Factors to Consider when Hiring Contractors for Remodeling: Professional References

  1. Professional References

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.



Check out the other 24 factors that every smart house-owner use when they consider their remodeling contractor here.



Factors to Consider when Hiring Contractors for Remodeling: Business Location

  1. Business Location

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.



Check out the other 24 factors that every smart house-owner use when they consider their remodeling contractor here.

Factors to Consider when Hiring Contractors for Remodeling: Customer References

  1. Customer References

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.



Check out the other 24 factors that every smart house-owner use when they consider their remodeling contractor here.



Factors to Consider when Hiring Contractors for Remodeling: Level of Experience

  1. Level of Experience

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.



Check out the other 24 factors that every smart house-owner use when they consider their remodeling contractor here.



Factors to Consider when Hiring Contractors for Remodeling: The Contract

  1. The Contract

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.



Check out the other 24 factors that every smart house-owner use when they consider their remodeling contractor here.


Factors to Consider when Hiring Contractors for Remodeling: Completeness of the Estimate

  1. Completeness of the Estimate

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.



Check out the other 24 factors that every smart house-owner use when they consider their remodeling contractor here.


Factors to Consider when Hiring Contractors for Remodeling: Reputation

  1. Reputation

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.



Check out the other 24 factors that every smart house-owner use when they consider their remodeling contractor here.


Factors to Consider when Hiring Contractors for Remodeling: Price

  1. Price

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.



Check out the other 24 factors that every smart house-owner use when they consider their remodeling contractor here.

Factor to Consider: Is Your Remodeling Contractor Licensed, Bonded, and Insured?

  1. Licensed, Bonded, and Insured


Consumers are often advised to “make sure your contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured,” 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.



Check out the other 24 factors that every smart house-owner use when they consider their remodeling contractor here.

June 2017 Castle BRI Newsletter



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2017 Castle Home Tour : Sept 30th – Oct 1st

Featured Project: Kitchen Remodel + Bath Dormer

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!


How to Care for Granite Countertop

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.


Granite Countertop

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.



Check out this YouTube video from other website on how to clean your granite countertop. (Credit to: Howcast)



Avoid prolonged contact with acid on granite

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.





Above are tips on how to care for granite countertops. But do you know that granite and quartz countertops are different in many ways? Check them out here at this useful website on Comparison between Granite and Quartz Countertop.



Paver Patio Maintenance and Care

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.


Broken Pavers

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.


Stain Removing

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.



Sealing Pavers

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.


Check out this Youtube video from other website to see Sealing Pavers In Action (Credit to: Mechanic Gardener)


Regular cleaning, weeding and replacement of broken pavers will keep your patio looking as good as new. Pressure washing is not recommended for pavers. The force of the water is damaging.




Maintaining Asphalt Driveway

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.



Repairing Cracks                      


  • 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).



  • 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.




  • 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.








May 2017 Castle BRI Newsletter

Schedule an Appointment / Get an Estimate                       612-789-8509                651-699-4164


Featured Project: Exterior Bungalow Remodel


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.”



Exterior Bungalow Remodel


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.

Solar Energy


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!

The Natural Built Home Store
May 20th, 2017 – All Energy Solar: Evaluating Solar for Your Home

St. Paul Showroom
May 9th, 2017 – Planning a Bath Remodel

Northeast Minneapolis Showroom
May 23rd, 2017 – Planning a Basement Remodel


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!



Fading, Yellowing, Peeling, Cracking, Sagging, Wrinkling Paint Problem – What to do?

Problems with Paint

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).


Possible Cause

• 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.


Possible Cause

• 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.

• Moisture.



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.


Possible Cause

• 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.


Possible Cause

• 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).


Check out this video on how to fix cracked walls.



Sagging is downward “drooping” of the paint film immediately after application, resulting in an uneven coating.


Possible Cause

• 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.”


Possible Cause

• 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.



Don’t know what paint finish to use after picking the color? Check out our article on how to choose your paint finish here.




  1. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/ask-sherwin-williams/problem-solver/dirt-stain-discoloration/fading
  2. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/home-builders/products/resources/sw-article-pro-yellowing
  3. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/ask-sherwin-williams/problem-solver/peeling-cracking/SW-ARTICLE-DIR-EXTPEELDUEMOIST
  4. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/ask-sherwin-williams/problem-solver/peeling-cracking/SW-ARTICLE-DIR-CRACKING
  5. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/ask-sherwin-williams/problem-solver/sagging-wrinkling/SW-ARTICLE-DIR-SAGGING
  6. https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/ask-sherwin-williams/problem-solver/sagging-wrinkling/SW-ARTICLE-DIR-WRINKLING


How to Choose Paint Finish

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.



Matte Finish

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

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.


Eggshell Finish

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

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.



Check out Protect Painters website here to compare the pros & cons of different paint finishes.




*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.



Kid-Friendly Finishes

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.



Rustic Looks

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.



Ceiling Paint

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.



Ceiling Finishes

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.




Learn more about Fading, Yellowing, Peeling, Cracking, Sagging, Wrinkling Paint Problem – What to do? here>>

Cleaning Vinyl Floor Covering

Regular Cleaning


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.




Source: http://doityourself.com/vinylfloors/resilient.htm




Recycling Resources

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 Carpet Recycling




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
  • Maximum 6 feet for width of carpet in rolls
  • Rolls tied with string or twine (no duct tape)
  • Separated urethane foam padding accepted
  • No rubber-backed carpet or rubber pad
  • No carpet tile or other rigid flooring
  • No carpet scraps or trimmings
  • No tack strips, nails, staples or knife blades
  • No wet glue, debris, refuse, rocks or caked mud
  • Minimal loose dirt
  • Absolutely no co-mingled refuse accepted



Carpet and pad from individuals, carpet installers or registered refuse haulers can be delivered to Bro-Tex or one of their other collection sites as shown at http://www.brotex.com/carpetrecycling.aspx.




Plastic Recovery Technologies

Wyoming, MN 55092

(612) 910-9431 phone


Recycler of vinyl siding






Facts about Mold

What are molds?

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.


Learn about Ways to Prevent Asthma & Allergies in Your Home here.



What can I do to avoid having mold?

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:

  • musty odors
  • frost and ice on cold surfaces
  • fogging windows
  • 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.


To learn what humidity meter to buy and how to use one, check out this informative website about How to Calculate Humidity.


If you find that you have excessive humidity in your home, some simple things you can do to reduce the humidity in your home include:

  • turn down or discontinue using a humidifier
  • use range and bathroom exhaust fans while cooking or bathing
  • cook with covered pans
  • install a fresh air intake duct to bring in outside air with a low relative humidity
  • vent dryers to the outside
  • seal cracks in the house and in the vapor barrier
  • consider installing a properly designed mechanical ventilation system

Source: Mold remediation Dallas.

If you are interested to learn more about molds, this Allergy & Air website is very helpful.


Indoor Air Quality / Exhaust Ventilation

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.




Exhaust Ventilation

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.


– Always run your exhaust fan when showering or bathing. Hot and steamy showers can put a lot of moisture into the air. If proper ventilation does not exist this water will seep into the Indoor Air Quality / Exhaust Ventilation © Copyright 2007 Castle Building & Remodeling, Inc. All Rights Reserved. drywall or plaster and can eventually lead to pealing paint or worse mold in the walls or ceiling. The signs are almost never visible until it is too late.


– 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.





Sod Care and Maintenance

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!



How to Clean Cambria Quartz Countertops?

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.


Check out their website at https://www.cambriausa.com/Customer-Care/care-and-maintenance/

What is a circuit?

What is a circuit?


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.


Learn more about What is Grounding vs Grounded vs Neutral? here>>



Electrical Codes in the US

Electrical Codes


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.


Learn more about Knob & Tube Wiring – Electrical Wiring in Buildings here >>

What is UL listing?

What is UL listing?


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.


Learn more about What are the different voltages: 110/115/117/120/125/220/240? here >>

What are the different voltages: 110/115/117/120/125/220/240?

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.



Learn more about What does an electrical service look like? here >>

What does an electrical service look like?

What does an electrical service look like?


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).



Learn more about What is a circuit? here >>

What is Grounding vs Grounded vs Neutral?


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.



Learn more about Fuse vs Breaker – What are the differences? here >>

Fuse vs Breaker – What are the differences?


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.


Learn more about What is a GFI/GFCI? here >>

What is a GFI/GFCI?


What is a GFI/GFCI?


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.



Learn about the Purpose of Ground Prong here>>

Purpose of Ground Prong

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.


Learn about Surges, Spikes, Zaps, Grounding and Your Electronics here. >>

Surges, Spikes, Zaps, Grounding and Your Electronics

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 & Tube Wiring – Electrical Wiring in Buildings


Knob and Tube Wiring


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.


Knob and Tube wiring

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 in the museum

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.



Learn more about What is UL listing? here >>

Care and Maintenance of your Cedar Fence

Cedar Fence


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.


Water Damage

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.



If you haven’t cleaned your fence for years and are looking for a quick fix, you might want to consider using a pressure washer. Here is a helpful article on using pressure washer to clean your fence.



See pressure-washing in action here on youtube:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaCo6qtY26M (Credit to: Shane Brasseaux)




*Castle has decade-long experience in using Cedar product (Cedar post, fence & decks).

