March Madness Comes Home

March Madness is here and not a moment too soon for those wanting to stretch their spring legs. If you’re looking for some great ideas on how to watch the tournament, check out our Super Bowl post, but if you have the itch to shoot some hoops, maybe it’s time to put in a court of your own.

Outdoor courts and hoops have been staples of suburban America for decades: providing enough open space to shoot threes and play small-sided games. While a hoop hanging over the garage will suffice for many, there’s so much room for innovation, like building a patio court with a beautiful, wooded backdrop.

Exterior

Although we have had a pleasantly mild winter this year, that’s not always the case in New England.  As a general matter, an outdoor hoop around here would only be used for a part of the year. While for many an indoor hoop isn’t an obvious possibility,  it can be as attainable as a hoop in the garage.

Interior

The other quick fix is, of course, to incorporate a hoop into an existing bedroom without needing too many alterations.

Interior

Interior

If you’re willing to dedicate a bit more space, multipurpose rooms can be a great place to hang a hoop while not losing too much space when you aren’t playing. You’ll still be able to shoot free throws, without sacrificing the utility of the room for other activities.

Interior

Interior

Interior

Basketball fanatics will really want to make a fast break for hardwood flooring, though, as it provides the most authentic experience. You’ll be playing half-court and sinking threes from the comfort of your own house—not having to bear frigid temperatures outside during basketball season will be nice too.

Interior

Interior

Interior

Whichever option suits your fancy, incorporating basketball into your home is not only a healthy decision, but an accessible one. What could be better than having guests over for the game only to take a break and shoot hoops at halftime?

We can help make your dream come true: find a #professionalremodeler by visiting our website at #NARICT

A Rot Job to Remember

Newsletter of Kruse Home Improvement winter 2016kruserot2

This past fall Kruse Home Improvement had the privilege of working on beautiful old house on the outskirts of the Historic District of Farmington Village. The house – first constructed around 1741 – was all timber-framed, with much of its original framing and hardware still in use. The homeowners had water leaking into the home from various locations as a result of significant ice damming and an aging roof. What began as a roof replacement evolved into a much larger project.

We first noticed a few locations around the home’s exterior that required addressing. On the eastern gable end wall was an area of rotted siding with a 2-inch hole straight into the home’s sheathing. From experience I knew that there was likely a larger issue at play and figured we’d have to replace a couple studs and a small section of sill, which we run across with relative frequency.

As we removed siding to expose the situation, the more the problem exposed itself. In all, we removed entire 20+ feet of siding on the gable end wall, up to the roof line. The home recently had been worked as the sheathing had been replaced with some quick fix patches applied to the framing, which actually contributed to the rot. Whoever had done the prior work went over the home’s original board sheathing with a new vapor barrier and applied new plywood with an additional layer of vapor barrier. The moisture that is in all wood was trapped between two impervious layers of non-permeable vapor barrier, allowing the wall of the house to rot from the inside out. A home always has to breathe; this is basic knowledge for any reputable contractor.

In a typical modern home, the floors are framed first with the walls sitting on top of the flooring system. In this older, timber-framed home, the studs pocket into a large beam that sits directly on top of the stone foundation. This beam had significant evidence of rot and had also been previously patched with concrete in an attempt to fill the gaps that began to form as the wood rotted away. With this, the entire exterior wall of the house had started to compress and sink as the beam disintegrated. Since this happens over a long period of time, the house just naturally moved and adjusted with the compression. By the time we began work, there wasn’t much left of the original beam. In several spots it was essentially missing, leaving only dirt and dust behind.

We realized the situation we were in was drastically more involved than first suspected. We opened everything up and removed the previous materials to allow the space to dry out for several days. We replaced the entire beam, which was 21 feet long by 9 inches wide by 8 inches high. The massive piece of lumber had to be custom milled at a local saw mill. This new beam was precisely cut to fit in both the stone foundation and the varying heights of the studs that sit on top of it. The timber-framed construction called for bracing the flooring and wall in multiple ways to keep it in position.

First, we constructed a temporary wall in the basement to hold the floor in place since the beam we had to remove held everything up. The exterior wall was braced completely since there would be nothing to keep it in place once the existing beam was removed. We braced the wall from both the inside and outside of the home and lagged 4×4’s across the outside of the framing, positioning 4 bottle jacks across the 20 feet. This allowed for fine tuning adjustments to the height to level things out as best as we could.

