General Information

1. Does the contractor have liability insurance? If something goes wrong who will cover your loss. I heard of a roofing problem in the summer of 08 they tore off the roof and installed a new roofing system. It looked good it didn’t leak, but when the roofers were tearing off the old roof they inadvertently unlocked the furnace flue pipe 8’ below the roofline. When the flue pipe was re-shingled into place the pipe was 1/2 on and 1/2 off the lower pipe venting carbon monoxide into chimney chase and ultimately into the house attic. They didn’t find the problem for 5 months, thank God no one died. When Natural gas or LP gas is burned it gives off carbon monoxide and a lot of water. The water leaves the furnace at about 350 degrees; at this temperature it’s steam being forced into a cold attic with a lot of cold surfaces. When the steam touches a cold surface it changes to water or ice. In this case about 2 inches of ice crystals on under side of the roof decking, on the trusses and on the surface of the attic insulation.  A quick calculation looks like about 200 gallons of water frozen in the attic. Looking at this job after the facts all the insulation in the attic has to be removed the roof sheathing has to be checked for soundness and may have to be replaced as well as the sheetrock ceiling. You might need new flooring also if the ice melted before you removed it, because it will follow the wall stud cavities to the main floor and under your carpets, or cupping you hardwood flooring.
This is only 1 thing that can go wrong; there are many other situation I have heard about.
2. Does the contractor have worker compensation insurance?
If person falls or get hurt in any way while on your property (grass, sidewalk, inside your house, etc.) you’re at fault, unless the contractor has workers compensation insurance.

Rules for hiring a contractor:

General Information
1. Does the contractor have a state license to do the type of work needing to be done?
2. Does the contractor have liability insurance? If something goes wrong who will cover your loss.
3.  Does the contractor have worker compensation insurance?
If a person falls or get hurt in any way while on your property (grass, sidewalk, inside your house, etc.) you’re at fault. Unless the contractor has workers comp. insurance.

4. Make Sure All Subcontractors and/or Any Person Coming Onto Your Property Has Legal Workers Compensation and Liability Insurance.
5. Does this person have the brains to pull off this type of job?  Watch out there a lot of cons out there calling them contractors only wanting to separate you from your money.
6. Can he/she prove what is being said in writing; a contract that protects you the Homeowner?
7. A lot of people have go good intentions but no knowledge or life experience to draw from.
8. There are 3 classifications of quality of work
A.  Poor and well below sub standard workmanship
B.  Just Average on workmanship
C.   Excellent work- any worker just above average ends up excelling to excellent static because of the person himself, I’ve seen this time and time again.

9. 2nd Classifications of motives.
A. Money is a good motivator
B. The lack of money is a poor motivation
C. Lack of time for said job or out of on contracts personal bills
D. The only job available this one, actually scores just above average
E. Actually caring for his work and the client.

Now is the contractor your hiring going to hire subcontractor with substandard work or money problems? Remember this your project is to be a work of art not a novel of science fiction.

This is a good time to buy a house, it’s a buyers market but you still must be careful.

Everything always comes down to money how much is it going to cost me. Granted houses are not our greatest assets actually it leans more into the liability side of the spreadsheet. With this in mind how can we convert a liability into an asset or at lest break out even.

1. Location is the first biggest hurdle to overcome. Were to build or buy a house (neighbor hood) these three locations are about 4 miles apart
– examples-
a. Poor location -a house located in St. Paul Park next to the oil
refinery has a lower value therefore a lower return on your investment
b. Average location- a house in South St. Paul most of the homes are small square footage.
c. Good location- South Maplewood next to the St Paul sky jump In this location the lot values are higher so is the return on your investment.

2. What Type of house is the best type of investment to buy either 1story or 2 story with a full basement at least an 8” high basement ceiling. Don’t buy a split level their hard to dress up, or add on to the structure. It is nice to have a walk out basement but not necessary.

3. These are some of the things we should look for in a house.
Drain tile under the floor of the basement and out side the foundation
A flooring system to carry an adequate working load of your living style
Is it good to know what type insulation? fiberglass, foam if its cellulose it’s not that good.
Exterior weather protection – what type- wall? Brick, Wood, Steel, Aluminum, Vinyl
– Roofing? Shakes, Shingles, Steel, Hot tar roofing, rubber
Floor coverings? Stone, tile, wood, vinyl or carpet.
Appliances (furnace, water heater, water softener, humidifier)
Don’t look at the poor paint job, out dated appliances, or the bad carpet these things can be replaced.

