Committees of engineers, tradesmen, manufacturer representatives, fire fighters, and other invitees.
The UL stands for “Underwriters Laboratory”. It used to be an Insurance Industry organization, but now it is independent and non-profit. It tests electrical components and equipment for potential hazards. When something is UL-listed, that means that the UL has tested the device, and it meets their requirements for safety – ie: fire or shock hazard. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the device actually does what it’s supposed to, just that it probably won’t kill you.
The UL does not have power of law in the U.S. — you are permitted to buy and install non-UL- listed devices. However, insurance policies sometimes have clauses in them that will limit their liability in case of a claim made in response to the failure of a non-UL-listed device.
Furthermore, in many situations the NEC will require that a wiring component used for a specific purpose is UL-listed for that purpose. Indirectly, this means that certain parts of your wiring must be UL-listed before an inspector will approve it and/or occupancy permits issued.
What are the different voltages: 110/115/117/120/125/220/240?
One thing where things might get a bit confusing is the different numbers people bandy about for the voltage of a circuit. One person might talk about 110V, another 117V or another 120V.
These are all, in fact, exactly the same thing… In North America the utility companies are required to supply a split-phase 240 volt (+-5%) feed to your house. This works out as two 120V +- 5% legs. Additionally, since there are resistive voltage drops in the house wiring, it’s not unreasonable to find 120V has dropped to 110V or 240V has dropped to 220V by the time the power reaches a wall outlet. Especially at the end of an extension cord or long circuit run. For a number of reasons, some historical, some simple personal orneriness, different people choose to call them by slightly different numbers. This FAQ has chosen to be consistent with calling them “110V” and “220V”, except when actually saying what the measured voltage will be. Confusing? A bit. Just ignore it.
One thing that might make this a little more understandable is that the nameplates on equipment often show the lower (ie: 110V instead of 120V) value. What this implies is that the device is designed to operate properly when the voltage drops that low.
208V is *not* the same as 240V. 208V is the voltage between phases of a 3-phase “Y” circuit that is 120V from neutral to any hot. 480V is the voltage between phases of a 3-phase “Y” circuit that’s 277V from hot to neutral.
In keeping with 110V versus 120V strangeness, motors intended to run on 480V three phase are often labeled as 440V.
There are logically four wires involved with supplying the main panel with power. Three of them will come from the utility pole, and a fourth (bare) wire comes from elsewhere.
The bare wire is connected to one or more long metal bars pounded into the ground, or to a wire buried in the foundation, or sometimes to the water supply pipe (has to be metal, continuous to where the main water pipe entering the house. Watch out for galvanic action conductivity “breaks” (often between copper and iron pipe). This is the “grounding conductor”. It is there to make sure that the third prong on your outlets is connected to ground. This wire normally carries no current.
One of the other wires will be white (or black with white or yellow stripes, or sometimes simply black). It is the neutral wire. It is connected to the “centre tap” (CEC; “center tap” in the NEC) of the distribution transformer supplying the power. It is connected to the grounding conductor in only one place (often inside the panel). The neutral and ground should not be connectedanywhere else. Otherwise, weird and/or dangerous things may happen.
Furthermore, there should only be one grounding system in a home. Some codes require more than one grounding electrode. These will be connected together, or connected to the neutral at a common point – still one grounding system. Adding additional grounding electrodes connected to other portions of the house wiring is unsafe and contrary to code.
If you add a subpanel, the ground and neutral are usually brought as separate conductors from the main panel, and are not connected together in the subpanel (ie: still only one neutral-ground connection). However, in some situations (certain categories of separate buildings) you actually do have to provide a second grounding electrode – consult your inspector.
The other two wires will usually be black, and are the “hot” wires. They are attached to the distribution transformer as well.
The two black wires are 180 degrees out of phase with each other. This means if you connect something to both hot wires, the voltage will be 220 volts. If you connect something to the white and either of the two blacks you will get 110V.
Some panels seem to only have three wires coming into them. This is either because the neutral and ground are connected together at a different point (eg: the meter or pole) and one wire is doing dual-duty as both neutral and ground, or in some rare occasions, the service has only one hot wire (110V only service).
What is “grounding” versus “grounded” versus “neutral”?
According to the terminology in the CEC and NEC, the “grounding” conductor is for the safety ground, i.e., the green or bare or green with a yellow stripe wire. The word “neutral” is reserved for the white when you have a circuit with more than one “hot” wire. Since the white wire is connected to neutral and the grounding conductor inside the panel, the proper term is “grounded conductor”. However, the potential confusion between “grounded conductor” and “grounding conductor” can lead to potentially lethal mistakes – you should never use the bare wire as a “grounded conductor” or white wire as the “grounding conductor”, even though they are connected together in the panel.
[But not in subpanels – subpanels are fed neutral and ground separately from the main panel. Usually.]
Note: do not tape, colour or substitute other colour wires for the safety grounding conductor. In the trade, and in common usage, the word “neutral” is used for “grounded conductor”. This FAQ uses “neutral” simply to avoid potential confusion. We recommend that you use “neutral” too. Thus the white wire is always (except in some light switch applications) neutral. Not ground.
What does a fuse or breaker do? What are the differences?