Check out one of our project using Cedar Post here.

To find out how much a project would cost, please visit here.



How to Tilt and Remove Window Sash for Cleaning

Begin by raising the bottom sash about 4″.



Window Sash



Pull the tilt lever (nested in the sash lock base) until it clicks.



Tilt Lever



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.



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).



Lift both sides of the sash upward




Now rotate the sash until pivot pins clear the jambs and remove the bottom sash from the frame.



Rotate the sash




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.



Using a flat screwdriver, rotate the balance clutch cam




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).



Release the screwdriver carefully



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.




If reading isn’t your thing, check out this helpful Youtube video from other website on How to Remove & Replace the Sash. (Credit to: panacheandflair)




What do you think about this Step-by-step Guide on How to Remove Window Stash? Let us know if it is helpful by leaving a comment below.



Learn more about remodeling tips by following our Remodeling blog 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!

The Natural Built Home Store 
June 17th, 2017 – Green Bath Remodeling
July 22nd, 2017 – Planning a Green Kitchen Remodel

South Minneapolis Showroom
June 13th, 2017 – Planning a Basement Remodel

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!

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Remodeling and Home Design

Castle is Proud to be named best of Houzz for Service for the 5th straight year!

Classic Hand Painted Signage from Local Sign Painters Featured on MN Original

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!

Warehouse Web

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.

We Moved our Headquarters

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: Warehouse Web

Castle on Kare 11: Homeowners inspired by HGTV, get dose of reality

Castle featured in Kare 11 story

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.

you can watch the story and read more here: http://www.kare11.com/story/life/home-garden/2014/11/11/homeowners-inspired-by-hgtv-get-dose-of-reality/18895219/

Celebrate your “Independence” Month with MetroIBA


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.

Check it out at www.buylocaltwincities.com for more information

Sales/Design Manager, Troy Sinykin Interviewed in Remodeling Magazine

Our Sales/Design Manager, Troy Sinykin was interviewed by Remodeling Magazine on how remodeling on reality TV sets unreal expectations for a real remodeling project.

You can read the full article here: http://www.remodeling.hw.net/business/reality-shows-distort-client-relationsheres-how-to-change-channels_o

To watch our ‘Bath Remodeling Not As Seen On TV’ Video, visit our Youtube page here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke2ekZwF-Fw&list=UUdiqBgdnL3Y-vWuCKtyP7UA

Remodeling Magazine

Castle Building & Remodeling and Natural Built Home Summer Father’s Day Sale. June 14th


Father’s Day Sale

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

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

In observance of Memorial Day, All three Castle showrooms will be closed, Saturday May 24th, Sunday May 25th, and Monday May 26th. We will open for regular operating hours on Tuesday May 27th.

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

Castle Building & Remodeling FREE Educational Class: Kitchen Remodeling on a Budget

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

Castle Visits Artistic Home in Minneapolis


Art-A-Whirl was this past weekend and was a fantastic opportunity to check out the local art scene Minneapolis has to offer. We recently visited this very cool artistic home, do you know where it is?

Save A Castle: Carter

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!

For more information on Carter visit our Save A Castle Facebook Page or Save A Castle

Dining Room

The dining room/kitchen area was dramatically transformed into a more open welcoming space. Perfect for entertaining, more cooking, and storage space.

The front entry was updated and received a fresh coat of paint and new flooring – making the space feel fresh and inviting.

The bathroom was re-tiled and updated.

Bedroom 2

Bedroom 3

The upstairs bedrooms were remodeled and will now be a beautiful space for the new homeowners to enjoy for years to come!

Castle Voted Minnesota Women’s Press Favorite… AGAIN!

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.


Limerick Contest Winners: Congratulations April and Patrick Vogel

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.”

Thanks to everyone who submitted limericks!

Castle Building & Remodeling Acquires Natural Built Home: Leading Retailer of Eco-Friendly Building Materials Showroom

Happy Earth Day!
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.


Castle Building & Remodeling’s Annual Limerick Contest – 2014

Spring time Elvis
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 lisab@castlebri.com 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

We look forward to all of your entries!

Sheridan Story


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.



Interest Rates

Helpful hints from Castle Building & Remodeling:
Interest rates although on the way up are still near all-time historic lows. Checkout our Save A Castle site for saved and remodeled houses!

Hops for Hunger, Sponsored by Financial One Credit Union

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 Assistances

Castle and the Color of the Year are a Match

2014 Color of the Year


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.

Let’s Talk Color

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 meagan@castlebri.com and she’ll post your answers next week!Courtney Walker Design

Yooper’s Big Day


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.

Glass Has Many Lives

feve_infographic_RGB_v10_LRGoing 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

What Women Want?


It’s Not too Late: Share your Favorites with Women’s Press Today!

Minnesota Women’s Press wants your recommendations! Castle invites you to participate in a short survey from the Minnesota Women’s Press. This interesting survey asks women to vote for their favorites in many categories. We’re hoping that you’ll share your favorites, including Castle Building & Remodeling as your favorite “Women-Friendly Home Remodeler” or write us in as your favorite “Women-Friendly Interior Designer.” We appreciate your continued support and for making Castle a Women’s Press favorite for the past four years.


If you vote by January 31 you could win a Women’s Press Girlfriends’ Getaway for you and up to 5 friends at Hawks View Cottages and Lodges overlooking the Mississippi River and their own vineyards in Fountain City, WI, just two hours south of the metro area

Please email Meagan@castlebri.com to let us know you voted for Castle and you will be entered to win a $100 gift card to Patina! But wait there’s more. Like us or tell us on Facebook by January 31 and you will be entered twice for the Patina gift card!

Once There Were Castles

The holiday season is quickly approaching. The gift that is on our minds is the book Once There Were Castles. In this book Larry Millet brings back to life the lost mansions of the Twin Cities. Once There Were Castles presents ninety lost mansions and estates, organized by neighborhood and illustrated with photographs and drawings. An absorbing read for Twin Cities residents and a crucial addition to the body of work on the region’s history, Once There Were Castles brings these “ghost mansions” back to life.

Once There Were Castles is a wonderful holiday gift that will be treasured for a lifetime. The books author Larry Millet has spoken several times at Castle Building & Remodeling’s show rooms. Larry is one of our favorite architectural historians in the region. This book is perfect for a history buff or someone that appreciates beautiful homes or is considering building a 45,000 square foot estate.

Come into any Castle Building & Remodeling show rooms and pick up a copy today for only $39.95 or search online for Once There Were Castles.

Castle Home Tour H9 Provides Insight on Custom Tile

By removing walls and making structural changes, the refrigerator, cooktop/oven, and sink could finally be in the same room! A wet bar was installed near the existing sink location, which is now part of the breakfast nook/mudroom. The two original doors to the dining room were kept in place allowing for the circular flow and traditional symmetry. The custom backsplash tiles above the cooktop influenced the color scheme. Meanwhile, flat panel cabinets from Ikea and Granite countertops were installed throughout. Finally, a powder room was added off the breakfast nook / mudroom.

H9: 3309 Aldrich Ave S
H9: 3309 Aldrich Ave S

This home features a beautiful custom back splash above the range with tile from Clay Squared. Two of the tiles were hand-painted to the homeowner’s request and make this space truly theirs.

H9: 3309 Aldrich Ave S
Custom tiled backsplash by Clay Squared

When you visit this home not only will you learn all about tile but you will also have the opportunity to win custom tile house numbers from Clay Squared. This is a great way to add a personal touch to the exterior of your home from a great local shop! Check out their website to see examples.


H8: 5408 Colfax Ave S

While this South Minneapolis home may be tiny on the outside, homeowners were hoping to make a big impact with their new kitchen without an addition. To alleviate the small and cramped feeling, a wall was removed to create an open layout between the kitchen and dining room. The homeowners also decided to use french doors leading to the backyard to allow for natural light and the feeling of the outdoors being inside. Aesthetically the new kitchen makes a statement by using bold red tile, paired with more classic hardware, cabinetry and countertops. In the end, the homeowners will have a more functional space they will enjoy for years.

Davenport Rendering

While you won’t be able to see all the cosmetic changes you will be able to see what it looks like when a Kitchen is mid-progress. The educational feature The Castle Process is a good way to learn about our warranties, process, and phases of a typical Kitchen remodel. You can also enter to win a new Progress Lighting Flush Mount Light provided by Castle Building & Remodeling.


When visiting this home you will also be able to explore the beautiful landscaping, completed by Field Outdoor Landscaping. This home was looking for fantastic curb appeal that could emphasize the sloped front yard in an appealing way. Talk to landscaping experts and get your landscaping project questions for the fall answered!

close up
Close up of front yard

H7: 4327 Abbot Ave S

This 1950 South Minneapolis rambler was ready to be opened up to create a more spacious dining experience. The original wall seperating a bedroom next to a closed off kitchen was removed, doubling the overall size and allowing for a shared
kitchen and dining room. A raised bar, cabinetry and range connect the new dining space to the kitchen allowing for entertainment and cooking to happen in one central location. To remain on budget, selections were made with a budget conscious mind. The end result is an affordable fabulous new kitchen to be enjoyed for years to come.

