MILWAUKEE — Remodeling your home can feel like a never-ending project and can be stressful! Many wonder where to begin, and how much it’ll all cost, and others need help coming up with a design. This weekend, those hoping to find some answers and ideas filled the Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park for the 2012 Milwaukee NARI Home Improvement Show.
A home is one of the biggest investments most people will make in their lives, and the idea of home ownership has changed in recent years.
“People are staying home. They’re not selling their houses. They’re saying ‘okay, let’s make this a comfortable place,’” garden expert Liz Friemoth said.
Experts at the 50th annual NARI Home Improvement Show spent the weekend giving advice on how to make your house a home. When it comes to the exterior of your home, Randy Miller from Alright Home and Remodeling says a good tip is starting with the roof, and working your way down to the siding and windows. “Taking care of the top and making sure that’s not going to end up having leaking problems, and then you can completely seal it up, and finish up with the siding and caulk,” Miller said.
A common theme at this year’s NARI Home Improvement Show was less maintenance – whether you’re interested in replacing your kitchen counter tops: “If you’re looking for a beautiful, almost an art piece, you might go with a piece of granite or marble,” Or – remodeling your bathroom: “We are going to much smaller soaking tubs, bubble massage with a larger luxury shower with maybe some specialty sprays,” Nicki Losinski with Bella Kitchen and Bath said. Some are getting rid of their bath tubs altogether, as people are busier and don’t necessarily have time to take baths.
The NARI Home Improvement Show even offered tips for redesigning your garden. “Some of the smaller fruited shrubs are really healthy for you and good for the birds, so even if you don’t eat it, it’s good for the birds,” Friemoth said.
Nicki Losinski from Bella Kitchen and Bath says: don’t get too caught up in finding the right finish for your wooden cabinets and floors. “You can have the old oak floors that you refinish. They look gorgeous brand-new, and you can pair it with maple or cherry, different wood species,” Losinski said.
Experts say they can provide tips, but the bottom line is: how much are you willing/able to spend to make that dream home a reality.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinal
- Winters Onset
Below is the article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal that appeared in the September 13, 2014 issue regarding the winter coming up and preparing for the cold.
Winter's onset keeps companies busy
Photo by Gary Porter/Milwaukee Journal Sentinal
Ontaria Jones (left) and Otis Dixon of S&E Insulation install new insulation at a home in Glendale. Many homeowners have learned from last year’s tough winter.
By Paul Gores of the Journal Sentinel Sept. 13, 2014 1:48 p.m.
While nobody who lived here over the past year needs to be reminded how harsh a Wisconsin winter can be, the chill in the air last week ought to serve as a nudge to start getting ready for the next one.
Last winter — the 10th-coldest on record in Milwaukee — exposed neglect or wishful thinking by homeowners on everything from old heating systems to evergreens that, it turned out, actually don't stay forever green when the right combination of nasty weather converges.
"We were inundated," said Wayne Abendschein, of 1st Choice Heating & Cooling Inc. in Waukesha. "It definitely took its toll on furnaces that were not maintained. For people who don't do their maintenance yearly or at least every other year, it showed the weakness of the furnaces not just with breakdowns, but with people complaining about their utility bills being so much higher than normal."
The Farmer's Almanac has predicted "stinging" temperatures and normal snowfall for the Midwest, but other long-range forecasts, at least for now, aren't as alarming. Whatever winter brings, there are steps that can be taken now to help the house and yard make it through with fewer problems, home improvement professionals said.
Some suggestions are simple and relatively inexpensive, but people often put them off until winter arrives, they said.
One low-cost idea: Get a roof rake now while they still are available.
Randy Miller, owner of two home improvement companies in Milwaukee — Allrite Home & Remodeling and S&E Insulation — said the roof rake will come in handy when the first heavy 3-inch snowfall coats the top of the house. Roof rakes pull snow off the outer parts of the roof and the gutters, reducing the potential for ice dams that can send water into the house.
"You don't want too much snow sitting up there," Miller said. "It's a lot of extra weight on the roof."
Miller, whose crews are now busy putting on new roofs and installing insulation around the area, recommended that homeowners have an independent energy audit by an inspector approved by the utility-funded organization Focus on Energy.
State-certified consultants using infrared cameras, smoke sticks and giant fans can diagnose whether a home is properly insulated. Focus on Energy offers rebates to eligible homeowners who weatherize their house.
Jim Maletta, owner of North Star Energy Consulting in West Allis, said a typical audit takes about three hours and costs between $300 and $400. Maletta said after the audit he writes a report "that goes into great detail in terms of what needs to be done, and where, and provides priority order listing."
Focus on Energy spokeswoman Sarah Platt said the cost of audits normally range between $200 and $400, depending on the size of the house. Sometimes a consumer may find special promotional audits available for about $100.
"It's well worth having it done," Miller said. "Even if a person doesn't end up choosing to do insulation right away, it's still good to know what kind of losses you are actually getting and why."
Annual furnace inspection.
Home improvement pros said an annual pre-winter inspection of the furnace can prevent problems later. It wasn't uncommon to see parts such as igniters and inducer motors break down in last winter's long-running extreme cold, and filters in poor condition caused furnace issues. A tuneup costing less than $100 could have headed off those troubles, said Abendschein.
Sometimes people expect their furnace to last longer than it was meant to, he said.
"People believe that their furnace should last 30-plus years," Abendschein said. "In all reality, the likelihood is a furnace of 17 to 22 years has had a good lifespan, and somebody that's getting 25 to 30-plus years out of a furnace is just on borrowed time."
Last year's rough winter was also tough on plants, said Bill Wandsnider of Wandsnider Landscape in Menomonee Falls.
"I saw plants that died after this winter that were clearly 50 years old."
One obvious problem was brown needles on evergreens, especially Japanese yews, a plant commonly used for landscaping.
Wandsnider said evergreens need water throughout the winter, but extreme cold can cause needles to dry out.
"You need to make sure going into the fall that your evergreens have had adequate moisture, which means you may need to water them if we've gone into a really dry fall," Wandsnider.
Wandsnider is treasurer of Milwaukee/NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry), which is holding its annual Fall Home & Remodeling Show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the Wisconsin Expo Center at State Fair Park in West Allis.
Evergreen needles also can suffer from "winterburn," a drying out that occurs when sunlight reflecting off snow causes water in the needles to evaporate, he said. One way to stave it off is to put burlap on branches. Another is to spray them with an anti-desiccant, which helps prevent moisture from evaporating.
Rodents that were kept from moving underground by a quick winter freeze ended up roaming yards and gnawing on the bark of plants, which "girdled" the stems and kept water from getting to the tips in the spring. He recommended putting hardware cloth, a wire mesh material, around trunks to keep critters away.
The NARI Fall Home & Remodeling Show will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the Wisconsin Expo Center at State Fair Park in West Allis. For more information:
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