A few tips on what you should consider when hiring a contractor


Here’s a few tips you can use when hiring a contractor. This morning Wake UP aired the morning after the Contact 6 segment aired, Where Katrina and I chased down a contractor who left a Waukesha home owner high and dry. A little research up front can certainly save you a lot of headaches and a few dollars as well. On a happy note, we were able to contact the contractor in the contact 6 segment and worked with him to make things right, Lemons to lemonade!!!

The Late Summer list From Fox 6 Wakeup


Hi all,

Here’s some info as a follow up to my segment on 8/19 Fox 6 Wakeup.

With winter fast approaching, (yes I’m sorry to say) Wisconsin homeowners will be considering all kinds of projects to ready the fort for winter. If this winter is anything like the last, you’ll certainly want to prepare. In my experience, there’s a few things that I put on, what I like to call, the late summer list. These projects are better done when the weather is warmer for both safety and success. One caution! If you feel uncomfortable with ladders, heights, or walking on roofs, CALL A PROFESSIONAL!

The List:

nail-popRoof and Flashings

  • Nail pops in shingles. Walk your roof and look for raised areas on the edges of the shingles. If you discover some, gently lift the shingle and see if the nail hasn’t lifted up and caused this situation. If the nail is very loose, simply pull it out and apply some roofing cement (available in a caulking gun cartridge) in and around the hole and place the nail back in. If the nail is too tight to remove by hand, pound it back into place and apply the cement around and on top of the nail. Then apply some cement to the underside of the shingle and press it back into place.
  • Loose shingles. Pretty much the same fix. Apply some roofing cement to the underside of the shingle and press back into place. You may have to place a weight like a brick or cinder block over the repair site to hold the shingle down while the cement dries.
  • Loose flashings….(bad pipe flashing pic) repair advice follows



  • Inspect flashing, masonry, cap. nail down loose flashings and seal with roofing cement.
  • Sealing masonry. Water can find pathways into bricks and mortar that will freeze in cold temps. Sealing the masonry with a good sealer can reduce damage like spalling (shown above) and save you from an expensive tuck pointing job. Most sealers are simply applied with a brush like painting.
  • Seal all masonry on the home. If you have a decorative stone veneer, stone pillar bottoms or any masonry, you may want to consider sealing it with a good masonry sealer. On caution, some sealers will add a sheen to the stone or may make the color change slightly. Apply the sealer in an inconspicuous area before painting the town.



  • Clean out composted material. It’s much easier to flush out compost residue with your hose in nice weather. It’s no fun getting wet when it’s cold outside.
  • You will have to clean the gutters again in fall but the leaves will be fluffy and easy to shop vac out. Placing a strainer in the downspout after you remove the compost so the new fluffy leaves don’t make their way into the downspouts. Remove the strainer after you clean the new leaves out of the gutter in fall.

Weather stripping

  • Check your storm doors and entry doors at the bottom to make sure the sweep in in good shape. This is a wear point on the door and will have to be replaced periodically.
  • Lubricate doors and windows for smooth winter operation. Simply rubbing a bar of parafin wax in tracks of windows or sticky door jambs will make operation easy and leave no residue that could cause havoc later if you try to paint or refinish surrounding areas.

If you have questions or comments please send me a response.


Thanks for visiting>>>


aka”Nick the Construction Guru”

Weather playing havoc

This summer the weather has been stranger than normal. Although I have’nt checked any records it sure seems as though we’ve had more than our fair share of rain. I also find it a bit strange how the weather has changed so much and so often in a matter of hours.

This climate cycle can be extremely hard on a home exterior. In my experience to many homeowners wait until an event takes place to pay any attention to their home’s exterior envelope. Here’s a few tips that may help you avoid a costly repair, especially during these strange weather days.