H7: 4327 Abbott Ave S
H7: 4327 Abbott Ave S


We know planning your remodel can be a huge burden – especially financially. When you visit H7 you will be able to learn more about the costs of typical kitchen remodeling costs and learn about alternative options to help save costs. We understand it can take years to both financially save up and plan your remodel so visit this house to help you through the process.

H7: 4327 Abbott Ave S
H7: 4327 Abbott Ave S


Visit this home for a chance to win some fabulous PartyLite products – with fall around the corner it’s a perfect time to add warmth to the home!


H6: 3843 Beard Ave S

Usually we buy houses in any condition, but this entire home needed a lot of attention, both inside and outside. In addition to plaster repairs, refinished flooring and painting in every room of the house, the kitchen was gutted and entirely remodeled. The old doorway between the kitchen and dining room was enlarged to become a spacious archway, visually connecting the kitchen to the main living areas of the main floor. Custom cabinetry, granite countertops, a glass tile backsplash and new applianses retain the charm of the home while bringing the overall look into the 21st Century.

H6: 2843 Beard Ave S
H6: 2843 Beard Ave S

When you visit this home you will have the opportunity to talk with the host not only about the home and it’s project but also the featured conversation about Choosing the Right Flooring for your home. There are so many options both aesthetically and financially so it can be hard to get the best of both worlds. Talk to us and learn about your options and how you can get the flooring of your dreams.

H6: 3843 Beard Ave S
H6: 3843 Beard Ave S


Finally, don’t forget to stop by this home to increase your chances to win a Piccolo Restaurant Gift Card provided by Mary Taylor / Alerus Mortgage [image coming soon!]

In the meantime visit our Home Tour website to see all the great projects on tour this year.

Basements: Maximizing Your Space

This 1953 rambler features a newly finished basement, which adds a family room, guest bedroom, future office area, a combined bathroom/laundry room and an unfinished storage space with built-in shelves. The family room and guest bedroom have egress windows to provide natural light and the new walls, insulation and fireplace in the family room will make this a cozy space to relax. The new 3/4 bath features glass tile accents and a recessed niche in the walk-in shower, heated tile floor, white custom cabinets and a built-in laundry area. Thick carpet was installed on the stairway and throughout the family room and guest bedroom.

H5: 1713 36th Ave NE
H5: 1713 36th Ave NE

This home will give you the opportunity to discuss all of your options for your under utilized basement. Guest bedroom, laundry room, family room, office, bathroom, man cave, craft room, and more! The options are truly endless in your options. While visiting this home you will also have the opportunity to win a new Kohler Faucet in Polished Nickel with Porcelain Handles provided by Castle Building & Remodeling.

Kohler Faucet in Polished Nickel with Porcelain Handles
Kohler Faucet in Polished Nickel with Porcelain Handles

See more homes on the Home Tour website today!

Home Tour Announces 4th House and Prize

Bath Rendering
Bath Rendering
Kitchen Rendering
Kitchen Rendering


With thoughts of today’s technology in mind, this Northeast Minneapolis home was planned thoroughly through the help of Castle and social media outlets such as Pinterest and Kohler. Hoping to gain more storage and work space in this kitchen, Castle created a plan that added cabinetry, opened walls and created an overall better workflow. Meanwhile the bathroom received a full upgrade – with Kohler’s latest VibrAcoustic technology this bathroom has been transformed from end of the hall powder room to a full on spa experience.

Come see this home and enter for your chance to win the Kohler Moxie Showerhead, which is on display at H23!

See the Vibracoustic in action at H4


Kohler Moxie Shower Head
Kohler Moxie Shower Head


H3: Northeast Home Receives Major Facelift

Owners of this 1-1/2 Story Tudor in Northeast Minneapolis loved their home but were ready to make some changes to make it feel more like their own. While the plans were
drawn up by an architect, the design and execution was done by Castle. To start, the homeowners were looking ot update their kitchen and turn their old garage into a large family room. The extended space on the main level creates more living space, making the home feel more spacious. With the addition, the half story also receives many changes with the master bedroom being turned into a suite, as well as adding an office and 3/4 bath.

Rendering of the new addition on H4
Rendering of the new addition on H4

Putting on an addition takes a lot of planning so you may wonder who is the best person to hire? This home will discuss the difference between hiring an Architect versus a Design Build Firm, and help you determine which is the better option for your project. Another key talking point will be the importance of choosing the right doors and windows for your home. Representatives from Kolbe Windows and Doors will be there to talk about all your options and answer any questions you may have.

H4 The exterior before the addition was added on.
The exterior before the addition was added on.

While the project is still underway you will have the opportunity to not only learn about planning your addition but you will also have the opportunity to win a gift card to Hazel’s Restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis.


Hazel's Gift Card
Hazel’s Gift Card

Castle Home Tour House H2

This Northeast Minneapolis home is no stranger to Castle. With work starting in the basement, Castle has now helped these homeowners remodel on almost every floor. The kitchen was most recently completed in 2010. While the overall layout remained the same, new features include new bench seating, new Adler cabinetry and new Cambria Quartz countertops. This year we completely regutted the main floor bathroom and have plans to complete the 2nd floor bathroom in the near future. In conjunction with Castle, the owners have created a great remodeling timeline for themselves so they could accomplish all of their remodeling needs in both a timely and cost-effective manner.

H2: 1033 36th Ave NE

This is a great house to visit if you have interest in learning more about stretching out your remodeling projects. With the knowledge of wanting to remodel multiple spaces but not wanting to pay for it all at once can be overwhelming. Talking with us about which order is best to do your projects and finding the right budget to manage your projects over the years.

Another great thing about this house is your extra chance to win a Gift Basket provided by Financial One:

Gift basket by Financial One

Gift basket by Financial One

See more Home Tour houses: www.castlehometour.com

H1: Beautiful Golden Valley Kitchen

Owners of this Golden Valley home desired a more functional kitchen, reminiscent of the arts and crafts style. Major changes were done with the help of Designer Amy Hinck including removing a peninsula to create a free standing island,  Floform designed new custom cabinetry, new tiled flooring, and new windows were installed. The refrigerator was relocated to abate the bottle neck/lack of work space with a large pantry next to it for ease with roll outs and adjustable shelves. Great skill was used behind the scenes in dealing with an out of level floor, pipes, the very intricate cabinetry, not to mention HVAC discovered in the soffits that needed to be moved. Come visit this home to learn more about all the changes that happened and to see the beautiful space for yourself! Plus we will have Before photos and Design plans so you can see everything that went into making this beautiful Golden Valley Kitchen.

H1: 1292 Castle Ct
H1: 1292 Castle Ct


When you visit this home you will have the chance to learn all about What Is A Professional Remodeler exactly. With insight on how to tell the difference between professional and amateur as well as a host who knows the Design Process like the back of her hand, this home will be a great stop if you are looking to get more information about remodelers in general before deciding to hire.



H1: 1292 Castle Ct
H1: 1292 Castle Ct




Castle Building & Remodeling Announces First Castle Educational Home Tour

Castle Building & Remodeling is pleased to announce they will be hosting their first one of a kind Educational Home Tour. This 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 will consist of 24 projects completed by Castle Building & Remodeling and will not only demonstration the workmanship and craftsmanship of Castle but will also highlight educational topics and frequently asked questions when it comes to remodeling.

Learn more about the Castle Home Tour on our website: www.castlehometour.com

Cheri Talks Implementation and Completion

Well folks, today is our last Designer of the Month post for the month of August. This month Cheri will reveal the final outcome as she wraps up talking about the design process through a St. Croix home.

C: Design Process Phase III: Implementation

Usually the implementation phase goes without a hitch. In this project, however, there was a bump in the road: the main beam had no secondary support; that is, the span was too long for the size of the beam. After many discussions with a structural engineer, a post was in order but where to put it? During design development, we had considered a bar. Adding one to hide the support was a good option but we needed to think if the bar should be perpendicular or parallel to the island.

Sketch of bar parallel to island
Sketch of bar parallel to island


bar perpendicular to island
bar perpendicular to island


Bar parallel to island
Bar parallel to island

Design Process Phase IV: Completion

Bringing it all together, of course, is the best part of the design process. All the hard work and the countless hours paid off.

After 1 After 2 After 3 After 4 After 5

I’m excited to be the newest designer at Castle. With my 20+ years of design and their 35+ years of business, I know we’re a good fit. I look forward to going through the design process with you. If it’s a large project or a small one, the process remains constant.

Next month is going to be a very exciting month for Castle, stay tuned as we reveal a huge event on Sunday September 1!

In the meantime if you have a question for our designers, project managers or field guys, email hannah@castlebri.com and she will post the answers on Facebook on Tuesdays!!

Castle Named Number 89 on Remodeling 550 List

Every year Remodeling Magazine publishes a list of the top 550 remodeling companies in the country. With categories including: Full Service Remodeling, Replacement Contractors,  Franchises, and Insurance Restoration it’s a tough competition across the board for all applicants. The added weight of it being a national list only makes the competition that more fierce. This year Castle was fortunate to come in as number 89 out of 300 in our respective category, Full Service Remodeling. This is a huge honor for Castle and we could not have done it without you!

We encourage you to pick up your copy of Remodeling Magazine today or check out the digital version today: http://mydigimag.rrd.com/publication/?i=170662

Selections: General versus Specific

Hey Castle friends!