4. What is the life cycle of the Roofing, siding, windows, and driveway
5. Do you own these items or are they going to own you (Time and Money)
6. The main thing you look at is floor pattern can you live with the layout of the house.
When these questions are answered with no emotions than you have the right to look a little deeper into the property. Call the city and/or county and ask for info about the property. Never address the property as your house or the house until you actually own the place. This way you will keep an open mind if a problem crops up. You leave the property with no regrets or hurt feelings.

Bathrooms say a lot about the people living in the home.

Are you sending the right message.
Before you remodel your bathroom,

Think long term 5 ,10, 15 ,or 20 years and/or 2 or 3 different types of jobs or hobbies you might have in the future.
You may spend 10 minutes and up 2 hours a day in this prep room. Doing things right in this room will set your mode for the rest of the days you live in this house.
Thing to think about when you design a bathroom;

Number of people needing to use this room at the same time; 2 or 3 kids, a couple, 2 or people staying over IE relatives and friends, room mates, etc.
With these things in mind your now ready to start answering questions.

a. Think about cleaning
B. Bathing
C. Midnight strolls
D. Getting your makeup on
1. Lighting
2. Putting on makeup
3. Storage
4. Accessibility to storage, and left or right handed people
5. Accessories- hair driers, curling
6. 6. Room accents


Building contractor(s) vs handyman(s)

Building contractor(s) verses handyman(s)

What’s the difference?
The Department of Labor and Industry requires licenses for residential building contractors, remodelers, roofers and manufactured home installers. The department requires certain standards of education and professional conduct be maintained to obtain and retain a license.

Licenses are required for all residential building contractors and residential remodelers who contract with a homeowner to construct or improve dwellings by offering more than one special skill. Owners working on their own property must also be licensed if they build or remodel for the sole purpose of speculation or resale.

Liability insurance with limits of at least $300,000 per occurrence, which must include at least $10,000 property damage coverage.
Minnesota workers’ compensation insurance certificate or a written explanation of why the applicant is exempt from workers’ compensation requirements. Applicants who have no employees and have no intention of hiring employees (other than spouse, parent or child) during the next year should attach a written statement with the license application explaining the specific reason they are exempt. If applicant is uncertain whether workers’ compensation insurance is required for your business, contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at (651) 284-5005.

A handy man needs none of the above unless he and/or she does more than one of these items concrete, frame, side, sheetrock, trim, tile, hardwood flooring, carpeting, painting

If a handy man gets injured at your house he or his insurance company can sue the home owner. Always Protect Yourself.

Changing places

House was built in 97 with a poor kitchen design.
Note the locating of the pantry at the far end of the room with a depth of only 12″.

The old kitchen layout

New Kitchen layout

We changed the location of the sliding glass door and the kitchen sink window. Then we flipped the kitchen layout to flow better with more storage.
There was a large footprint for the kitchen but no storage or ease of operation. People visiting had to pass through the cooking area to get to the dining table.

New Kitchen window

To the right of the kitchen sink is the dishwasher with a wood door panel to match the cabinets.
The new Island & wet bar

The center island has a built in microwave on the right around the corner on the right there is a built in bookcase. The center door has a 3′ drawer that hold 3 -13 gallon garbage cans with 2 recycling bins left the kitchen sink for glass and metals.


The kitchen, and bar sink are cast iron w/ a gray porcelain finish. We also installed a secondary Reverse osmosis water system to the refrigerator, kitchen, and bar sinks for better taste, as well as no impurity in the water.

When making meals in this kitchen, everything is ease to get to with plenty of storage for food, supplies, as well as decorations for any type of family get together. The layout of the kitchen makes it ease to be involved with family whether there in the family room or in the kitchen.

Standing by the patio door there is plenty of room in the cooking area of the kitchen for 3 people work as well as 4 to sit at the upper level of the island and 4-6 more at the table. What a great place to entertain guests.

Are decks robbing you of time and enjoyment

Old deck 1Touch on any picture to enlarge

The first picture is the old deck.

New deck floor

We removed the decking and enlarged the size of the main deck. The decking is ironwood that comes from South America. The rails are iron pipe 2″ top rails and 1″ lower rails that can be painted or copper cladded.