Fuses and circuit breakers are designed to interrupt the power to a circuit when the current flow exceeds safe levels. For example, if your toaster shorts out, a fuse or breaker should “trip”, protecting the wiring in the walls from melting. As such, fuses and breakers are primarily intended to protect the wiring — UL or CSA approval supposedly indicates that the equipment itself won’t cause a fire.
Fuses contain a narrow strip of metal which is designed to melt (safely) when the current exceeds the rated value, thereby interrupting the power to the circuit. Fuses trip relatively fast. Which can sometimes be a problem with motors which have large startup current surges. For motor circuits, you can use a “time-delay” fuse (one brand is “fusetron”) which will avoid tripping on momentary overloads. A fusetron looks like a spring-loaded fuse. A fuse can only trip once, then it must be replaced.
Breakers are fairly complicated mechanical devices. They usually consist of one spring loaded contact which is latched into position against another contact. When the current flow through the device exceeds the rated value, a bimetallic strip heats up and bends. By bending it “trips” the latch, and the spring pulls the contacts apart. Circuit breakers behave similarly to fusetrons – that is, they tend to take longer to trip at moderate overloads than ordinary fuses. With high overloads, they trip quickly. Breakers can be reset a finite number of times – each time they trip, or are thrown when the circuit is in use, some arcing takes place, which damages the contacts. Thus, breakers should not be used in place of switches unless they are specially listed for the purpose.
Neither fuses nor breakers “limit” the current per se. A dead short on a circuit can cause hundreds or sometimes even thousands of amperes to flow for a short period of time, which can often cause severe damage.
Why use Breakers? Can’t I use fuses?
Statistics show that fuse panels have a significantly higher risk of causing a fire than breaker panels. This is usually due to the fuse being loosely screwed in, or the contacts corroding and heating up over time, or the wrong size fuse being installed, or the proverbial “replace the fuse with a penny” trick.
Since breakers are more permanently installed, and have better connection mechanisms, the risk of fire is considerably less.
Fuses are prone to explode under extremely high overload. When a fuse explodes, the metallic vapor cloud becomes a conducting path. Result? From complete meltdown of the electrical panel, melted service wiring, through fires in the electrical distribution transformer and having your house burn down. [This author has seen it happen.] Breakers won’t do this.
Many jurisdictions, particularly in Canada, no longer permit fuse panels in new installations. The NEC does permit new fuse panels in some rare circumstances (requiring the special inserts to “key” the fuseholder to specific size fuses).
Some devices, notably certain large air conditioners, require fuse protection in addition to the breaker at the panel. The fuse is there to protect the motor windings from overload. Check the labeling on the unit. This is usually only on large permanently installed motors. The installation instructions will tell you if you need one.
A GFCI is a ground-fault circuit interrupter. It measures the current current flowing through the hot wire and the neutral wire. If they differ by more than a few milliamps, the presumption is that current is leaking to ground via some other path. This may be because of a short circuit to the chassis of an appliance, or to the ground lead, or through a person. Any of these situations is hazardous, so the GFCI trips, breaking the circuit.
GFCIs do not protect against all kinds of electric shocks. If, for example, you simultaneously touched the hot and neutral leads of a circuit, and no part of you was grounded, a GFCI wouldn’t help. All of the current that passed from the hot lead into you would return via the neutral lead, keeping the GFCI happy.
The two pairs of connections on a GFCI outlet are not symmetric. One is labeled LOAD; the other, LINE. The incoming power feed *must* be connected to the LINE side, or the outlet will not be protected. The LOAD side can be used to protect all devices downstream from it. Thus, a whole string of outlets can be covered by a single GFCI outlet.
Where should GFCIs be used?
The NEC mandates GFCIs for 110V, 15A or 20A single phase outlets, in bathrooms, kitchen counters within 6′ of the sink, wet-bar sinks, roof outlets, garages, unfinished basements or crawl spaces, outdoors, near a pool, or just about anywhere else where you’re likely to encounter water or dampness. There are exceptions for inaccessible outlets, those dedicated to appliances occupying fixed space, typically refrigerators and freezers, and for sump pumps and laundry appliances.
The NEC now requires that if your replace an outlet in a location now requiring GFCI, you must install GFCI protection. Note in particular – kitchen and bathroom outlets.
When using the “fixed appliance” rule for avoiding GFCI outlets, single outlet receptacles must be used for single appliances, duplex receptacles may be used for two appliances.
The CEC does not mandate as many GFCIs. In particular, there is no requirement to protect kitchen outlets, or most garage or basement outlets. Basement outlets must be protected if you have a dirt floor, garage outlets if they’re near the door to outside. Bathrooms and most exterior outlets must have GFCIs, as do pools systems and jacuzzi or whirlpool pumps.
There are many rules about GFCIs with pools and so on. This is outside of our expertise, so we’re not covering it in detail. See your inspector.
When replacing an outlet, it must now be GFCI-protected if such would now be required for a new installation. That is, a kitchen outlet installed per the 1984 code need not have been protected, but if that outlet is ever replaced, GFCI protection must now be added (under NEC). This is explicit in the 1993 NEC, and inspector-imposed in Canada.