Only two weeks left in the month of August which means we are starting to wrap up this month’s Designer of the Month posts. Let’s not waste any time and let Cheri take the floor as she reveals which schematic was chosen for the beautiful home on the St. Croix river…

Since remodeling is a huge investment, both in terms of time and money, it’s rare that a client picks a schematic without any changes. For this project, there was quite a bit of design development.  In fact, we considered at least a couple of options for each schematic. If you’re doing the math, that’s six different plans we looked at.  It can take quite a while to land on the best design–that is, the one that best fits the clients’ needs and wants as well as what’s appropriate for the space. For this project, Schematic 3 Option 2 was the most promising plan.

Once the plan is finalized, other drawings like the lighting and electrical plan are necessary. This is the next layer of detail that is considered. It is here that I have clients figure out where things are going to get stored and accessories are added to customize their kitchen. Next, finish selection begins. For finish selection, it can be broken down into two major categories: general finish selection and specific finish selection.

General finish selection:  For general finish selection, I generate ideas on what will work with not just the finalized plan but the concept as well. For example, to create mass, I presented the idea of a darker stained island juxtaposed with a lighter perimeter; to keep with the concept of grand and graceful, the details on the cabinetry needed to be simple but elegant; to keep the space crisp and pure, the lighting should be transitional. Once again, I needed to follow my map and all design decisions needed to relate to the concept.

Specific finish selection:  At this point, the finish selection becomes more detailed. I have clients consider different sinks, for example, under mount vs. drop in, stainless steel vs. cast iron, knob or pull, and so on. All details must be considered, no matter how minute. For instance, it’s not enough to think about the color of the stain, we also have to consider the value of the stain. Moreover, every decision must relate to the concept.

It takes a lot of time to get to through this phase. It goes without saying that the more thought that is put in here, the smoother the implementation phase will be.


Sketch of Schematic 3 Option
Sketch of Schematic 3 Option
Schematic 3 Option 2
Schematic 3 Option 2


Stay tuned as we reveal the final results next week!!

In the meantime if you have a question for our designers, project managers or field guys, email hannah@castlebri.com and she will post the answers on Facebook on Tuesdays!!


Cheri’s Design Process Phase 1

Hello Castle Friends!

We hope your August is shaping out to be all you had hoped. How many of you have plans to go to the State Fair and Renaissance Festival in the coming weeks before we say goodbye to this shorter than usual Minnesota summer? While Castle may not be serving up anything on a stick today we do have a little more from Designer of the Month, Cheri Saari! This month she is highlighting the process of designing one of her favorite spaces located on the St. Croix river.

Take it away Cheri…

My first impression of the space was that I felt like I was in a tree house. Being there was oddly comforting and peaceful. I had a sudden flash back to when I was a kid and I would climb the tree in our backyard to escape my older brothers. The deck of the house protruded over the embankment. The view was breathtaking. You could see the river below and sometimes eagles flying above. I couldn’t help but go to the edge of the deck and spit, just to see how long it took for my spit to hit the ground. Being so high above ground was exhilarating. This instantly became my design concept—and design dilemma: How do I make the space simultaneously calming and exciting. I thought about how to execute that concept for quite a while. With any problem, in order to solve it, one needs to break it down and analyze the intentions and strategies.

In design, the intentions are the why.  They are the concept, or the character, of the space. That is, how do you want people to feel when they’re in the space? A church, for example, has a much different design concept than a dentist office. The strategies are the how. More accurately, they are the principles and elements of design. For designers, the P&E as they’re known are our tools to manipulate and mold in order to achieve a concept. If you were to think of writers, we all know they use vocabulary and sentence structure to write their stories.  For designers, the elements are the vocabulary, the principles are the sentences, and the concept is the story. Together, the intentions and strategies create a map that leads the designer throughout the process.

Design Process Phase I: Concept, principles, and elements

The overall character of the space was relatively easy to define. The concept, however, was not complete. I needed to expand on the two-word description. For example, what will the degree of formality be? Will it be casual or formal, or will it be somewhere in between? What will the relative history be? Will it be traditional or contemporary, or will it be somewhere in between? After I had a clear vision of the concept of the space (the intentions), I needed to define the P&E (the strategies).

Calming + Exciting


  • Proportion and scale—similar, consistent (soothing, relaxing) + grand (energizing, stirring)
  • Rhythm—gradual + repetitive
  • Emphasis—understated + accentuated
  • Balance—symmetrical + asymmetrical
  • Unity and variety—consistent, complete + distinct


  • Space—organized, distinct + open
  • Line—straight, horizontal, uniform + graceful, dynamic, curvy
  • Shape and form—geometric, pure, simple, solid + varied, dominant
  • Texture—smooth, even + crisp
  • Pattern—expected, uncomplicated + intricate, detailed
  • Color and light—limited, warm + vivid, bright, contrasting value

Design Process Phase II: Preliminary design and design development

Once the concept was defined, I started schematic design. In this phase, I give clients a good overview of what’s possible in their kitchens and in their space. I look at it from strictly a function point of view. Since I love to cook, I imagine how I would cook in the kitchen and use the space. It’s up to the clients to tell me how they would actually use the space. Typically, people like certain areas of the different plans I present. I incorporate all of their wants and needs into a final plan, as well as tying it in with the concept developed in the first phase. It’s also up to me to keep clients focused. Good design is finding the balance between prioritizing and compromising. On top of it all, I need to address budget. It doesn’t matter how great a design is, if it’s over budget it won’t come to fruition.

For this project, I came up with three different preliminary designs. Even though I didn’t particularly like Schematics 1 and 2 because they didn’t capitalize on the view of the river, I still gave them as an option because I’m not the one living there. I needed to show my clients what happens to the space with the kitchen at the front of the house.

Schematic 1
Schematic 1
Schematic 2
Schematic 2
Schematic 3
Schematic 3
Schematic 3 Option 2
Schematic 3 Option 2

Stay tuned as we touch base with Cheri again later to see which schematic comes to life in this beautiful St. Croix and the beautiful after images!

In the meantime if you have a question for our designers, project managers or field guys, email hannah@castlebri.com and she will post the answers on Facebook on Tuesdays!!

Castle Welcomes New Designer Cheri Saari

Hey Castle Friends!

Wow! Where has time gone? Can you believe it is already August? It’s surprising how fast the year can pass… Hopefully you have been able to enjoy the beautiful Minnesota weather we have been having lately, or at least get out and enjoy a little bit of it while you can because winter will come around sooner than we’d like. But before we start pulling out those gloves and hats we have a few things that will warm your spirits. We are excited to welcome Cheri Saari to the Castle family as our newest Designer and appropriately this month’s Designer of the Month. We will also give a shout out this month to Field Outdoor Spaces who recently just finished phase one of our new courtyard at our Northeast Headquarters, and of course invite a Project Manager and a few others from around the office to stop in and say hello. We are going to do this month’s post a little different… first an introduction then Cheri takes over in the driver’s seat for today’s DOM post:

Cheri Saari is an interior designer with more than 20 years of experience. She earned a B.S. with high distinction from the University of Minnesota in interior design and has recently taught design there for eight years.

Cheri has offered design services for residential and small commercial design projects that ranged from design only to large additions and complete remodels. Besides design, her skills include budget planning and implementation, project management, space and lighting plans, drawings, sketching and hand rendering. Cheri especially enjoys kitchen remodeling because she cooks, sometimes alone, sometimes with her husband, and sometimes with her two children–but always with pleasure. And that personal experience has given her a clear, first-hand knowledge of what makes a kitchen design work—or not work.

Cheri’s design philosophy starts with listening carefully to clients, pairing their needs and wants with creative design elements and a practical outlook. She provides detailed visualization of how designs can transform a space, and takes clients through the entire project, from the design to reality and the many details of the finishing touches.

Alright Cheri, take it away!

Hello! Let me introduce myself. My name is Cheri Saari. I’m the newest designer at Castle Remodeling. Newest is deceiving because it implies the youngest. I’m not the youngest. In fact, I’m skewing the average age (which is 34 years, by the way). From the looks of it, Castle could use some maturity (just kidding!). I could give you a list of my favorite design trends, my biggest pet peeves, and so on but given how that might be somewhat dry (and, let’s be honest, do you really care what agitates me?), it will be much more interesting if I were to highlight the design process, using one of my favorite projects.

This house is situated high above the St. Croix River. Because of its location, it’s used for large family gatherings each summer. The existing kitchen was sandwiched between the dining room and breakfast nook, with limited visual access to the river. The dining room and living room had the best view of the river. Typically, a dining room is infrequently used relative to other spaces in the house, and used in the evening when you can’t see the river anyway.  It didn’t make sense to allocate the spectacular view to that room.  Additionally, the main floor bathroom was off of the owner’s suite and wasn’t easily accessible for guests. I thought it was obvious that the kitchen needed to be relocated to take full advantage of the impressive view and a powder room needed to be added so that privacy could be maintained in the owner’s suite. Getting the clients to this point, however, took some patience. They weren’t convinced they wanted to move the kitchen to the back of the house, even though they agreed  the view should be expanded on . However, they were sold immediately on the idea of adding another bathroom, but they were concerned about limiting the owner’s suite closet storage.  We needed to prioritize: maximize the view of the river, maintain storage in the owner’s suite, open up the space for the large family gathering, while still keeping the space comfortable.