  • Check the exterior wood trim around windows and doors. With the wet weather, then hot drying sun that we’ve been experiencing, the chance for paint failure and rotted wood is increased substantially. Especially window sills and door thresholds.
  • If you have a wood door on your homes exterior check for deteriating finish. A good coat of UV resistant polyurethane  can save a ton of work later.
  • Check wood siding for peeling paint or rotted areas. caulk as needed.
  • CLEAN THE GUTTERS!! easy to do and can save a ton of repairs to siding, windows, foundations and landscaping. Make sure there are adaquate downspout extensions to keep all the rain water out of the basement.
  • Check exterior stair componants. Many times neglected stairways will just collapse without warning.
  • Do a simple walk around inspection of windows, doors, siding, roofing and light fixtures. Repairs are much easier to do on the sunny days of summer.
  • Lastly if you have questions or concerns about any exterior areas of your home call a qualified contractor for an evaluation.

Replacement Windows ….Pane Relievers?

As the cold weather slowly wanders in, one can’t help but think about windows. If your curtains move when the wind blows, it may well be time to think about new windows. But what you still how to replace home window glass?

I can honestly say, not a day goes by that I don’t see an ad or a commercial pitching replacing dual pane window glass. It seems everybody is in the window business these days. From a homeowner’s perspective, thinking about replacing windows can be confusing and frustrating. So once again it’s time for the Construction Guru to snap on his cape and come to the rescue! Ok ….no cape and rescue might be a bit of an exaggeration, so how about a few tips on the how’s, who’s and what’s?


We have been replacing residential windows since 1966 so when I talk about windows, I think it’s safe to say I’ve seen it all. So with that in mind, here’s some thoughts:

First materials, windows come in a myriad of different materials. The most popular today are: wood, vinyl, fiberglass and a few weird materials that are a variation of one or more of these three and private labeled to throw you off into thinking that the company your talking with, is the only on with the “space age” material. Enter P.T. Barnum. My opinion is that vinyl windows are the best choice in most cases. The reason I say most is because there are applications where vinyl simply won’t work best, like historical restorations and extremely high elevations. So assuming that most of you live in structures other than a historical landmark or a skyscraper…..VINYL.  Vinyl works well inWisconsin because it is a non conductor of heat and cold, it’s impervious to insects and won’t rot, even in the wettest of locations.

As I have said before in other blogs,Wisconsin has a climate unlike almost anywhere else. Our temperature can change by 40 -50 degrees within hours. Also consider we can range from 100 degrees to 15 below zero. These wide and varying changes can have serious consequences on building materials. Wood, aluminum, steel, fiberglass and vinyl all expand and contract at different rates. If you have ever looked at a siding panel made from aluminum, steel or vinyl you probably noticed that there are slotted nail holes at the top of the panel. You may have also noticed that the slots in vinyl are longer that the ones in the metal sidings and may have even noticed they differ from steel to aluminum. The reason that these slots are there is so that the siding can expand and contract for hot days to cold days. The longer the slots, the more the material will move. So the million dollar question, what’s that got to do with windows? Well, many of todays replacement windows are made from a mixture of these or other materials. Many wood windows utilize vinyl tracks, some vinyl and fiberglass windows contain steel or aluminum and there are some metal windows that use vinyl as well. Although these “mixed” material windows may work well in milder climates, they may not be the best choice inWisconsin because of all those materials moving at different rates and measures.


So if you’re thinking about replacing windows here’s Custom Screens & Security Products tips:


1)      Look for extruded vinyl frame work. Extruded frames have a series of separate, hollow, cavities similar to a honeycomb. The vinyl should be thick enough so it requires no backers or reinforcements of wood, steel or aluminum. Ask to see a “corner cut” of the window so you can see the interior of the frame work. You should be able to put extreme force on the frame with you fingers with little to no movement.

2)      On double hungs, (up and down windows) and slide-by windows, weather stripping should be made from a synthetic pile type that slips in to a channel in the frame work rather then glued or fastened. In my opinion. “fin seal” is the best. Fin seal looks like a fuzzy seal with a plastic fin running down the middle. The fin keeps the seal upright, against the framework. The channeled strip is allowed to move with expansion and contraction and because it’s synthetic, it won’t rot. Channeled weather stripping is easy to replace as well. On casement or awning style windows, I would suggest a rubberized “bulb seal”. This looks much like a gasket. These types of windows lock tightly against the seal much like a refrigerator door.