Installing this massive beam was no easy task. It took six people to move and was complicated by the fact that we had to work around the bracing that we needed to keep in place. After four hours, the beam was in, followed by a celebration amongst the team. The fact that the beam was installed in that amount of time is a true testament to the quality and precision of the guys I have working for me. The installation was not an easy feat and I was extremely happy with the way it unfolded. However, we were still only halfway done with the job. Everything had to be assembled and sheathed properly with a cedar breather backing installed. The wall needed trim, a cedar clapboard and painting, not to mention removing the bracing and reconnecting the electrical that was removed to accomplish the job. This job went from what I thought was a couple days of rot repair to a massive structural repair that took more than five weeks to complete properly.

kruserotIt turned out to be the kind of job a homeowner needs Kruse Home Improvement for. It took a lot of knowledge, thought, and planning to accomplish without causing a much bigger problem or having the house fall apart! I was very proud of the team and outcome. It was the most complex – and memorable – repair job we had ever undertaken, but it was a great experience to be involved in and it kept us on our toes the whole time.

Kruse Home Improvement
33 Lufkin Lane Bristol, CT 06010
Office 860/584/8784  Cell 860/877/0775
License # 0618590
kruseshawn@krusehomeimprovement.com
www.krusehomeimprovement.com
http://www.houzz.com/pro/kruseshawn/krusehome-improvement

Kruse Home Improvement is a proud member of #NARI/CT.  To find more information on them and other #professionalremodelers in CT, visit our website at NariCT.org

Top 10 Trends for Residential Landscape Design

outdoorfire

Sustainable design is the big trend for residential landscapes, according to the 2016 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey

The popularity of outdoor living spaces among consumers continues to grow; that we know. And with water conservation and the future of water resources on the minds of many in the nation, there’s also growing awareness of and commitment to reducing water use among consumers in their homes and gardens. A recent survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) to discover the leading trends in residential outdoor design bears this out, finding that rainwater/graywater harvesting is a top trend among homeowners who increasingly seek residential landscapes that are both beautiful and minimize water use and stormwater runoff.

The survey, conducted from Feb. 4 through Feb. 18, 2016, gathered responses from 803 participants who were asked to rate the expected popularity in 2016 of various residential outdoor design elements. The results indicate that consumers seek outdoor living spaces that are environmentally sustainable, reduce water use/costs, and are easy to maintain. The top five project types that landscape architects anticipate will be most in demand by consumers in 2016 are:

1. Rainwater/graywater harvesting – 88 percent
2. Native plants – 86 percent
3. Native/adapted drought-tolerant plants – 85 percent
4. Low-maintenance landscapes – 85 percent
5. Permeable paving – 77 percent

Other project types in the top 10 list incude: fire pits/fireplaces, food/vegetable gardens, rain gardens, drip/water-efficient irrigation, and reduced lawn areas.

With sustainabiity leading the trends, the top 10 sustainable elements, ranked in order of popularity for 2016, are: rainwater/graywater harvesting (88 percent), native/adapted drought tolerant plants (85 percent), permeable paving (77 percent), drip/water-efficient irrigation (72 percent), reduced lawn area (72 percent), recycled materials (61 percent), solar-powered lights (56 percent), compost bins (45 percent)

Top five results for other survey categories:

Outdoor design elements: fire pits/fireplaces (75 percent), lighting (67 percent), wireless/Internet connectivity (66 percent), seating/dining areas (64 percent), outdoor furniture (63 percent).

Outdoor structures: pergolas (51 percent), decks (47 percent), arbors (44 percent), fencing (44 percent), porches (40 percent), ADA accessible structures—ramps, bars, shelving, etc. (38 percent).

Outdoor recreation amenities: sports courts—tennis, bocce, etc. (41 percent), spa features—hot tubs, Jacuzzis, whirlpools, indoor/outdoor saunas (40 percent), and swimming pools (36 percent).

Landscape and garden elements: native plants (86 percent), low-maintenance landscapes (85 percent), food/vegetable gardens—including orchards, vineyards, etc. (75 percent), rain gardens (73 percent), water-saving xeriscape or dry gardens (68 percent).