Before plan                                 Before powder plan

Before 4 Before 3 Before 2



Stay tuned for more through the coming week as we prepare for August!

In the meantime if you have a question for our designers, project managers or field guys, email hannah@castlebri.com and she will post the answers on Facebook on Tuesdays!!


Alyssa’s Dream Home, Disgruntled Trends, and Her Favorite On Screen Interior

Hey Castle Friends! We have got just one full week left in July and then we are on to August! Can you  believe that summer is coming to a close so soon? We have one more post remaining from Designer of Alyssa, Atelier Lane (HK).

Alyssa last time we spoke you talked briefly about some of your favorite trends. What are some of your least favorite trends happening right now?

A: Dual height kitchen counters! I’d much rather have the larger work space. I don’t see any logic in sitting on a higher stool to eat at a higher counter  and dividing up precious prep area on the counter.

Why???? Pretty kitchen but the upper counter space is wasted a majority of the time.

Much better!

While the different levels could add dynamic, I can also see your point why the varying levels could take away from precious counter space – especially when you don’t have a lot of space. Do you have any tips for potential homeowners as they plan a remodel?

A: HGTV shows are fun to watch, but their timelines for finishing projects are unrealistic for professional remodeling.

Pull inspiration from things around your house. If you have a 4×6 picture you love from your Europe trip, blow it up and frame it. If you have an old trunk from your great grandma, incorporate it into the space. Instead of designing a generic room that anyone could live in, put a little of your personality in it! It’s YOUR home, not a display in a furniture store.

Get inspired on Pinterest!

Continuing the thought of tips for potential homeowners, how would you encourage them to make a space feel bigger than it really is shall the idea of expanding a space not be an option?

A: Simple! I have one word for you…DE-CLUTTER! Simplicity will make a room feel large and spacious. “Stuff” everywhere will make the room claustrophobic.

Cluttered craft room:


De-cluttered craft room (similar sized room):

Wow! Visually it makes such a difference, but I’m sure for some it is easier said than done. What about in your personal life…What does your bedroom say about you?

My bedroom is a sunroom. I can’t live without natural light! Any day is a good day if sunlight is streaming in. It gives me motivation to get up and get outside rather than let the day waste away.

That is pretty important, especially since most of our months are winter and we may not always have sunny days. Looking to the future, what would your dream home be if money wasn’t an issue?

I’ve given this one a lot of thought. There are so many possibilities I probably need 20 houses to get all of my ideas built! If there’s one thing I love, its exposed structure! Why cover everything with drywall when the natural materials are so stunning? Large windows is also a must in every room!

Don’t get overwhelmed with selections. There are thousands of products out there. Instead of sitting with 20 color swatches you like, grab 3 you like. It makes it much easier to narrow it down to your favorite.

Last question before we go, what are some of your favorite interiors on screen (in movies, plays, TV shows?)

A: I hate to admit I’ve seen Twilight..…buuuuuuut the Cullen house is pretty spectacular!


Stay tuned for more tips and trends through the coming week as we prepare for August as we greet new Castle Designer Cheri Saari, August’s Designer of the Month!

In the meantime if you have a question for our designers, project managers or field guys, email hannah@castlebri.com and she will post the answers on Facebook on Tuesdays!!

Meet Project Manager, Bill Braniff

Hi everyone! We are well underway in our second week of July and officially more than half way through 2013! It’s crazy to think how fast this year has flown by. In January we started a new initiative where we interviewed one Designer for a whole month. This new idea was brought to life so we could conquer two things: one is to allow the general public gets to know our staff a little better and the other reason is to provide a more personal insight on various topics within the industry. This month we have decided to expand this idea to include not just our Designers, but also our Project Managers, Field Guys, and Office Team. Hopefully with such a broad scope of input you will get the most information in one place.

So without further ado, let us introduce one of our Project Managers… Bill Braniff!

Bill brings to Castle over 15 years of experience in the construction industry as a framing carpenter, lead remodeling carpenter, and in various roles of construction management.

Bill, why don’t you tell us a little more about yourself?

B: I’ve worked for Castle for about eight years now, first as a carpenter, and then as a project manager. My kids keep me busy with all of their activities and surprises, as does my 1940’s south Minneapolis home. Backpacking and woodworking are interests of mine, so it only seems natural that an upcoming project be building a woodstrip canoe.

Why did you get into remodeling, Bill?

B: I spent quite a few years framing new houses in the suburbs, but there’s a maintenance aspect of remodeling older homes in the city that is satisfying.

It seems like your experience and natural talent make you a perfect fit for the job. Can you tell me more about life day-to-day as a Project Manager? How many projects are you currently working on?

B: Currently, I have four projects in production, with two more finishing up, and a handful in warranty or additional scope of work. Many are kitchens, but also a basement and an exterior remodel.

What design type of projects are they? Complete Remodel vs. Makeover?

B: Most of the projects include structural modifications, so we go backwards quite a ways with demo before we start moving forward again.

Those types of projects must take more time versus other more makeover based projects.

B: 8-10 weeks is pretty typical for the current projects. Bigger projects that include adding on to the foundation or a dormer addition will take longer, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

That seems to make sense, the more difficulty a project the more time to plan and execute. When working with a client, no matter the size of the project, what tips do you share with them as they plan their remodeling project?

B: Daily production can seem pretty dramatic some days, and others not so much, so it’s good to keep the big picture in mind, and after project completion, hopefully consider it time and money well-spent, and enjoy the new space.

I love it when my client considers their finished project better than they anticipated. Drawings and samples are one thing, but experiencing all of those elements brought together in their home successfully is satisfying for client and builder alike.

Stay tuned as we talk about budgeting for your remodeling and kitchen and ½ story remodeling trends later this week.

In the meantime if you have a question for our designers, project managers or field guys, email hannah@castlebri.com and she will post the answers on Facebook on Tuesdays!!

Recent Grad and Castle’s New Design Assistant, Meet Alyssa Oleinik

Hey Castle Friends!

While things have been hot and heavy in the field, we’ve been a little quite lately here in the digital world. With so much going on we will have plenty to post and talk about through the month of July. This month you can look forward to posts from Designer of the Month, Alyssa Oleinik, Project Managers Noah Martin and Bill Braniff, and Field Guys Dave Ross and Jeremy Wiles. Everyone has plenty of going on and will provide great insight in the remodeling world. This month is also Celebrate Your Independents! This is a fantastic initiative started by the Metro Independent Business Alliance [MetroIBA] that promotes shopping local to help build our community and economics through local initiatives. Castle will be offering 50% off all Design Packages through July 31. [Does not apply to projects in progress or recently signed]

Without further ado, let’s introduce our Designer of the Month Alyssa Oleinik!

Alyssa graduated this May with her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. She studied abroad in Spring 2012 in Oaxaca, Mexico and came to appreciate the contrast in architectural style when comparing the courtyard buildings there to the high rises in the Twin Cities. Alyssa grew up in a family that enjoys flipping houses, and was drawing floor plans in chalk on her grandmother’€™s driveway by age five. Alyssa loves skiing, hiking, camping, and anything that will give a rush of adrenaline such as skydiving, white water rafting, and zip lining. She has traveled to Europe and Central America, and foresees plenty of adventure in her future!

So Alyssa, as the Design Assistant here at Castle what types of projects are you working on?

A: I’m working several projects this month. Since I assist all of the designers I get to work on all types of projects. I’m currently helping out with bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens, basements, and a couple additions; and nearly all of them involve completely gutting the space and starting from scratch.

Wow that’s a lot of projects. It is the benefit of being the assistant though, you get to have your hands in so many projects and learn from all the various experiences. This will really help make an impact on your career as you grow. Tell me, what are some of your current favorite design trends?

A: I love all of the new storage innovations I’ve seen lately! Here are 5 of my top favorites

I love how a privacy wall can be a storage wall!  #storage #bathroom // Makeup counter. End of cabinet storage for keys, sunglasses, etc Ventilated drawer to store non-refrigerated foods (tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, onions) new kitchen idea/I love this Idea. wine wall... what a useful way to use the awkward support wall!


Oh wow, those are great solutions. I especially love the hidden wine rack. What a great idea! Keeping with the trends theme, what about color? Any favorites or trends that stand out here? Words of advice?

A: Yellow has been my favorite color for most of my life. BUT.. be careful when you are using it in your home so it’s not overwhelming!

Here is a good example of yellow as the main color, and as well as an accent color:

Yellow Room traditional living roomBreakfast Nook


Here are some rather garish examples:

Bright Yellow Living Room...refreshing yellow kitchen  too  bright yellow for me!


Stay tuned as we touch base with Alyssa later this month to talk more. We will also sit down with Bill and Noah, two of our esteemed Project Managers, and Dave and Jeremy, two of our experienced Field Guys.

In the meantime if you have a question for our designers, project managers or field guys, email hannah@castlebri.com and she will post the answers on Facebook on Tuesdays!!



Thoughts from Home Designer Mark Benzell…

“I love it when my client has a clear sense of what their space and functional needs are, but there’s not necessarily an obvious solution to the problem.  I get a lot of satisfaction out of solving difficult design challenges.”

“Designing in an existing space is like taking an eraser to a chalk board and starting with a clean slate.  However, sometimes, you need to leave the important parts right where they are; so, it’s important to ‘read’ the space before wiping the board clean.”