Even if you are not required to have GFCI protection, you may want to consider installing it anyway. Unless you need a GFCI breaker (see below), the cost is low. In the U.S., GFCI outlets can cost as little as US$8. (Costs are a bit higher in Canada: C$12.) Evaluate your own risk factors. Does your finished basement ever get wet? Do you have small children? Do you use your garage outlets to power outdoor tools? Does water or melted snow ever puddle inside your garage?
Where shouldn’t I use a GFCI?
GFCIs are generally not used on circuits that (a) don’t pose a safety risk, and (b) are used to power equipment that must run unattended for long periods of time. Refrigerators, freezers, and sump pumps are good examples. The rationale is that GFCIs are sometimes prone to nuisance trips. Some people claim that the inductive delay in motor windings can cause a momentary current imbalance, tripping the GFCI. Note, though, that most GFCI trips are real; if you’re getting a lot of trips for no apparent reason, you’d be well-advised to check your wiring before deciding that the GFCI is broken or useless.
What is the difference between a GFCI outlet and a GFCI breaker?
For most situations, you can use either a GFCI outlet as the first device on the circuit, or you can install a breaker with a built-in GFCI. The former is generally preferred, since GFCI breakers are quite expensive. For example, an ordinary GE breaker costs ~US$5; the GFCI model costs ~US$35. There is one major exception: if you need to protect a multi-wire branch circuit (two or more circuits sharing a common neutral wire), such as a Canadian-style kitchen circuit, you’ll need a multi-pole GFCI breaker. Unfortunately, these are expensive; the cost can range into the hundreds of dollars, depending on what brand of panel box you have. But if you must protect such a circuit (say, for a pool heater), you have no choice.
One more caveat — GFCI outlets are bulky. You may want to use an oversize box when installing them. On second thought, use large (actually deep) boxes everywhere. You’ll thank yourself for it.
Incidentally, if you’re installing a GFCI to ensure that one specific outlet is protected (such as a bathroom), you don’t really have to go to all of the trouble to find the first outlet in the circuit, you could simply find the first outlet in the bathroom, and not GFCI anything upstream of it. But protecting the whole circuit is preferred.
When you install a GFCI, it’s a good idea to use the little “ground fault protected” stickers that come with it and mark the outlets downstream of the GFCI. You can figure out which outlets are “downstream”, simply by tripping the GFCI with the test button and see which outlets are dead.
Note that the labels are mandatory for GFCI-protected-but-ungrounded three prong outlets according to the NEC.
What’s the purpose of ground prong on an outlet, then?
Apart from their use in electronics, which we won’t comment on, and for certain fluorescent lights (they won’t turn on without a good ground connection), they’re intended to guard against insulation failures within the device. Generally, the case of the appliance is connected to the ground lead. If there’s an insulation failure that shorts the hot lead to the case, the ground lead conducts the electricity away safely (and possibly trips the circuit breaker in the process). If the case is not grounded and such a short occurs, the case is live — and if you touch it while you’re grounded, you’ll get zapped. Of course, if the circuit is GFCI-protected, it will be a very tiny zap — which is why you can use GFCIs to replace ungrounded outlets (both NEC and CEC).
There are some appliances that should *never* be grounded. In particular, that applies to toasters and anything else with exposed conductors. Consider: if you touch the heating electrode in a toaster, and you’re not grounded, nothing will happen. If you’re slightly grounded, you’ll get a small shock; the resistance will be too high. But if the case were grounded, and you were holding it, you’d be the perfect path to ground…
How do I convert two prong receptacles to three prong?
Older homes frequently have two-prong receptacles instead of the more modern three. These receptacles have no safety ground, and the cabling usually has no ground wire. Neither the NEC or CEC permits installing new 2 prong receptacles anymore.
There are several different approaches to solving this: 1) If the wiring is done through conduit or BX, and the conduit is continuous back to the panel, you can connect the third prong of a new receptacle to the receptacle box. NEC mainly – CEC frowns on this practice. 2) If there is a metallic cold water pipe going nearby, and it’s electrically continuous to the main house ground point, you can run a conductor to it from the third prong. You MUST NOT assume that the pipe is continuous, unless you can visually check the entire length and/or test it. Testing grounds is tricky – see “Testing Grounds” section. 3) Run a ground conductor back to the main panel. 4) Easiest: install a GFCI receptacle. The ground lug should not be connected to anything, but the GFCI protection itself will serve instead. The GFCI will also protect downstream (possibly also two prong outlets). If you do this to protect downstream outlets, the grounds must not be connected together. Since it wouldn’t be connected to a real ground, a wiring fault could energize the cases of 3 prong devices connected to other outlets. Be sure, though, that there aren’t indirect ground plug connections, such as via the sheath on BX cable.
The CEC permits you to replace a two prong receptacle with a three prong if you fill the U ground with a non-conducting goop. Like caulking compound. This is not permitted in the NEC.
The NEC requires that three prong receptacles without ground that are protected by GFCI must be labelled as such.
See the next section about computers on GFCI-protected groundless outlets.
What about surges, spikes, zaps, grounding and your electronics?
Theoretically, the power coming into your house is a perfect AC sine wave. It is usually quite close. But occasionally, it won’t be. Lightning strikes and other events will affect the power. These usually fall into two general categories: very high voltage spikes (often into 1000s of volts, but usually only a few microseconds in length) or surges (longer duration, but usually much lower voltage).