Find more landscape ideas at the ASLA website.

Then visit NariCt.org to find a experienced local #professional who can help make your #dreamscometrue.

Benefits of Membership

THE MANY BENEFITS OF BELONGING TO THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REMODELING INDUSTRY: NARI

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REASON #1 INCREASE BUSINESS First and foremost, we’re always looking for ways to help our members to make better connections, get more business and increase their income. Whether a remodel-ready homeowner begins their search at the national level or the local level, your company name is accessible to our collective 32,000 monthly visitors.

Besides getting free lead generation you can further enhance your online presence with a free webpage attached to the (national) NARI.org site. This is an example of one of our members who added descriptive text and photos to his free NARI listing. Here are step by step instructions to create your own page.

REASON #2 GAIN A MARKETING EDGE USING NARI TOOLS  NARI National also offers tips on maximizing social media options such as LinkdIn, Youtube and Twitter. It provides an arsenal of tools- from photos to articles on home improvement- for you to use on your website, blog or twitter feed. Press releases keep your name in front of local reporters. PowerPoints can be used to share your expertise with a local group; we want our members to viewed as experts in their field  by the consumer community. You also get to display the trade association logo to indicate to homeowners that you are a professional contractor. Consumers view the NARI logo as the mark of a professional and homeowners do take notice.

 

REASON #3 PROVIDE TRAINING TO YOUR MANAGERS AND EMPLOYEES  NARI provides to its members education and certifications in many different levels of remodeling; from Certified Remodeling Contractor to Green Training to Certified Project Manager.  NARI’s schedule doesn’t work for you? Watch one of the many informative webinars on your schedule. Taking advantage of specific training and education opportunities will improve your company’s profitability and efficiency.

 

REASON #4 PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS RIGHTS NARI is on Capitol Hill and in Hartford to advance and protect the interest of small businesses and the remodeling industry. Through NARI’s respected vigilant lobbying presence, the association has demonstrated lobbying success that is protecting your business from having to operate in a climate filled with onerous regulations and legislation.

 

REASON #5 STRENGTHEN YOUR BUSINESS PROCESSES TO INCREASE PROFITS We search out and share with you the best tools and tips provided by professional remodelers and recognized industry experts

 

REASON #6 DISCOUNTS/REBATES NARI offers significant money saving programs to its members. Savings4members offers members 25+ deeply discounted business service programs (e.g. payroll, wireless services, office supplies). In addition, members  are eligible to enroll in The Home Depot rebate program, get discounts on select Ram, Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge vehicles and receive 50 free consumer surveys from GuildQuality. The aggregate value can easily exceed the cost of membership.

 

LOCAL BENEFITS Additionally there are benefits specific to our local chapter: The State of Connecticut recommends the members of our trade association to homeowners looking for a professional home improvement contractor.  The CT Department of Consumer Protection directs homeowners to hire remodeling contractors that belong to our trade association as a way to make sure they get home improvement contractors that are professional. In addition, they have our trade association listed under “Useful Links for Consumers” as well as United Way of CT – 211.

 

We further promote members by displaying their work on our local Facebook page regularly. Please encourage your friends to LIKE US on Facebook. We also have a feature on our website highlighting a different member each month. In addition, we have our own Pinterest board and Houzz ideabook for photos of members’ work. We use these channels, as well as our own Twitter feed, to promote home improvement ideas then encourage homeowners to use our site to find a professional contractor to help make their dream come true.

 

Lastly, we offer monthly member meetings. These are dinner meetings where contractors network with others in the industry and learn more about growing their business, building codes, techniques, and much more. Our meetings are held in Stratford at Ring’s End Educational Center and at J. Timothy’s Taverne in Plainville.


NOW is the time for YOU to become a part of a recognized professional community.  Be a part of a group of elite professional and support the remodeling community.  NARI members subscribe to a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice and are committed to excellence and integrity.