The new configuration of this kitchen expanded the overall size, providing a more open kitchen plan with vastly improved functionality.


Stay tuned next week for a surprise guest post and more tips and trends. Do you have a remodeling question? Not sure what to do about your small handyman to do list?

Email your questions to hannah@castlebri.com and she’ll post your answers next week!


Mark Benzell: 35 Years in the Remodeling Industry and Still Loving It

Hello Castle Friends!

It is officially busy busy season in the remodeling world and Castle is busier than ever. Next week we will be posting pictures of our first Save A Castle so stay tuned for that! In the meantime, let’s introduce this month’s Designer of the Month, Mark Benzell.

Mark started remodeling homes in 1978 (about the same time he discovered Tab soda) and operated his own design/build firm for 25 years. He has been a long time member of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and served on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Chapter of NARI from 1991-2007.

In 1992, Mark’s company was chosen by Remodeling Magazine as one of their ‘Big 50’ contractors of the year. As President of the Minnesota Chapter in 1994, Mark was honored with the Industry Leader of the Year Award. Mark also served for seven years on the NARI National Board of Directors. In December of 2007, Mark was named as a founding Director for Minnesota GreenStar and served as the Minnesota GreenStar Treasurer and Operations Manager through the end of 2011. Mark’s current focus has been on Architectural Design and Sales with Castle Building & Remodeling since March 2010. While not working Mark likes to play poker and drink Tab soda.

Here is what Mark has to say about how his month is going so far:

M: Spring is always a busy time of year for residential remodeling designers.  Especially after a long, cold winter (sound familiar?).  There’s a sense of renewal in the air.  You can finally open the windows and let the fresh air into the house.  The trees have leaves and the birds are chirping, and everyone wants to get serious about the projects and improvements they’ve been thinking about for the last six months.

What kind of projects seem to be popular during this busy remodeling season?

M: We’re still seeing a lot of kitchen and bath remodels, but basement refinishing and attic build-outs have been a strong trend as well.  Even with the slowly reviving economy, folks are still a bit hesitant about expanding the footprint of their homes.  In many ways, this makes a lot of sense.  Work within the existing footprint of your home and get as much use as possible out of the space you have.  In almost all cases, the cost per square foot to remodel your basement, and even to remodel and expand your attic is much less than a new addition.

Mark, what have you been working on lately?

M: I’m working on a lot of attic build-outs that require a very creative approach to roof lines and structural considerations in order to maximize usable space meet some of today’s more stringent building codes and look like natural extensions of your home.  The ultimate goal is a functional, attractive remodel that looks like it could have always been part of the house.

In addition, attic remodels give me the opportunity to find creative and unique ways to utilize odd little nooks and crannies, or do built-in bookshelves and dressers in knee walls.  Even after 35 years of residential design, I still find it challenging and fun to start with a cramped, dark and unwelcoming attic and turn it into a spacious, well lit and comfortable space that will be enjoyed for many years to come.

Do you have a question for Mark? Send your questions to Hannah@castlebri.com

Later this month: We will be posting images of our first Save A Castle home, more from Mark, and an event announcement you won’t want to miss!

How to Avoid Basement Flooding & Pump Water Out of Basement



Living in a large city that is surrounded by moisture (think about all those lakes, and don’t forget all the snow and rain we get) means that the municipal storm and drain sewers can become overloaded with flood drains or basement sink drains back flowing because of the large amount of water in the storm sewers. This can be fixed one of two ways:

  1. Have a check valve installed between your house’s drainage system and the municipal sewer system. A check valve I s a plumbing fixture that allows water to only flow in one direction. Installing a check valve will allow water from your house to drain into the sewer, but prevent any sewer water from back flowing into your house. While expensive, this solution usually works very well. However a plumber and some expensive digging are required.
  2. A stand pipe in all basement floor drains is another option. This pipe, usually about 1 ½’ long, stands above the floor level and any back flowing water rises up into the pipe and not onto your basement floor. The law of physics is applied here; the pressure of the water flowing back into your basement can be easily countered by the pressure of the water “standing” in the standpipe.



Sump Pumps

A common mistake about sump pumps is that they are thought to prevent water from entering their basement through the walls during a heavy rain. Sump pumps are actually designed to work with the water table beneath your home.


A water table is the level where water exists when digging straight down underneath your home. When it rains, the water table rises and when the water table rises higher than the floor of your basement water can then seep in between the basement slab and the foundation wall.


Areas with high water tables have homes with a built in “drain tile” system in the house’s foundation. This is a system of perforated pipes that run parallel to the bottom of the house’s foundation and drain into a pit located in the basement floor (the sump). The switch turns on the sump pump when the water level in the sump pit rises. This will then pump the water out of the pit and into a pipe which ejects the drainage water out of the house.



Flooding vs Seepage

A flooding basement is when there is standing water in the basement to a level of 6” or more. Basement flooding usually occurs when there is general flooding. This can include a nearby river or lake that has overflowed its banks, causing standing water to collect above the house foundation grade outside the house. The only way to avoid this is to raise the entire grade level of the house, which is not normally possible.


Seepage is when your basement floor gets some rivulets of water, usually no deeper than ½ to 1” deep, which soaks and ruins the carpet in the finished portion of a basement. Small cracks in the concrete foundation walls or when the brick, CMU or stone foundation leaks will usually lead to seepage. I hired microtopping to help repair the foundation.



How to Avoid Basement Flooding:

  1. Ensure your gutters and downspouts are in good condition. Make sure they are at least 6’ – 12’ away from the home. When purchasing downspout sections, avoid cheap plastic and buy the metal ones. They will last longer and do not leak. If you don’t have room to extend, underground PVC drain pipes can be installed. They will be equipped with “pop-up” drains at their ends, which will allow water to empty away from the house.
  2. If you are experiencing humidity, invest in a quality de-humidifier (60-70 pints per day capacity or better) and run it 24/7 during the humid months. A basement will always have moisture because it is underground, but a dehumidifier will prevent any damaging moisture to collect in the foundation on the basement slab. It will also keep your air conditioning bill down.
  3. In a finished basement make sure to have a 10 mil plastic vapor barrier between the carpet/hardwood and the concrete slab. Should your basement flood or have seepage and there is no barrier, mold will form and cause the floors to buckle and you will have to replace everything.
  4. Make sure your drywall walls are installed properly. The bottom of the drywall should be at least 1” space above the concrete floor. The gap prevents water from wicking up the drywall.
  5. If you have a sump pump, make sure it is equipped with 102 volt UPS batter backup power supply. It is important to ensure the sump pump keeps working during a storm even with a power outage. You may also want to consider a 2nd pump; which are placed 6-8” higher and provide extra drainage flow. Invest in your sump pump, and it will ensure last for years to come.

Here is some other resources on how to protect your basement from flooding.



What to Do When You Have Basement Water:

  1. Disconnect the main electrical switch to prevent electrocution should there be any wires under water level. If you are unsure of the safety, stay out!
  2. Get your basement dry as soon as possible. Suck up as much water with a Wet-Dry vacuum and run extra de-humidifiers. Try to get the house as a whole as dry as possible as fast as possible. The quicker you dry the basement; the likelihood of mold formation is lowered.
  3. Take off all baseboards and drills 1” holes halfway between the wall studs at the base of the walls, this will allow moist air to be dried as the de-humidifiers suck out the humidity.
  4. If you see mold – call a professional in water damage repair and removal and ask how to remedy the situation. The sooner the situation is evaluated the sooner you can fix it; hopefully minimizing costs. Ask what the recommended solution for cleaning the space and killing the mold is. Do not handle this on your own. Learn Facts about Molds here.
  5. Once your home is dry and you have taken care of any mold, should that be the situation, you should call in a certified home inspector. They will give you a mold clearance test and ensure that mold spores are not present in the air. If water sat in your home for a long period of time, call a certified industrial hygienist to evaluate and prepare a clean-up plan.


Water pumpPhoto 1: Example of water pump


Check out this useful video on How to Use the Pump Machine.

*Castle is not recommending any pump machine. The video is meant for education purposes only.

Care and Maintenance of your Stucco Home

What is Stucco?

Stucco is a very durable finish material with a typical life span of 50 – 80 years or more. Although it is one of the most durable surfaces available, it also features the lowest annual maintenance cost when compared to other siding materials.



Photo: Stucco

Sources: https://pixabay.com/en/abandoned-abstract-aged-aging-1550547/



Stucco is a natural material consisting of an aggregate, a binder, and water. It is applied wet and hardens when it dries. For centuries it has been used as a coating for walls and ceilings and for decoration. Stucco may also be used to cover less usually appealing construction materials such as concrete, cinder block, clay brick and adobe.


Modern day stucco is made of Portland cement and water. Lime is often added to decrease the permeability and increase the workability of modern stucco. Sometimes additives such as acrylics and glass fibers are added to improve the structural properties of the plaster as well as its workability. This usually done with what is considered a “one coat” stucco system (As opposed to the traditional 3 coat method). According to posts on sites like https://windowrepairphoenix.com/glass-shower-doors/ the industry is undergoing a shift in manufacturing techniques, this is driving new product and new types of clients. Stucco usually consists of one layer of wire lath and two layers of Portland cement-based plaster. However, cement’s crystalline structure cannot accommodate significant movements in the building structure (as lime does) and is thus prone to cracking. This is why an additional acrylic finish on top is often applied – it adds flexibility for surface movements.