Most of your electrical equipment, motors, transformer-operated electronics, lights, etc., won’t even notice these one-shot events. However, certain types of solid-state electronics, particularly computers with switching power supplies and MOS semiconductors, can be damaged by these occurances. For example, a spike can “punch a hole” through an insulating layer in a MOS device (such as that several hundred dollar 386 CPU), thereby destroying it.
The traditional approach to protecting your electronics is to use “surge suppressors” or “line filters”. These are usually devices that you plug in between the outlet and your electronics.
Roughly speaking, surge suppressors work by detecting overvoltages, and shorting them out. Think of them as voltage limiters. Line filters usually use frequency-dependent circuits (inductors, capacitors etc.) to “tune out” undesirable spikes – preventing them from reaching your electronics.
So, you should consider using suppressors or filters on your sensitive equipment.
These devices come in a very wide price range. From a couple of dollars to several hundred. We believe that you can protect your equipment from the vast majority of power problems by selecting devices in the $20-50 range.
A word about grounding: most suppressors and EFI filters require real grounds. Any that don’t are next to useless.
For example, most surge suppressors use MOVs (metal oxide varistors) to “clamp” overvoltages. Yes, you can have a suppressor that only has a MOV between neutral and hot to combat differential-mode voltage excursions, but that isn’t enough. You need common-mode protection too. Good suppressors should have 3 MOVs, one between each pair of wires. Which means you should have a good solid ground. Eg: a solidly connected 14ga wire back to the panel. Not rusty BX armour or galvanized pipe with condensation turning the copper connection green.
Without a ground, a surge or spike is free to “lift” your entire electronics system well away from ground. Which is ideal for blowing out interface electronics for printer ports etc.
Secondly, static electricity is one of the major enemies of electronics. Having good frame grounds is one way of protecting against static zaps.
If you’re in the situation of wanting to install computer equipment on two wire groundless circuits take note:
Adding a GFCI outlet to the circuit makes the circuit safe for you. But it doesn’t make it safe for your equipment – you need a ground to make surge suppressors or line filters effective.
Are you sure about GFCIs and ungrounded outlets? Should the test button work?
The NEC, section 210-7(d), and CEC, section 26-700(9), are quite explicit that GFCIs are a legal substitute for a grounded outlet in an existing installation where there is no ground available in the outlet box.
But your local codes may vary. As for the TEST button — there’s a resistor connecting the LOAD side of the hot wire to the LINE side of the neutral wire when you press the TEST button. Current through this resistor shows up as an imbalance, and trips the GFCI. This is a simple, passive, and reliable test, and doesn’t require a real ground to work. If your GFCI does not trip when you press the TEST button, it is very probably defective or miswired. Again: if the test button doesn’t work, something’s broken, and potentially dangerous. The problem should be corrected immediately.
The instructions that come with some GFCIs specify that the ground wire must be connected. We do not know why they say this. The causes may be as mundane as an old instruction sheet, or with the formalities of UL or CSA listing — perhaps the device was never tested without the ground wire being connected. On the other hand, UL or CSA approval should only have been granted if the device behaves properly in *all* listed applications, including ungrounded outlet replacement. (One of us called Leviton; their GFCIs are labeled for installation on grounded circuits only. The technician was surprised to see that; he agreed that the NEC does not require it, and promised to investigate.)
Knob and tube wiring was the earliest standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings, in common use from about 1880 to the 1930s. It consisted of single insulated copper conductors run across interior walls or within ceiling cavities, passing through joist and stud drill-holes via protective porcelain insulating tubes, and supported along their length on nailed-down porcelain knob insulators. Where conductors entered a wiring device such as a lamp or switch, they were protected by flexible cloth insulating sleeving. The first insulation was asphalt saturated cotton cloth, then rubber became common. Wire splices in such installations were twisted for good mechanical strength, then soldered and wrapped with friction tape (asphalt saturated cloth), or made inside metal junction boxes.
The ceramic knobs were cylindrical and generally nailed directly into the wall studs or floor joists. Most had a circular groove running around their circumference, although some were constructed in two pieces with “pass-through” grooves on each side of the nail in the middle.
By wrapping electrical wire around the knob and then twisting the wire, the knob securely and permanently anchored the wire. The knobs separated the wire from potentially combustible framework, facilitate changes in direction, and ensure that wires are not subject to excessive tension. The wires were also in air, thus could dissipate heat well.
Ceramic tubes were inserted into holes bored in wall studs or floor joists, with wires running through them. This kept the wires from rubbing against the wood, or being compressed by the wood as the house settled.
Other ceramic pieces would typically be used as a junction point between the wiring system proper and the more flexible cloth-clad wiring found in light fixtures or other permanent, hard- wired devices. When a generic power outlet was desired, the wiring could run directly into the junction box through an insulating sleeve called loom.
Example of Knob and Tube Wiring from a 1930’s house.
Historically, wiring installation standards were less stringent in the age of knob-and-tube wiring than today. Compared to modern electrical wiring standards, the main shortcomings of knob-
and-tube wiring are: knob-and-tube wiring never included a safety Grounding conductor; did not confine switching to the hot conductor (the so-called Carter System places loads across the common terminals of a three-way switch pair); it permitted the use of in-line-splices in walls without a junction box. Compared to modern thermoplastic wiring insulation, the K&T wiring was less resistant to damage, and had a higher temperature rating.