 

JOIN/RENEW  All in all, this is an exceptional value, and we have been able to keep our membership fees at $450 a year ($375 for new members only during the month of April 2016).  We do, however, give contractors the opportunity to make 4 separate payments in 4 consecutive months by charge card. ($117.50 / month) ($98.75/month for new members joining in April 2016)  Please note that membership is by the company.  Once a company joins, all employees enjoy the benefits of membership.  If you would like to join, please fill out this application and send it with payment or payment information to RCA/ NARICT, 1 Wolcott Road, Wolcott, CT 06716
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Be sure to visit the website of the National Association of Remodeling Industry and the CT Chapter for more information.  Or, please feel free to contact us at info@narict.org

INSULATION ADDS VALUE TO HOMES

by Jordan NAIMALogo2CDoria, North American Insulation Manufacturers Association warmhouse

It’s been a really good month for insulation (which isn’t something you can say very often). Hanley Wood recently released its annual Cost Versus Value report, which compares the cost of 30 remodeling projects and estimates the value those projects retain at resale in 100 U.S. housing markets. For the first time ever, adding fiberglass attic insulation was included among the projects at an estimated cost of $1,268 nationwide. According to real estate professionals responding to the survey, this upgrade would increase the price of a home at resale, within a year of the project’s completion, by $1,482. That’s a 116.9% return, higher than any other remodeling project considered.

Late last month, the National Association of Realtors (NAR), in conjunction with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), released the first ever 2015 Remodeling Impact Report. The report provides data on the cost, recovered value at sale and customer satisfaction of 20 common renovation projects. The data on project cost and expected return of sale are derived through surveys of NARI and NAR members.

Among the projects included in the report was an insulation upgrade. The results in terms of expected payback  indicate an estimated cost of $2,100 for the project, which could translate to $2,000 in added value at the time of sale, resulting in a 95% percent cost recovery (excluding energy savings). These numbers are great, but why should a remodeler care?

  1. Insulation adds value to a home

This is what is new with these surveys. The traditional value propositions of insulation, improved comfort and lower energy bills, are well known and reasonably well understood by customers. However, now there is a whole new value proposition to bring to customers: more insulation improves the value of your home, and it does so more cost effectively than most other means.

  1. Lowering energy bills

There is a big gap between the energy efficiency homeowners want and the efficiency they actually have today. In fact, according to research conducted by the Demand Institute last year, energy efficiency is the top unmet need homeowners, cited by 71 percent at their top unmet need.  This came out ahead of kitchen remodels and other typical projects. From our own research, we know that at least 90% of US homes are under-insulated by current standards, so we know insulation is a viable means of addressing this unmet need for a number of homeowners.

  1. Enhancing comfort

This is the tricky one. Comfort has proven a difficult value proposition to sell on, because it is so subjective and nearly impossible to quantify. However, we know comfort is a driver of home performance upgrades, including insulation. More importantly, it is often cited as the major source of satisfaction for homeowners who have undertaken improvements, often more so than reductions in their monthly energy bill. Remodelers know, better than most, that numbers are all well and good, but remodel decisions are not purely, or even primarily, a numbers game for most homeowners. Look, feel and a “brag factor” are all very important. Comfort can be one of these subjective elements remodelers can use to sell.

While our association is very happy to see the results of these two surveys for insulation, we believe the findings have a deeper meaning. We think improvements to home value speak to the increasing belief that a home which is consistently comfortable, with lower energy bills, strongly appeals to today’s homeowners. Savvy remodelers will find a way to use these findings to augment the value proposition they deliver to today’s customer and, in so doing, differentiate themselves from their competition.

Visit our website to find a qualified, #professionalcontractor to make this project become a #dreamcometrue.  Remodeling Contractors Association, NARI/CT

 

On Line Referrals: Passing Fad or Remodeling’s Future

Online referrals

Facebook, Google, and Amazon are all jumping into an already crowded field, leaving many to wonder what the future will bring.

By Elizabeth Mack
Professional Remodeler

For someone drowning in remodeling projects on a 1905 farmhouse for two long, grueling years, the allure for an immediate price quote to hire a professional on our next project was too good to pass up. After a short Facebook message to Pro.com for a bathroom tile bid, I received an immediate message asking for my ZIP code. A cheery response with smiley emoji introduced my home project manager, who offered what she referred to as a “pre-estimate” if I could give her the total square footage and if I would be installing ceramic or porcelain. Simple enough.