3)      On double hungs and sliders look for an interlock where the two sash (or the movable panels) meet in the center.

4)      Look for fusion welded frame work. The corners of the main frame and sash frames should be “welded” not screwed or mechanically fastened. This provides a stronger and air tight seal at the corners.

5)      Glass should be insulated or as many of you know as “Thermopane”. On double glazed units I suggest 7/8” units. Triple glazed do offer a slightly better “R” factor, but cost and weight should be balanced against the slight increase in efficiency. Argon gas and Low-e glass has become the standard in high efficiency, but there are some other highbreds out there. Low-e is a special, heat reflective” glass treatment while the argon gas is trapped between the two panes, it is heavier that air so it insulates better.

6)      Buy local… Keep in mind that out side of the obvious, buying from a local contractor provides the likelihood that you’ll receive faster service in the event of a problem. Many national companies offer the same window in many climates, you want a window built for Wisconsin. As always, I suggest you consult with the Better Business Bureau, Milwaukee NARI and the Metropolitan Builders Association before hiring a contractor.

7)      Installation…. Installation is as important as the window you choose. A good window will offer poor performance of it’s not installed correctly.

Replacement windows are expensive no matter what they are or who installs them. A little due diligence up front will make the view better in the long run.

Related article: Locksmithing Services in West Palm Beach.

Deciding on siding?

It’s that time of year! We’re all outside working on the yard and inevidably you turn to look at your humble abode and then it happens…..you become depressed as you view peeling or faded paint, poor colors or just a tired face. Now, the million dollar question, paint or low maintenance siding??? Well my grand father used to say “you don’t buy paint, you rent it” Let’s face it, there’s alot of truth to that statement.

Today there’s so many options, one can become lost. Cedar, fiber cement, steel, aluminum, vinyl and even some highbreds like “Smartside”. There’s probably even a few I missed, point is there’s alot. When you decide to side, I suggest you do a little research then call contractors. My best advice is to consult with the Better Business Bureau and Milwaukee NARI to find quality contractors. Once you have your short list then just listen to the experts. Consider style, color, warranty and the companies reputation when making your decision.

If you are brave enough to take on the task yourself be sure to consult the installation instructions. Deviating from the manufacturer’s installation specifications may void the warranty.

If you have a specific question about siding send it to me, I ‘ll be glad to help!!!

Nick “The Construction Guru”

The Short List

Hi everyone out in cyber land!!

Just off the heels of the Milwaukee NARI Home Improvement Show, I felt compelled to share a few pointers that may help you get to the short list when seeking a contractor. Whither it’s remodeling, repair, decorating or landscaping, following a few rules can help you avoid an unpleasant and costly mistake. Now in fairness I have shared this info before but I do feel it bears repeating.


When seeking a professional to complete a project on your home consider the following:


  • Time in business.  A company or firm with a long established reputation can tell you a lot about their business practices. I will caution you how ever to follow up on information you receive from a potential contractor. Two principles who each have say, 25 years experience in a given trade may offer a 50 years in business answer but it’s simply not the same as legitimately being “in business”. A firm that has been in business in excess of 10 years will have a track record “good or bad” that can be followed up on.


  • Affiliations.  Check out who the potential contractor is affiliated with. Milwaukee NARI, the Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, ect. Typically, trade associations and watchdog type groups will offer some info on their members. They may also offer specific remedies for issues that arise, like mediation or arbitration services. While no one wants to consider these services when entering into a project contract, they may become invaluable in the event something goes south.


  • References.  Ask for them and check them out. Too many times references are given, but never followed up on.  Although it would be ludicrous to assume that a contractor would give you bad references to call, asking the right questions can shed light on what to expect from a contractor should you choose to employ him. Questions like; ”how was the daily clean up” or “did they follow up on questions” ? May offer insight to what was important to that client and if the values of the company align with yours.


  • Trust your gut.  There are many different personalities in clients and contractors. Feeling comfortable with a contractors style and demeanor offers a wealth of information. If there are conflicts throughout a project, your comfort level will be far better served by someone who thinks and communicates in a similar style to your own. Also remember that some projects can go on for months, getting along is not a given, so treat the project as a short term marriage and pick your partner wisely.