Knob and tube wiring at a museum display
Older homes may have knob-and-tube wiring for all or part of their electrical system. Such wiring may require replacement and modernization, as they are generally inadequate for modern levels of power use. As power use increased following the Second World War, first-generation wiring systems became susceptible to abuse by frustrated homeowners who would avoid repeatedly blowing fuses by overfusing the circuits, thus subjecting the wiring to damage due to higher levels of current. Or overfusing because K&T was rated for use in air, so 14AWG copper could handle 20 amperes, whereas in cable it is rated 15 amperes.
Knob-and-tube wiring may also have been damaged by building renovations. Its rubber insulation will be dried-out, thus brittle when handled, or it may have been damaged by rodents or carelessness (for example, hanging objects off wiring running in accessible areas like basements). Currently the United States NEC forbids use of insulation over knob-and-tube wiring, so energy efficiency upgrades to home insulation also requires replacement of the wiring in affected homes.
Cedar is a durable and resilient wood that can withstand a lot of wear and tear brought on by the weather elements. A cedar fence provides beauty and privacy to the exterior of any home. Cedar fences are low-maintenance, although specific care is required to keep the fence in good condition. Cleaning and general maintenance is necessary to preserve cedar wood fences. If cared for properly, a cedar fence will remain attractive and structurally sound for many years to come.
Apply a waterproofing sealer to the cedar fence to protect the wood from splintering, cracking and warping due to the weather elements. Brush on two thin coats of waterproofing sealer using a paint brush. Allow the sealer to dry in between coats. Seal your cedar fence every three to five years.
Avoid letting excessive amounts of water hit the fence. Preventing rainwater from getting on the fence is impractical. Do not place sprinklers where the water stream hits the fence, even after applying a sealer.
Keep bushes and vines from growing up the fence. Planting landscaping around the perimeter of the fence is fine. Cut down weeds and vines that may begin to grow on the surface of the fence.
Clean your cedar fence at least once every year. Combine 3 qts. warm water, 1 qt. oxygen bleach and ¼ cup non-ammonia dish soap into a garden sprayer. Saturate the fence with the cleaning solution. Allow it to set on the fence for about 10 minutes. Scrub any tough stains from the fence with a scrub brush. Rinse the fence clean with plain water from a garden hose.
Remove mold and mildew stains promptly. Mold and mildew will eat away at the wood if left untreated. Mix a solution of 4 oz. oxygen bleach and 1 gallon of hot water into a bucket. Scrub the mold and mildew from the fence with the cleaning solution and a stiff scrub brush. Rinse the fence with plain water.
Pull the tilt lever (nested in the sash lock base) until it clicks.
Hold lever until the sash latches clear the unit frame when tilting. Ease top edge of bottom sash out toward you to a horizontal position.
To tilt the top sash, lower the sash about half way. Pull the tilt latches (in the top edge of sash top rail) simultaneously until they clear unit frame when tilting. Ease top of sash toward you to a horizontal position.
If you have a single hung window, only the bottom sash is operational. The top sash is fixed in the frame, and cannot be tilted or removed.
Step 2 – Removing the Sash
To remove the sash, tilt the bottom sash using the same technique described in the
Ultimate Double Hung and Single Hung Windows – Tilting the Sash section (above).
When sash is in a horizontal position, lift both sides of the sash upward 2-3″ (raising pivot pins out of each clutch).
Now rotate the sash until pivot pins clear the jambs and remove the bottom sash from the frame.
Next, tilt the top sash using the same technique described in Ultimate Double Hung and Single Hung Windows – Tilting the Sash. When the sash is in a horizontal position, lift both sides upward 2-3″ (raising pivot pins out of each clutch). Finally, rotate the sash until the pivot pins clear the jambs and remove the top sash from the frame.
Step 3 – Replacing the Sash
To replace the double hung sash, first hold the top sash in a horizontal position, top rail toward you, exterior face up.
Sash pivot pins must be placed 2-3″ above the clutch assemblies when relocating in the jamb carrier tracks. Pivot one side of the sash up to enable pivot pins to clear jamb carrier assemblies when aligning sash in tracks, pivot sash back to horizontal (flat) position. Lower sash pivot pins into balance clutch cams.
Check sash pivot pins to ensure they are fully engaged in the clutch cams before proceeding.
Now, tilt the sash up, pulling the tilt latches until they retract fully on both sides, and hold them while you ease the sash into place. Check the nose of each tilt latch to ensure it is fully engaged in the sash guide track of jamb carrier assembly.
Raise the top sash to the top of frame. Repeat above procedures for bottom sash, except retract the sash check rail guides with the tilt lever in the sash lock base when installing.
Step 4 – Resetting a Slipped Clutch Assembly
Sometimes when attempting to tilt or remove a sash, the clutch assembly that helps lift the sash slips. When this happens, the two clutches (one on either side of the window) will no longer be at the same height in the jamb track. The slipped clutch will need to be reset before the sash can be replaced.
