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.

Kitchen ceilings

When your looking at types of ceiling finishes in the kitchen. There are things you must thing about.
1. Are you using your kitchen as a showcase? Be careful what you choice.
2. Are you cooking a lot with grease? If you cook with a lot of grease at high temperatures grease evaporates and bond to a cooler Surface IE the ceiling.
Having a textured ceiling in the kitchen is a headache you cannot wash the ceiling. The only thing you can do is paint the ceiling and rolling paint on the texture comes off on the roller making a mess and to paint and clean up. Using a flat surface in the kitchen is an easy ceiling to maintain both in keeping it clean, or repainting the ceiling. If you are looking for a different type of look you can always use a knock down look not a easy to clean but very easy to repaint when you need to.
In some architectural designs wood ceiling looks good if the wood is finished either with paint of varnish finish. Unfinished ceiling are bad because dust cobwebs and grease bonds to the unfinished and is hard to clean.
They make a steel panel ceiling. This is a great ceiling because you can clean this type of ceiling.
A cool looking ceiling is a glazed ceiling 3 or 4 tones of paint in the same color family with a clear coat covering it. Again this type of ceiling is easy to clean.

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.

A Standard Closet is a Waste of Good Space

A standard closet has one of the following types of doors; bi-fold, sliding, or standard door(s). These doors make it hard to get into the closets as well as being in the way of storing items. Doors also inhibit the movement around the doors.
Standard closet

This closet was designed for more internal storage, but it uses up 18 square foot of floor in front of the closet that cannot be used for storage and or any thing else.


Installing Lockers in the same place where you would put a closet, it will hold more items as well as being able to organize your items or your kids.

A walk-in closet laid out right yields more and better quality storage as seen in the next 3 pictures.

Walk-in storage
Small walk-in

Entries always make a statement, what is yours saying?

Entry before trim

The house was built in 1950 on a nice lake. The new owners decided to remodel it before moving in. We updated the whole house from electrical,plumbing, heating, phone, security and millwork.
making pillars

We make our own pillars to fit each house. Buying factory pillars the heights are wrong for the jobs as well as are the fluting. factory flutes are done with a tables saw blade instead of a router giving a shallow look (cheap look).

applying buildups on column bases

On this photo we are building up the bases of the pillars.

Column tops

Applying crown and bed moldings to make up a 6 ply cornice look.

The final look of the front entry with a siting bench.

Giving the buildings a face lift

The old look

The 2 apartment buildings were built in the mid 60’s. They had flat roofs that were leaking badly the owners needed to do some thing. A new flat roof would cost the same price as pitch roof with shingles, but the didn’t want a standard 2′ over hang.

We came up with a 6′ over hang with a Frank Loyd Wright Look to it by installing custom gutters built at a 45% angle on the faces as well as the exposed facisa board was rotated at a 45% angle.

On the under side of the overhang known as the soffit we install steel sheathing 24’x 30″ grooved soffit panels w/ baked on paint for a symbol of quality showing the area they the owners take pride in their buildings.

On the roof it self they wanted to draw more attention to the building, so we striped the roof with lighter shingles and hip lines.

If you would like to look at the project it;s located in South St. Paul south of 494 and 1 block west of Concord St. Just on the other side of fury motors (auto dealership) and can be seen from the freeway.

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.

There are some good, great and bad types of siding. part 2

The newest fade is hardy board siding; the material is made of 90% and 10% Australian pine wood.

This type of pine from Australia bonds great with the concrete making at a good product.

For me there has not been enough time to prove the quality of the material being used for siding. Back in the 60’s we thought masonite siding was great stuff, but in turn the masonite if not painted on all surfaces sucked up water and started rotting.

With masonite you had to keep it painted 5-7 years keep it 4 to 6 inches from any wet surface like the ground, patios decks and roofs.

There are also look alike hardy board siding not made from the Australian pine, it doesn’t bond with the concrete and it doesn’t, can not, or will not perform to the standards of What Hardy board’s system can.

Using wood for siding has been used for hundreds of years. But it been in the last 25 years we’ve learned a lot about wood siding.

On all wood siding before installing seal the back side of the siding keeping moisture from migrating into the siding.

Next when installing the siding use 15# tarpaper behind the siding, (note not house wrap) this will remove the moisture from behind the siding.

When choosing a fastener know this cedar, redwood and treated lumber don’t like galvanized steel nails they will eat the nails, using a stainless steel nail with the barb rings is a great choice for years of holding power.

Try never to paint the wood but instead use a solid color stain it will bond better and last longer. Always use a non-latex based caulk for caulking the joints.

When you build or remodel your house if you place is located where are no trees than using cedar would be ok, woodpeckers love cedar if your lot or close to trees try using Cyprus wood this type of wood will last longer but costs a little more.

Windows looking at them inside out.

I’ve installed many different types and brands of windows. I’ve also have been called in to look at windows after they have failed, Over the years I’ve seen great windows and cheap windows fail. I’ve seen good and great windows last a long time. Some of the time it’s the so called carpenters installing the windows, other times it’s the design of the building where the draftsman drew in the window in an improper location adding it to fail because of it location due to architectural design next to the window.

There are many ways to look at windows.

How does the window perform? Lets look at the exterior of the window jambs and sashes what are the exteriors made of;

If wood is the wood treated,
Wood wrapped in aluminum are the aluminum joints on the sash sealed or just overlapped,
Any type of metal wrap such as Aluminum Copper, Bronze, is there a thermo break in the jamb and in the sash,
Vinyl window have unique problem Vinyl expands in warmer temperatures making them hard to operate with darker color vinyl only magnifies the problem.

Does the window have a built in flashing at the top of the window allowing moisture coming off the siding, and diverting it over the face edge of the window.

In most cases when a metal window fails it because the bottom frame of the window has no downward taper to the outside or in time the frame cups allowing water runs to the window sash instead of off the jamb and dripping to the ground.

Does it keep the weather out? Wind rain and thermo transfer. First look at the 5 different types of windows the worst type is:
5# glider window there the window slides left or right these windows tend to leak the worst. 4# is a single/ double hung window these windows slide up and down.
3# are awning type windows they are hinged at the top and open only 1/3 from the bottom.
2# Casement windows are a pretty good window system they are hinged on the left or right and open wide.
1# Fixed window is the best for sealing but not operable.

A lot of windows fail because of bad weather stripping. The stripping must be continuous with no breaks or lose ends. Like on a casement sash the weather striping wraps the edge of the window very few window manufactures even joint the weather striping at the corners.

How do the windows act or interact with other architectural elements in the room or on the exterior view of the house. Most wood windows use pine jambs and sashes that when stained, stains darker than the window trim around the window the wallboard.
2 window manufactures uses fir instead of pine so when it stains it looks like the oak trim around the window. Making it look great. Some manufactures use vinyl on the inside if the vinyl is white it tends to have dust and dirt attracted and bonds to it, making it look dirty all the time.

Windows operating over its lifetime depends a lot on the homeowner. When you paint or varnish you must remove the windows from the frame then you can paint properly and get a better job.

If you have a glider or a double hung window that is sticking spray some graphite or silicone spray on the tracks.