  • Look at past work.   Pictures may be worth a thousand words but I have just one… “Photoshop” . Looking at physical projects may seem like a lot of work but that’s where the rubber hits the road. If you’re considering a project in the five digit category , looking at some past work can really help your comfort level.



Good Luck!!  Nick, “the Construction Guru”

Ice Damming 101

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Ice dam season.  Now I’ll be the first to admit it’s not quite yet “the perfect storm” but I fear it’s coming. We have had some good ice dam weather but the best is yet to come. This is one of the worst of the winter hauntings, causing roof damage, staining drywall and creating the possibility of mold. So with this in mind I pulled an old but trusty text on the causes and remedies of this wonderland curse. Understanding the what’s and how’s just might save you big dollars and frustration.

What causes Ice Dams?

There is a complex interaction among the amount of heat loss from a house, snow cover, and outside temperatures that leads to ice dam formation. For ice dams to form there must be snow on the roof, and, at the same time, higher portions of the roof’s outside surface must be above 32° F while lower surfaces are below 32°F. For a portion of the roof to be below 32°F, outside temperatures must also be below 32°F. When we say temperatures above or below 32°F, we are talking about average temperature over sustained periods of time.

The snow on a roof surface that is above 32°F will melt. As water flows down the roof it reaches the portion of the roof that is below 32°F and freezes. TA DA!—an ice dam.

The dam grows as it is fed by the melting snow above it, but it will limit itself to the portions of the roof that are on the average below 32°F. So the water above backs up behind the ice dam and remains a liquid. This water finds cracks and openings in the exterior roof covering and flows into the attic space. From the attic it could flow into exterior walls or through the ceiling insulation and stain the ceiling finish.

Preventing Ice dams.

Controlling heat loss through ceilings will help prevent the formation of ice dams.

Increasing insulation in ceiling and roof areas will help stop heated air from flowing through the roof and melting snow. Keep in mind, that if the snow no longer melts, your roof will have to carry a heavier “snow load “ Also know that with increased insulation comes concerns related to proper venting and exhausting. Contact a professional if you’re not sure how to carry out these tasks.

What to do if you have an Ice dam.

Remove snow from the roof. This eliminates one of the ingredients necessary for the formation of an ice dam. A “roof rake” and push broom can be used to remove snow, but may damage the roofing materials if not used carefully.

In an emergency situation where water is flowing into the house structure, making channels through the ice dam allows the water behind the dam to drain off the roof. Hosing with tap water on a warm day will do this job. Work upward from the lower edge of the dam. The channel will become ineffective within days and is only a temporary solution to ice dam damage. Another technique is to fill nylons with calcium chloride and tie them in to sausages, then place them on the ice dams to melt channels (don’t use salt, it can damage roof and gutter materials)

Other things to keep in mind; if a new roof is in your future, talk to your contractor about ice and water barrier. This is a protective membrane that is applied to the roof sheathing prior to shingles. Although this membrane will not stop ice dams from forming, it will protect your home from the damaging effects by sealing out the water. An experienced roofing contractor will be able to explain best practices for ice dam protection. Another consideration when dealing with ice dams is personal safety. Understand that you are risking serious injury or damage to your home when performing these tasks. If you have any doubts, contact a professional! As always, I suggest you contact the Better Business Bureau, Milwaukee NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Association) and the Metropolitan Builders Association if you are considering professional help. Understanding the origin of ice dams and how to deal with them is you first line of defense against costly repairs……………………………….NK