Clutches are under extreme tension. Please use caution when following the directions below:
First you will need to raise or lower one clutch so that it matches the position of the other. First, decide which clutch you wish to reset. Measure the other clutch’s distance from the sill on the opposing side and temporarily mark that dimension on the jamb carrier that contains the clutch you will reset. (The clutches must be reset so that their respective heights in the jamb carrier system are within 1/8″ of one another.) This will tell you where the slipped clutch needs to be repositioned.
Next, using a flat screwdriver, rotate the balance clutch cam in the clutch assembly of the slipped clutch to the released position. Clutches are under extreme tension! Hold the screwdriver firmly and slide the slipped clutch to the mark.
Rotate the balance clutch cam to the open locked position (cam opening up). Release the screwdriver carefully from the clutch assembly (it must lock in place or damage will occur).
Compare clutch heights from the sill for the sash affected. They MUST be within 1/8” of each other or damage may occur when sash are reinstalled, adjust height as needed.
Castle Building & Remodeling Production Headquarters and Warehouse recently underwent a makeover that turned it from “50 shades of gray over graffiti” to the best looking warehouse in Minneapolis. We couldn’t have done it without local artisan sign painters Phil Vandervaart and Forrest Wozniak and their amazing sign painting skills. Phil Vandervaart (https://signpainterphil.wordpress.com/) and Forrest Wozniak (http://forrestwozniak.com/) will be featured on Minnesota Original (http://www.mnoriginal.org/) on TPT (Channel 2) Sunday January 17th, 2016 at 6pm and 10pm.
This segment shows Phil and Forrest working on the signage for Castle Building & Remodeling and The Natural Built Home Store Production Headquarters located at 2710 E 33rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55406 in the Longfellow neighborhood. Check it out here!
A big thanks goes out to the Lake Street Council that helped with a facade grant to cover a portion of the costs for this project.
After over 25 years of being headquartered in NE Minneapolis we have moved our headquarters to the Longfellow neighborhood of South Minneapolis at 2710 E. 33rd St., Minneapolis, MN 55406. Our NE Showroom will remain open but we have moved our administrative staff to our Production Headquarters in South Minneapolis and will be shrinking our footprint in NE Minneapolis.
Our new much larger Production Headquarters is centrally located with easy access to all parts of the city, has a large shop and storage space, allows for semi delivery, vastly incrased warehouse space, has a a fenced in yard, and allows for fabrication of some countertops. More importantly it allows our production and administrative teams to work together in the same space.
Here is an image of our new Production Headquarters:
We are very excited to announce that Castle Building & Remodeling has earned #111 of America’s Top Remodelers, featured in the Professional Remodeler magazine’s November Issue. What an honor to be included in the list.
Castle Building & Remodeling was featured in a Kare 11 story about the realities of home renovations. The story follows our clients, Dan and Leah Peterson as they remodel their kitchen. Loren Schirber, Castle’s owner gives information on what to expect during a realistic remodel.
Architect/’Not So Big’ author/home guru, Sarah Susanka has some interesting things to say about the future of homes in this Wall Street Journal by making predictions in three categories: Design, Technology, and Construction . Disclaimer: Unfortunately, The home of the future is NOT Jetsons themed.
Read the article here: Sarah Susanka Says the Home of the Future Will Be a Portal
Celebrate Your “Independents” Month with MetroIBA! During the month of July, “Celebrate Your Independents” will offer shoppers exclusive deals through www.buylocaltwincities.com as well as a chance for two people to win $1000 in gift cards from the participating MetroIBA member businesses, such as Electric Fetus, Ingebretsen’s, Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op, Peapods, Wet Paint, and our sister company, Natural Built Home. Event: WHEN: Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. WHERE: Warners’ Stellian ~ Edina Location: 3533 W. 70th St., Edina, MN 55435.
It is the time of year to do some spring cleaning around Castle and Natural Built Home. Bring dad to our Production Headquarters on June 14th from 8:00 a.m – 3:00 p.m to get the best deals in town on everything he could dream of for Father’s day. We will have discounted items such as, windows, doors, faucets/sinks, tile/flooring, locks/handles, light fixtures, counter tops,etc…
The Production Headquarters is located at 2710 E. 33rd st Minneapolis, MN 55406. Questions? Please call Andrew at 612-877-8376
Free Kitchen Remodeling on a Budget Class! June 10th at 6:00pm in our NE Showroom, 2600 Johnson St. NE. Sign up on our website!
Our monthly education classes are designed to help everyone from a do-it-yourselfer to the least handy people. Classes are held from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm in our design centers. The classes will focus on how to save money and get a better value from your remodeling project. During the classes, the group will discuss: design process, typical project budgets, cost savings ideas, homeowner participation in the remodel, rebates and incentives, timelines, and affordable design tips. Our Designers will lead each class and answer your questions about your remodeling project. You are encouraged to bring photos or measurements of your space. These classes are not a sales pitch, but are designed to be informative and educational.