When using cedar decking the cedar looks dirty and unfinished, even though you stain and treat it. You don’t want to use treated lumber for decking or rails because the wood is treated with copper arsenic, that will pass through the skin into your I’ve built decks out of Trex decking, but the decking is unstable, in some cases it has expanded so much that the deck looks like a lake when it rains. Also trex molds you have to clean it yearly, but you can not use a power washer. So I’ve switched to Ironwood for decking with great results.

Hallways always make a statement

Colonial Style homeA lot contractors can build a house, the lady of house will change the structure to a home. The question is “are you happy with your surroundings did you get what the contractor envisioned for you or did you get 4 walls and a roof”.

In the first hours of interviewing home building contractors, this is the time to ferret out if the contractor, is out for his wallet or to gain a friend. Remember once you sign a contract with him/her, the working relationship will late up to 10 or even 12 years. The house may be done in 3-6 months, but the warranties and call back could be a nightmare.

Gypcrete w/ Infloor heat

infloor.jpgTouch on picture to enlarge.

Gypcrete is a lite weight cement mix which uses gypsum instead of sand and a high quality Portland mix making gypcrete.
In commercial applications Gypcrete is used as a sound deadener and a fire retardant between floors.

In a residential setting it is normally used to cover over infloor water heat pipes.

The gypcrete companies can pour the gypcrete at a minimum of 1/2”. A good thickness is 1” or more, this includes pouring over all types of pipes. (know this there is no law to protect the homeowner about gypcrete). Gypcrete must have a load bearing floor under it to support it, and the finished floor and it live load (furnishings and people). If you are installing the gypcrete 1 1/2 or less – it must bond to the structural floor below. If you need insulation under the gypcrete, install the insulation than install 4’ x 16’ wire panels with 6” x 6” grids anchored to the floor below the insulation with the anchor not less than 2’ square on center. The wire mesh helps stabilize the gypcrete and keeps it from braking up in the future.

Flooring what is best?

I have this question asked to me a lot. Well let’s look at how the different types of flooring react to your environment.

Carpet- installation time 1-3 hour per room all you need to do is vacuum. If your family members do not like to take their shoes off this is not a good choice.

The carpet will remove any thing on the bottom of shoes and gravity will migrate it into the weaving of the carpet. Dog and Cat love to claw and chew it.

If you lay the carpet on a concrete floor and you have high groundwater the carpet will act like a breeding ground for mold and other insects. Warm to the touch, very bad for allergies.

Ceramic floor- installation time 2-4 days after 6 weeks you must seal it. Watch what type of tile you pick out

1. The glazing hardness the harder the better, and have them prove it to you as to the hardness. They will use different types of diamond scratches.

2. Next try to get a tile made of a cream color clay tile. I’m not talking about the finish you look at but the backside of the tile. This type of tile cut easier with less brakeage in installation as well as later.

3. Look for a textured tile for wet areas incase of slipping and falls. If the tile is sealed yearly it is the most durable against any type of ware cats, dogs, kids etc. Cool to the touch

Concrete floors- installation time 1 day than you have to wait 30-60 day before sealing it no paint taping compound, oils etc. until it is sealed properly.

Again it must sealed yearly it is the most durable against any type of ware cats, dogs, kids etc. Cool to the touch
Stamped (stained)
Exposed aggregate

Stone floors – installation time 2-4 days after 6 weeks you must seal it. Watch what type of tile you pick out. Look for a textured in wet and dry conditions and how the stone changes in color.

In wet areas like the back door area I recommend a honed finish, the stone is cut sanded smooth but it dull to look at, good for areas with sand and dirt will not show scratches.

A high polished finish is great if there is no sand, dirt or water. It will out last any type of wood floor you could install.

If the stone is sealed yearly it is the most durable against any type of ware cats, dogs, kids etc. Cool to the touch

Sheet goods (vinyl’s) – installation time 1-3 hours per room you will need a sponge to scrub the printing off the sheet good.

The good thing about sheet goods is that when you spill any thing it sits on the surface of the flooring.

Bad new is any thing can cut it from moving a refrigerator in to it place, to accidentally dropping a knife; a dog can claw it up. It has about 10-15 year wear life.

Wood floors-installation time 5 days for a floor of 350SF you will need to recoat the floor every 3-5 years. Sand, dirt, and dog claw will scratch the floor. Warm to the touch.