Re-dash, Never Paint Stucco

The reason most homeowners paint their stucco is because the typical cost of re-stuccoing (re-dashing) is more than just hiring a painter to paint over the existing stucco. Although seemingly less expensive upfront, painting stucco causes significantly higher long-term maintenance costs and may even damage your home. Paint is a sealing agent and will seal all the pores, which consequently seals moisture inside of your home. Your home is not able to breathe and mold can grow between the layers of your home.


This excess moisture will cause the paint layer to peel and crack. On a stucco surface, because of the trapped moisture, paint starts decaying more quickly than on a traditional surface. The correct repair is to hire a sandblasting contractor to remove the existing paint and then to re-stucco the surface properly. The existing paint needs to be removed because the paint layer will prohibit bonding of a new stucco coat. Current methods of re-dashing provide a product that lasts decades and far longer than any paint job.


Re-dash consists of a single layer of the Portland cement, with colorant applied to cover and freshen the surface. Repairs are made to cracks and minor imperfections in the surface and then the new coat is applied. This will provide a new look and keep with the integrity of the existing finish. If a new texture is required, a thicker coat is required, and can add additional expense.


Stucco Cracks

It is the nature of stucco to experience some cracking. These small cracks are normal and do not require any maintenance or repair. If a crack exceeds 1/8 of an inch in width then the crack should be repaired. Repairing stucco cracks is completed by adding a small amount of stucco to the crack. Do not put caulk into the crack. If you experience a crack wider than 1/8 of an inch please contact your contractor so the proper resolution can be determined. Typically a larger crack can be broken back and patched or an expansion joint can be added.



Yearly Inspection and Cleaning of Stucco

Stucco should be inspected annually for holes, significant cracks, or separations. If stucco repairs are needed, it is important to have the repairs completed in a timely fashion to prevent damage to your home.


A mild cleaner and water can be used to remove most stains. Pre-wetting the surface will overcome some absorption of dirty wash water from being absorbed back into the dull finish. Use of a garden hose and a jet nozzle in combination with a mild cleaner will clean effectively. Do not hold the nozzle to close to the surface because the high pressure may erode some of the finish. Pressure washers are not recommended because they will erode the finish and can cause damage.


Stucco Coloration

Stucco comes in an infinite number of colors. These colors are made by placing an additive into the cement mixture prior to application. The color is throughout the layer will not fade like a painted finish. The full curing time for stucco is typically several years. During this time you will notice several color changes from dark to light, and then back to dark as the finish sets and the excess moisture evaporates.


For more information about decorative items, water & sprinkler systems, and windows, doors and other penetrations in relation to your stucco maintenance please read this article: Stucco Care.


If you’re looking to clean stucco, check out this How to Clean Stucco website.


For other handy man tips and home care please visit our website.



Old Home, Modern Design

Hello Castle Friends!

We are back with designer Katie Jaydan, May’s Designer of the Month. Last time we talked about all of the projects Katie is currently working on, now Katie gives us insight on her personal dream home style and a few quick tips for all of you.

Katie, what is your home décor style?

K: My personal design style is very modern /clean /simple but I always seem to surround myself with homes so it is a little bit of a personal battle to incorporate my style but not deny the character of my style.

It must be a tug of war to maintain your personal modern aesthetic but still keep the integrity of an older home. What would your dream home be if money was no issue?

K: A super modern boxy natural feeling home with lots of stone, metal and wood.

This becomes a challenge of designing within an existing space doesn’t it?

K: Yes! It creates a constant challenge…which is the greatest part!

Where is your favorite place to buy that “must-have” signature piece for your home?

K: There is no one place, if I am looking for a one-of-a-kind piece I typically have it made, with pieces from different places.

What is one thing in your current home you just can’t live without?

K: Candles!!

Last thoughts from Katie:

K: If you are going to paint, use color… it is the most inexpensive way to give you the biggest impact.


Check out our Houzz and Pinterest accounts to see some of Katie’s projects!


Stay tuned next month as we introduce June’s Designer of the Month, Mark Benzell! Questions for our designers? Email Hannah@castlebri.com

The Importance of Hiring a Design / Build Firm for Your Project

Remodeling a space in your home takes a lot of planning. From choosing who to hire to choosing selections its important to get the best value at a price you’re comfortable with. At Castle we work with you so that you do get the best value in your remodel. Our skilled team of designers and project managers work together to get you the lowest costs in the beautiful space you have envisioned. In the video below, the NKBA’s Carolyn Cheetham, CMKBD explains the importance of having a builder and a designer working together to provide the most beautiful and functional kitchen or bath for your home. When you’re ready to remodel your kitchen or bath, don’t just hire a contractor and hope for the best – hire someone you know you can trust to get the job done right the first time!

For tips on How to Choose a Contractor and other great tips, visit our educational page on our website!

Stay tuned next week as we meet with Designer of the Month, Katie Jaydan. Do you have a question for Katie? Email hannah@castlebri.com to have your remodeling or design question answered in next week’s post.

Katie Jaydan, Lead Designer and Busier than Ever!

Hello Castle Friends!

Things have finally started to warm up here in Minnesota, and we couldn’t be happier! May is the unofficial kick off for summer activities here, including Fishing Opener, Memorial Day, and garage sales. Here at Castle we have our list of fun things happening this month. Our book signing at the end of May, Mother’s Day Deals, and our new Designer of the Month! This month Hannah sits down with Lead Designer, Katie Jaydan to see how things have been going so far this year and what she is up to this month.

Katie holds a BS in Interior Design. She has 3 years of commercial property management, construction and renovation experience and has worked in the residential remodeling field since 2003. She also possesses an NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) Certificate and is a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers. With Castle, Katie has become a member of the NARI Green Remodeling Task Group, designed the first GreenStar Pilot Program Certified Remodel in Minnesota, and was voted as one of the top eco-friendly Interior Designers by Innovative Home Magazine. Katie was also nominated as one of the 40 under 40 in Professional Remodeler’s, proving that Katie is the lead in her industry.

So Katie, how many projects do you currently have going on? I suspect it may be busy now that we are settled in the year.

K: I am currently working on 15 projects. Some are big and some are small. I have everything from a bathroom to a 2-story addition on the back of a home. All the projects are full gut and remodels / additions. I am not currently doing any makeovers.

Wow! There must never be a dull moment for you with all these projects going on. Is it safe to say that you are doing what you love, and not just a job?

K: I found my passion [as an interior designer] and I cannot imagine doing anything else.

That’s great to hear. So what are your current favorite design trends? Does your taste have an influence in the projects you are currently working on or does the client have more control?

K: Honestly, I am really not into design trends, I just like to design to my clients wants and needs. The fact that they are trends means they will not withhold the test of time. They make a comeback but they will never be a constant. [I love it when my client] allows me to fully utilize my design capabilities to express who they are to give them the result that they want.

Do you have any tips for your clients as they start to plan a remodel?

K: I tell my clients to truly think of your space and how you function in it, come up with a list of needs and wants – we can design something to your taste with that in mind. For example, when considering a closet you have to asses your needs and design to that… short hangings, tall hangings, shelving drawers, etc. Consider the functionality and go from there.

Get inspiration for closet and pantry designs for effective and creative storage ideas on our Pinterest board

Do you have questions for our Designer of the Month? Submit your question to Hannah, Hannah@castlebri.com and she will be sure to ask Katie your question for our next post!

This Weekend: Eastside Meals on Wheels Pancake Breakfast!

Join Castle at the 2013 Eastside Meals on Wheels Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser.

Eastside Meals on Wheels Inc. provides meals to people who are unable to shop and prepare adequate meals for themselves on a regular basis. Some recipients are elderly and some are mentally or physically challenged. For some recipients we become a temporary service as they recuperate from an injury or a hospital stay. For some others it will probably be their source of nutrition as long as they remain in their homes.

Attend the Pancake Breakfast, enjoy some pancakes for a cause: so no senior goes hungry in Northeast & Southeast Minneapolis, and St. Anthony Village.

Date: Saturday May 4, 2013 8 a.m. – 12 noon

Place: Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church, 1509 27th Ave. NE, Minneapolis MN 55418

Tickets: Pre-event – $5.00 adults, $3.00 youth 6-12, free children 0-5, Families $15

Tickets: At the door – $6.00 adults, $4.00 youth 6-12, free children 0-5, Families $15

Items looking to be donated include:

– Canned Apple or Cherry Pie Filling
– Cream and sugar packets
– Regular ground coffee
– Apple or Cranberry juice
– Pancake syrup
– Pancake mix (cmoplete – only needs water added)

2013 Minneapolis – St. Paul Home Tour

Castle has been a long time participant at the Minneapolis – St. Paul Home Tour and we are excited to be participating again! Come visit this beautifully remodeled St. Paul kitchen onCathedral Hill and talk with Designer Elizabeth Bland about the remodel.

When: Saturday , April 27 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, April 28 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Where: 475 Holly Ave, St. Paul MN 55102


Tell me what YOU want in your space, says Designer of the Month Amy Hinck

We’re back with more from Amy. Last time we met we talked about how she became a designer and what inspires her. Now let’s see what is going on this month for Amy…

So Amy, how many projects are you working on this month and what are they?