All attendees will receive a certificate for 50% off the design package of their choice. If you would like to attend one of our classes, please visit Education Class Schedule / Sign Up Sheet to RSVP or call 612-789-8509×0 in Minneapolis and 651-699-4164×0 in St.Paul or email Miriam@castlebri.com
Our owner, Aaron Johnson was interviewed on MPR yesterday about the fast-growing construction industry and the importance and need to hire experienced construction workers. Read or listen to the whole story here:
We’ve been hard at work on our Save A Castle homes. Carter is almost done! A rear entry/powder room was added on to the 1st floor of this home. Besides a major gut to most spaces of this home, we remodeled the kitchen, 2nd floor general bathroom, refinished hardwood floors, repainted the entire house, and replaced all windows. The existing sunroom space is now insulated/heated and part of the master bedroom. This home is in a great neighborhood and was in need of a top to bottom restoration. We saved this castle in the nick of time!
Castle was Voted Favorite Home Remodeler by Minnesota Women’s Press readers in their What Women Want survey! Thanks to all the readers who voted to make Castle your Favorite Home Remodeler. This is an honor we have received for the seventh straight year. Make sure to check out the full feature in the Minnesota Women’s Press May issue.
Congratulations to April and Patrick Vogel! April and Patrick won our Castle Building & Remodeling Limerick Contest. They won a $250 Castle gift certificate good for our Handyman services. The following is their winning limerick:
“Do you want to remodel but don’t want a hack?
Plumbing, electrical, framing; our middle name is Jack.
Tired of promises not kept, skip the hassle
And go with Castle,
We guarantee your happiness and we’ve got your back.”
Castle Building & Remodeling is excited to announce, on Earth Day, that we have acquired Natural Built Home the areas leading retailer of eco-friendly building materials. Since inception eight years ago on Earth Day 2005 Natural Built Home’s mission has been to make green building products readily accessible to homeowners, contractors, architects, and interior designers. NBH strives to keep these high quality products affordable so sustainable practices can easily be adopted. The NBH showroom at 4020 Minnehaha Ave S in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis is staffed with designers ready to help with home improvement projects of all sizes.
At Castle Building & Remodeling, we plan to incorporate more eco-friendly building materials into each remodeling project and complete installation services for its new sister company. Natural Built Home Store Manager, Liz Anderson, says “We are really excited to be a part of the Castle family of companies. The remodeling resources Castle Building & Remodeling brings to the store will allow us to be a much more full service store and better serve our clientele”.
Natural Built Home is the areas leading retailer of eco-friendly building materials. Each product found at Natural Built Home must pass through a strict quality and values criteria focusing on: health, sustainability, resource/energy conservation, durability, and location of production. We are proud to feature earth friendly cabinets, countertops, flooring, hardware, paint/stain/finishes, and insulation made right in the USA. Stop by the Natural Built Home showroom to see these beautiful products in person.
We are a community focused professional design/build remodeling company specializing in residential remodeling and focusing on providing the best overall value. Castle is a second-generation family business with over 2,500 past clients. The unique design studios in South Minneapolis, Highland Park and NE Minneapolis allows our interior designers to help clients plan anything from a not so big remodeling project, all the way up to a whole house reconfiguration. Their detailed specifications and comprehensive planning process allows us to guarantee clients a favorable experience by ensuring there are no unforeseen costs, and by providing a guaranteed completion date. Visit www.castlebri.com and www.naturalbuilthome.com to learn more.
With Spring on the way we are all looking forward to a much needed warm up, Castle is holding our annual Limerick Contest! The winning limerick writer will receive a $250 Gift Certificate for Handyman Services.
One definition of “limerick” we found is: “a kind of humorous verse of five lines, in which the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines, which are shorter, form a rhymed couplet”. With that in mind, put your thinking caps on, get your creativity flowing and get your limericks submitted for Castle’s Annual Limerick Contest! Our very own Troy Sinykin took inspiration for his limerick below, from our St Paul Showroom’s mascot, whose seasonal festive apparel is always the talk of the town.
“There was a fine company in
the City who thought their showroom was pretty.
To be the best of them all,
they hung a deer on the wall and
on St Patty’s Day they were all witty.”
*Limericks submitted must contain 5 lines and will be judged by Castle staff on creativity and rhyme. Only one submission per person, and we thank you for keeping you limericks “clean” and refraining from offensive content.
* Limericks must be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5:00pm on April 17th, 2014 in order to be judged. Judging will follow and the winner and their limerick will be announced in the April Castle Newsletter and on Facebook.
* The 2014 Limerick winner will receive a Castle Gift Certificate for $250 in Handyman Services
Castle Building & Remodeling has made a donation of a trailer to support The Sheridan Story and join the fight against child hunger in the Twin Cities.
Castle is excited to announce that they have paired with The Sheridan Story. Castle has donated a trailer that will help aid in food delivery to the hungry. Castle is thankful for the opportunity to work with such a great cause and benefit to the community.
Curious, of what The Sheridan Story is, look no further. The Sheridan Story facilitates a partnership between community organizations, such as churches, and schools. The church or organization sponsors a school, which encompasses investing in the relationship with the school and also paying for, packing, and distributing food directly to the children. The Sheridan Story provides the logistical, sourcing, and organizational expertise necessary to execute the process of providing a weekend food supply.
The goal of the partnerships is to feed hungry children while developing a lasting relationship between the community and the school.
The owner of Castle Building & Remodeling, Loren Shirber is very active in the communities of the Twin Cities. Loren has grown up here and wants the very best for his communities. He works with the NEIC where he heard about The Sheradan Story. Knowing he had an extra trailer not in use he decided to donate it to a good cause. Loren volunteers with Meals on Wheels, which made this cause close to his heart. Tis the season to be giving.