After a three-minute wait, I received a message with my pre-estimate labor cost. I knew my floor was uneven, and when I pulled up the linoleum, I could see the room below through cracks in the rotten boards. How could they possibly give me an accurate estimate? My project manager asked what times work best to get a pro scheduled.

Whoa! After I rattled off several questions, my home project manager explained that pre-estimates are collected from several similar jobs in my area, but the final price is determined by my pro. I wasn’t comfortable having a pro hired for me, or scheduling a job before I had met the pro or signed a bid, so I said my Facebook good byes, inserted smiley emoji, and logged out.

A Widening Field

Online home-service marketplaces are popping up faster than dandelions in spring, and with a market of around $300 billion annually, it’s no secret why. Angie’s List recognized the need and a way to fulfill it—charging the homeowner a membership fee for quality pro referrals—20 years ago. Today, competitors looking to topple Angie’s List are flooding into the home-services market with their own business models, generating revenue not by charging the consumer, but by charging the home-service pro in the form of membership fees, a fee per online referral, or a commission on the total cost of the job.

Porch.com and Pro.com came on the scene two years ago and have been upping the ante ever since. Porch, a Seattle-based startup, is now in partnership with Lowe’s, which offers terminals in stores where shoppers can find a local pro for anything from replacing a toilet to building a deck. Porch’s latest move links Better Business Bureau ratings in the results. For the tech and social-media savvy, Pro.com offers “Text-a-Pro” and Facebook Messenger, the main selling point of which is instant, flat-rate estimates and scheduling on home-improvement projects right from your cell phone or Facebook page.

Google and Amazon have jumped into the fray as well. Amazon shoppers can simply add a pro to their online shopping cart at checkout, and the pro is charged a commission for the lead. Google is testing a beta program, Home Service ads, that returns search results when consumers do a Google search for home improvement projects like “install faucet.” Several options will appear at the top of the page for local plumbers with their contact info and even a picture of a company representative. For now, Google is only testing in the San Francisco area, so time will tell if it can carve out its own share in a crowded national market.

Other players, Thumbtack, Home Advisor, Contractors.com, Yelp, the list goes on, are all vying for a limited number of professionals to sign up for their referral services. The field is crowded and competition fierce, so what does this mean for remodelers?

“Marketing and lead generation are some of the most difficult challenges for businesses, and some of these services do this very well,” says Kermit Baker, project director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Baker believes that these programs can be a more efficient marketing process that effectively uses technology for targeted referrals.

Not for Everyone

“The primary disadvantage [of online referrals] is paying a fee for a job that we might have gotten without the assistance of one of these programs,” says Toby Asplin, president of Handyman Joe’s, in Omaha, Neb., and a pro on Angie’s List. Asplin has looked into other programs, including Amazon’s, but fails to see the value, though he believes they could benefit new businesses.

Some remodelers, especially those working on higher-end projects, look at it in terms of cost per lead. “How much investment am I making for one lead?” asks Robert Criner, owner of Criner Remodeling, in Newport News, Va. “As a higher-end design/build contractor, I’m going to put my marketing dollars toward attracting my target consumer,” Criner says. In Criner’s case, that’s Houzz, where he constantly posts his latest quality images of completed projects.

And while online referral programs may provide some business, the vast majority of remodeling leads, at least for today, still come from more organic sources. “Our reputation brings us 90 percent of our business,” says Tim Janacek of Janacek Remodeling, in Rogers, Ark., a rural market north of Fayetteville. “Our local home show brings in clients serious about remodels, and our company trucks work as mobile billboards, which brings in customers based on local name recognition,” Janacek says.

So, with all these tech plays, where does that leave the consumer? Asplin says he struggles to see the actual value for homeowners. “What do these [services] offer that isn’t already available? There are too many variables to get a real quote from any of the sites,” he points out. And if homeowners want an accurate estimate, it’s up to them to fill out the online forms correctly—something that Asplin says is often a struggle.

Most remodelers agree that a forward-thinking company with strong digital content and search engine optimization doesn’t need paid online marketplaces, though new businesses with no marketing budget very well might.

So, is an online marketplace for the home remodeling industry the wave of the future? The jury is still very much out. “I’m waiting for the dust to settle,” Criner says.

 

Visit our website to find a professional, ethical remodeling contractor in your area.