A: I have two projects in construction, two that are about to start construction, and I’m working on about five designs.

In construction: a full kitchen remodel along with flooring/trim/door replacement on most of the 1st floor and an exterior concrete/basement structural project.

About to start construction: a kitchen remodel and a very structurally involved remodel (moving stairs in the home, creating a nicer mudroom, removing the roof of the rear of the house and raising up part of the ceiling and installing a new roof structure, as well as replacing all roofing, some siding, a new window and exterior door, and basement structural work)

2 kitchens that are gut and remodels, 2 kitchen alterations/makeovers (a few new cabinets, countertops, venting the range hoods to the exterior, windows, etc.), 1 bath makeover (replacing a shower with a tub and redoing the plumbing in the bathroom from below). I am also working on quite a few kitchen conceptual design packages at the moment as well.

Designing in an existing space is one of my favorite challenges. I love coming up with different layouts that increase functionality without adding onto the home.

You seem to be keeping very busy this month. Do you have any tips for potential homeowners as they plan to remodel?

A: Make a list and categorize items as need, wants, nice to haves. It will save time and make sure that we don’t deviate too much from the main goal during design.

Create a budget. While I realize you don’t want to tell me your budget because you are worried I’ll spend all your money, I need to have some sort of an idea so that I can design and make recommendations accordingly. I’d at least like to know after I give you a rough ballpark estimate, so that I can help figure out ways to align the numbers (choose different products, do things in phases, have you do some of the work yourself, or scale back the scope).

Both of the above may change as you go through the process, but as with anything, it’s nice to set boundaries and talk about expectations.

Plan ahead. I realize there are going to be life changing events that may create an immediate need (a new baby or family member moving back into the home, a heath change or disability, etc.). But I find that both I and our clients will enjoy the process if we don’t feel rushed. So if you can, contact us months in advance of when you want to start the construction. The design process takes time there are usually revisions, and you need time to think, and we need time to get you on our schedule, and as much as I’d wish we could build things as fast as they do on the makeover TV shows, it’s typically not practical.

Along with planning ahead, think about how your family might change in the years to come and if you want to stay in this house forever or not.

Ask questions! If you need help deciding something, or I’m not giving you what you need, tell me! I really want to help you, and want to work hard for you to create a functional, beautiful, environmentally friendly space at a reasonable cost. If I don’t know the answer, I will find it.

Check out books from the library, look at images in magazines or online, take pictures at your friend or neighbor’s house, and have them ready at our meetings. It really is awesome when I have an example of things you typically like.

What great tips that hopefully homeowners can really apply to their future remodel planning. Once the project is complete do you have a favorite home décor shop you like to shop at to accessorize the space, whether it’s a client or a personal space?

A: My grandma’s house. I love the idea of incorporating used décor into a space, whether it is a family heirloom (I have chairs, a dining table, armoire, mirror, and dishes from my grandmas), or something from a store. I think some of the other designers might have mentioned this when they did their profile- but creating your own artwork really makes you feel accomplished and adds uniqueness too. I visited the many antique shops in Buffalo, MN this year and was pleasantly surprised. They have so much to choose from! The main things to consider if going there or to a similar local shop are that many of the stores are only open a certain weekend every month, they usually don’t take credit, you’ll need time to look thru them (even walk through twice because you might see something you missed the 1st time) and you need a big vehicle to bring your great finds home, haha! As far as chain store, my personal favorites are TJ Maxx Home Goods, Pier 1, Bed Bath & Beyond (for drapes and kitchen accessories), and Target.

One last question for you Amy before we wrap up this month – What would your dream home be if money wasn’t an issue?

A: That is too hard of a question! I actually haven’t thought about that until very recently-when I was asked by another designer what my style was. I think the home would be in a rural area, mostly brick, a two story, but not too big. I guess I am pretty traditional except a must for me would be an open 1st floor plan. We have quite a bit of room in our current home, and I’m realizing that I have always and still tend to spend 90% of my time in the living room. I would do homework there, watch TV, work out, read, entertain, etc.  So creating a light, large, welcoming, multi-purpose living room would be important. I also value mudrooms, since I like being outside and often come in dirty and like a space for the dog. If money is no object, a modest master suite would be nice as well. My dream kitchen includes dark blue lower cabinets, white uppers, Quartz countertops and maybe some butcher block, metal screening or insert grilles and glass in some doors. I really don’t have too many other specifics other than I would want to incorporate as many green choices as possible (energy efficient mechanical systems, insulation, windows, ventilation, natural lighting, natural and low VOC materials, geothermal, etc.; my husband would add a roof-top garden) and fill it with things that I love. I can say that walking into most rooms in my current home make me really happy. I wish that for everyone. A little paint and furnishing can make any place go a long way. 

Blue cabinets, although these are a little bright for me and I don’t want white countertops
I would probably go darker with the lower cabinets, and have hardwood floor, but I do like this one
I might still go darker on the cabinets and again no white countertops
Metal screening, and my dark blue cabinets, and my wood floors!


Next week we will talk about our house featured in the Minneapolis St. Paul Home Tour and then stay tuned for next month get ready as we meet with May’s Designer of the Month, Katie Jaydan!

Do you have a question for our designers? Submit your question today to Hannah: Hannah@castlebri.com

Home For Sale

We Buy Old Homes with Character in Need of Repair for Cash

After several years of watching national homeownership rates fall Castle decided it was time to try to do something about it.  Late in 2012 Castle formed a plan to “Save” 3-4 old homes with character in 2013 and either sell the homes to owner occupied families or help our employees to purchase a home through the Castle Employee Homeownership Assistance Plan.  Our mission is to buy, remodel, and return these Castles to their former glory and make them ready for the next 100 years.

Featured Home

This St. Paul 1.5 story bungalow was built in 1912.  When Castle found this foreclosure the copper plumbing had been stolen, the porch ceiling was collapsing, the windows needed replacing, the floors sloped, and it was beat up and hadn’t been updated since the 50’s.  Naturally given our super powers we thought it was the perfect opportunity.  Oh, the home did have a great fireplace, tons of natural light, original wood columns and wainscoting, and potential to open up the first floor.  Here are some before photos, the existing and proposed floor plans, and several renderings of what the home will look like when complete.



Nominate a Castle to be Saved

Do you know of an old home with character that needs some love?  What if the worst home on your block could become the nicest?  What if one more neighbor was an owner occupied home instead of a rental?  Through a partnership with a local bank Castle is able to pay cash for these homes.  Please call Loren Schirber at 612-877-8375 to discuss selling your home or let Castle know of opportunities in your neighborhood.


Inspirations, Tips, and Trends from Designer Amy Hinck

Hello Castle Friends!

Let’s give a warm welcome as Hannah sits down with our April Featured Designer of the Month: Amy Hinck!

Amy Hinck has been around construction her entire life. She spent many summers pouring concrete and working on other masonry jobs with her dad in northern Minnesota. She moved to Minneapolis to pursue her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Architecture. She wanted to help bridge the communication gap between trades and designers. Amy began working as a drafter immediately after graduating in 2005, and soon became a designer and project manager. During her six plus years in the remodeling industry, she has achieved certification as an Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer through the NKBA, as well as a LEED Green Associate through the USGBC. Amy is very organized and pays close attention to the details. Her favorite parts about the job are coming up with new layouts or making a big impact through small changes. She loves knowing that her work can greatly improve the daily lives of her clients and helping projects run smoothly. She makes a conscious effort to keep learning and strives to balance aesthetics, function, cost, and sustainability while designing. In her free time she remodels her home with her husband, plays on various community-ed. sports teams, spends time with family, attempts a new activity or to better her cooking skills with friends- commonly wine induced, and watches sitcoms. In the fall months Amy can found wearing blaze orange.

Amy, why don’t you tell me a little bit more about yourself, and how you got to where you are today.

A: I grew up loving to draw, and found that I was better suited for realistic renderings and pencil drawings. I also found I was pretty skilled at drafting and had good spatial skills. Growing up working alongside my Pa, who is a mason (brick, stone, block, concrete), also had a lot to do with it. I learned so much working as a masonry laborer in the summers. My family built a new house when I was 12, and I was involved in virtually every aspect, and loved every minute of it (both picking things out and helping with the construction). From there I decided to pursue both Business and Architecture in college, and found that I liked Architecture better. I obtained my bachelor’s degree, and started working in a residential remodeling firm right out of school. I love working for a design/build firm as an interior designer because I not only get to create things that bring joy to people every day, I also continually work on making things easier on the construction trades.  I really like solving problems and making things better for people- that’s why I became a designer. It feels really good knowing people get happy when they walk into their new rooms.

I believe there must be some sort of universal love for architecture; it’s a major a factor when people purchase their homes – even if they do not realize it. Do you have a favorite building, or buildings architecturally speaking?

A: My favorite, most memorable building has to be the Alhambra in Spain. I was so amazed by the dual interior/exterior spaces, mosaic ceilings, and courtyards. No matter what city I go to, I am truly in awe of the handcrafting that went into the architecture. I also love unique bridges, stairs, and doors. I marvel at the structural ingenuity of them. In an era of immediate gratification, I love looking at buildings and structures that have stood the test of time and took so long to create.