Drama vs. Drywal

So many times, I’ll look at a newly remodeled lower level, a new recreation room or media room, and there will be these weird drywall boxes or uneven “soffits” that are obviously hiding a heating duct or plumbing pipe containing socket weld pipe fittings. Although many contractors and “do it yourselfers” have been so creative as to wrap rope around a support beam or “box it in” the discerning eye can easily ascertain what “lurks” underneath… Sorry, that’s just poor design! When designing an area laden with mechanicals and structural components, consider the possibilities. Duct work usually runs just below the floor joists and many times tight against a support beam. In these cases, I try to mirror the drop that will be necessary to hide these items around the entire perimeter of the ceiling, thus creating the illusion of a tray type ceiling. Then I might place a crown or similar molding on the inside perimeter  about two inches down from the ceiling and hide a rope light behind that molding. Now I have an up-lighted tray ceiling instead of a heat duct with dry wall over it. Another trick I use is to create a series of archways between those support poles. This creates a soft separation and the posts disappear in the wall between the arches. If you must “box” around a pole another sharp idea is to wrap a countertop around it (if space allows), this can create a neat “pub” or bistro” table, then with a couple of stools…wah lah. ( I think that’s French for “awesome)
Sump crocks present another challenge. Not only are they large but you must create access. Depending on the location, build a wood column around the crock with a removable side or front and then copy the same column about six to eight feet away on the same wall to create a nice niche for a flat screen tv. These columns may be used to house speakers or shallow shelves. This technique makes a nice media wall and no ones the wiser.
Many times there’s that one darn duct or lone mechanical that seems to be in the worst place and can’t be moved. Creating a boxed area larger than necessary and symmetrical to the rooms ceiling is a technique I’ve had great success with. Although this will lower the ceiling height, it doesn’t look like you’re hiding anything. Adding a crown or similar molding around the outside perimeter and a few recessed can lights, placed symmetrically in the bottom and now you have a nice design element.
In one project, I designed a book shelf that doubled as an access to under stair way storage area. The shelf was on wheels and push pins held it in place.
Working to remodel a basement especially in an older home can present lots of challenges. Spending a little time and thought on the design can make a good project, great. If you really can’t make sense of the whole design thing, hire a professional to create a plan. Even if you’re going to tackle the project yourself, there are plenty of us out here you can hire for just that aspect of the project. Lastly, take pictures before, during and after so you can show everyone your good work!

Your home isn’t a mutual fund! (Cost vs. Value)

So many times I’ll talk with a perspective client about a remodeling project and they’ll ask “the question” It sounds something like this, “How much will this increase the value of my home” or “How much will I get back when I sell” Other times I’ll get “the statement” “Well, we don’t want to over improve” or “We’ll never get our money back”. Why not to ask for some good guide on mixing grouts correctly“? Truth is, who cares? When you go and purchase an automobile, do you make your buying decision based on what the trade in is going to be in five years? Your home is not a mutual fund. Don’t expect your home improvement project to yield a higher than average return on investment. As a Wisconsin licensed, real estate broker, I have studied cost vs value reports til I’m blue in the face and honestly the margin of error exceeds any possible fair validation of the price of a given home improvement project.

As a seasoned professional in the design/ build remodeling business I would offer the following when it comes to cost vs. value comparisons; consider the project. If you are adding a dedicated home theater or a five person sauna as part of your remodeling project it pretty much, stands to reason that these types of amenities are user specific. This doesn’t mean you won’t get a fair portion of your investment back, should you decide to sell, but it does limit your prospects. As a rule, if your existing kitchen or bath is low quality, severely worn or extremely dated, an investment in remodeling will most likely be recovered when the house is sold, providing that the rest of the home is up to par. Trendy projects are all the rage when new, but are usually quick to become dated. An experienced designer should be able to offer advise if they are given accurate information on budget, desired outcomes and how long the client plans to stay in the home.

When considering a home improvement project tempered with a cost vs. value analysis, you might also want to consider that doing less than you really desire may be a total loss. Since you don’t know a quartz supplier personally and you can’t get a deal on the things you want, if you decide to only update the countertops out of fear you won’t recover financially from a full blown kitchen remodel, you may not only lose the cost of the tops but drown in disappointment for the remaining years you live in your house. Home improvement projects are typically life improvement projects. With proper planning, logical budget approach and a quality contractor, your outcome should be financially sound and increase your quality of life. For most, the home is the biggest, longest term, material investment. In most cases, you can’t go wrong when investing in your home. One last thought, did you ever wonder how much money Rockefeller left behind when he died?………………………………………………..all of it

Reference: Suites At Bathroom City.