Below are some images our photographer Lisa Brunell captured, of Rob Williams (Sheridan Story Founder) Castle Building & Remodeling visit.
We are proud to sponsor Hops for Hunger-II a benefit for SACA (Southern Anoka Community Assistance). The event will be held at the beautiful Solar Arts Building in NE Mpls. Over 15 local breweries will be offering unlimited samples with food available from Stanley’s Food Truck.
Last year, Hops for Hunger raised enough money for SACA to buy 70,000 pounds of food, this year we hope to raise over 100,000 pounds. Will you help us feed the hungry?
Mark your calendars for January 11th, buy your tickets on-line, and tell your friends. We fully anticipate this to be a SOLD OUT event, so hurry and buy your tickets now!
All proceeds will benefit Southern Anoka Community Assistance
Garage with office available for rent January 1st. This 24’x28′ insulated and heated garage is set up perfectly for a growing construction business or artist. The space contains an office that will fit up to three desks and has a drive in overhead garage door. Two vehicles could be parked inside and there are 4 off street parking spots. The interior is ready to go with racks, shelves, and offices. There is also an attached ladder rack and more outdoor storage space behind the garage. Heat, electricity, and internet are included in the monthly rental rate of $600.00 (Half off first month). Note: The garage is not zoned for a spray booth or heavy onsite finishing. This building is centrally located with easy access to 35W and Hwy 280.
Radiant Orchid, a vibrant fuchsia hue, is the up and coming color for 2014.
The Pantone experts describe the 2014 Color of the Year as “An enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones… [that] inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health. It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm.”
While the color of 2013, Emerald Green, was meant to symbolize growth and prosperity, Radiant Orchid is said to allure the imagination and invite innovative energy where it is used.
Fun fact for all the Breaking Bad watchers, every scene with Marie there is the color purple in the background.
The remainder of December will be focused on Courtney Walker, Castle Building & Remodeling’s Interior Designer.
Courtney is very busy with many projects, what are you currently working on?
“I have two Kitchens and two Bathrooms in design. In production I have two Attics, three Bathrooms, two Kitchens & one Basement”
What type of design projects are they?
“Right now the two Kitchens I have in design are very different. One of them is a pretty classic design with shaker cabinets and wood floors. The idea is to tie the Kitchen in with the rest of the 1920’s home. The other Kitchen is in a 1950’s home and the homeowners love the Mid-century Modern style. Right now the home doesn’t reflect its 1950’s style because of the 1980’s remodel that occurred, so we are going to remodel the Kitchen as well as open up some of the walls and update the flooring thought the main level to help bring this style back into the home. The Bathrooms I have in design are both in older homes in Saint Paul. One of them is a makeover where we will be replacing tile and updating the counter tops. The other we are gutting to the studs and moving some things around to allow for a bigger bathtub. In the attic’s I have in production we are finishing the unfinished spaces with a bedroom and one of them is also adding a bathroom. The three bathrooms I have in production design are actually all going with very classic designs that include subway tile and hexagon floor tile. Each one has its one has its own twist: one has a custom very small vanity & handmade tile, another has Carrara marble counter tops and a large custom vanity, and the last one has recycled glass tile and a double niche. Both of the Kitchens I have in production are total gut projects. They both have some very unique features: one of them has white cabinets on the top and dark grey on the bottom and the other has recycled glass counter tops that feature a white background with tempered glass aggregate (tempered glass has soft blue color to it from the glass strengthening process it has been through). Finally the Basement, it was an unfinished space that we are finishing along with the homeowner. When the space is finished it will have a Bedroom, Family room, Bathroom with heated floors, Laundry room and a Bar area.
What are your current favorite design trends? It has been around for a while, but I love the rectangular floor tile. Another trend that I have noticed is that polished chrome is coming back. I like the look of it; it’s very classic and goes with almost any design. It is also the most common & least expensive finish for plumbing fixtures, which always helps if you are trying to replace just one fixture in your bathroom. Polished chrome is the one metal finish you don’t have to worry about color variation”
Let’s Talk Color, what is your opinion Courtney?
“I think in general my thought on color is less is more. There is a lot of research into how color affects people, but there is also a lot of research in how a lack of color affects you. What I have gathered from it is some color is good and improves your mood, while too much color is overwhelming and can make you anxious. So I tend to go neutral with major pieces and pop color in certain places”.
Stay tuned for more tips and trends. Do you have a remodeling question? Need a designers input?
Email your questions to email@example.com and she’ll post your answers next week!
Save A Castle’s Project Manger Steve Poindexter came into Castle Building & Remodeling Northeast Showroom with a big surprise. He had adopted a 8 week old puppy, from the Humane Society. It warmed all of our hearts on this very cold Minnesota day. The office has made Yooper the unofficial mascot. If you are interested in meeting Yooper and want to have some remodeling done call Castle Building & Remodeling at 612-877-8375.
Going green with your glass could be one of the most beneficial decisions you have ever made. Recycle your old wine bottles and other glass ware, by making them into your counter top. Castle Building & Remodeling will make all of your wildest glass dreams come true! For more information contact Meagan@castlebri.com