Joe’s Remodeling Blog

The Addition

A cool addition we are proud of

This Blog is dedicated to the notion that remodeling is a fun, life long learning process.

Remodeling is my passion, If you are interested in remodeling your home, or just happen to stumble upon my site, please refer me to anyone in need of remodeling. You’ll be pleased that you did.

Boise Weather

Fire season is over, as the snow recently flew in Fairfield Idaho.

There seems to be some confusion about the fan’s “ON” setting on your thermostat. Use it in this hot time of year especially if you have a two story house. Benefits include better filtered air, less starts and stops on your fan motor, and a more evenly temperature home. Read more here

“Quality construction does not cost- it pays”  

as seen on a bumper sticker


Garage Be Gone

Take 'er down

Take ‘er down

Local architects Sherry Mckibben and Doug Cooper knew they wanted to be considerate of the environment when they decided to decommission their 100 year old garage to make way for progress and a new duplex on their north end property. It only took a little internet research for them to land on the Reuse People’s page. With one phone call, they were speaking with the local regional manager, me.

I scheduled a site visit and interviewed them to make sure we were going to be a good fit.

Their goal was to create a Leed Certified project in their own back yard. The concept was to do the right thing with the old structure and deconstruct it in a loving way to keep as much of the materials out of the landfill as possible, to reuse, recycle,and or repurpose. A side benefit would be some possible points towards their Leed certification of the new project.

As it turns out, reusing and repurposing building materials goes to the core of the Levco philosophy of sustainability. Although not a completely new idea in the Treasure Valley remodeling community. Levco has teamed up with experts to ensure that we are not reinventing the wheel. Not all structures are candidates for this process, most are. The larger the project, the more potential materials to repurpose and the more potential savings for you. Salvaging building materials is just a worthy endeavor in our opinion.

The Reuse People

The Reuse People

Deconstruction has always been a crunch it up and throw it away process that we are changing slowly into a “what can we do to repurpose this structure?” mentality. I recall donating a property to the Boise Fire Department training division to teach rescue and fire suppression techniques. It was the right thing to do at the time but I am looking at raising structures through different glasses now. I firmly believe that there is a time and place for everything.

We do more than tear down buildings

We have stripped valuable components out of a commercial structure and reused it all in a shop. We have just repurposed cabinets, hardwood flooring, plumbing fixtures (that are water conserving) and all sorts of cool things. The key is to do it in a loving way without a wrecking ball. Salvaging building materials is just a worthy endeavor in our opinion.

How the whole thing works is slick.

  • We evaluate the project and determine what is able to be used to determine a price for deconstruction.
  • We look at what potential premiums are available to the donating party.
  • We get a permit for deconstruction.
  • We gather a mob of likeminded folks together to do some work.
  • We set up a rest station with beverages and shade, (consider a fan)
  • We have a recorder keep track of hours, donated materials, recycling, and repurposed materials.
  • We bring a bunch of hand tools available and a tool crib to store them.
  • We explain the plan and goal to the workers prior to swinging
  • We divide the materials into piles. Trash, repurposeable items, wood recycling, metal recycling, good wood for denailing.
  • We designate a safety officer to make sure we pause between phases, and to oversee hydration and rest.
  • We set up a denailing station
  • We create a flow of materials to a sturdy dumping trailer.

In this case we had a real good time, we got some great volunteer assistance and put in a heck of a long hot day. We learned a lot and found a couple of treasures. The most interesting of which was a letter of congratulations to a fellow for putting in 35 years and retiring from the post office back in the mid 1900′s.

Tale of the tape for this structure

Tale of the tape

Tale of the tape

  1. Man hours: 70, Gallons of beverages consumed (at least 70)
  2. Wood to the shredder: 26 Yards or (6 thousand pounds)
  3. Pounds of metal to the recycling: 480
  4. Yards of trash to the landfill. 6 yards (tar paper, roofing materials, insulation)
  5. Lumber to Second Chance Material Center (our recipient of all things deemed “reusable building materials”)
  • Over 300 lineal feet of unpainted dimensional lumber
  • Doors: 4
  • Windows: 7
  • Miscellaneous building materials. shelving and bannister

Had everything gone to the landfill I’m just guessing it would have taken less time and been crunched down to about 30 yards of debris added to the landfill and would have cost more to the clients.

What you get for your money

In this world we often look for tradeoffs between what you give and what you get for it.

  1. You get to work with some folks who share your belief in protecting our environment.
  2. You get a little insight to the history of the structure and building techniques of old.
  3. You get to claim a tax benefit (if applicable) for donating to and supporting a worthy cause. (Second Chance is a alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility) They use the building materials to make things which they sell to make money to help their cause.
  4. You get the satisfaction of doing something worthy of celebration and get to participate in the circle of remodeling.

Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, click here to email me directly, or call 208-947-7261

Post Script: This building was lead tested and was found to be positive. This project does not fall under the EPA’s RRP rule and was demolished under the supervision of a Certified Risk Assessor. The painted products that were donated to Second Chance were done so with the understanding that Lead Based paint was present. No power tools were used to deconstruct the painted components. Painted components were disposed with alongside non painted materials to the wood pile at the landfill. The eating area was away from the deconstruction activity and the site was cleaned well with no paint chips visible upon completion. The workers were made aware of this condition and assisted in policing the area. The Management.

If you or someone you know is considering remodeling or just wants to speak to a trustworthy remodeling contractor please contact me, you’ll be glad you did.

Disclaimer: Some of these images came from the WEB. If they are yours, and you object to them being used, please claim them and I will gladly remove and replace them at once.

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Earth Day 2014 Update

Lead Safe Firm

Lead Safe Firm

Every April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day, This is set aside to remember or continue to do something nice for mother earth.
Boise, Idaho was still able to muster enough interest for an event that celebrates sustainability in all of its forms called the Idaho Green Fest.
The RRP Rule 2014
Back in 2010 the EPA established federal guidelines for dealing with Lead Based Paint. It chimes in with the outlawing of Lead Based Paint manufacturing which went into effect in December of 1977. This is the rule that designates all homes built before 1978 as completely leaded until proven otherwise.

Boise’s building department is still allowing the EPA to enforce their own rules because we Idahoans don’t want the government interfering with our lives. Other than the federal mandate, there is no local oversight or requirement to participate. Now that reports of huge fines are starting to seep out into the media, remodelers are starting to come out of the woodwork to have testing done.

Others choose to live in denial and would rather wait to get caught red handed then plea ignorance of the law. Those of you that are still holding your breath hoping that the EPA will go away should probably take a breath.
Levco is continuing to be involved

The Claw

The Claw

I have been doing my due diligence and testing all of our pre-1978 homes, we have been following RRP rules as part of our process.

We are recycling and repurposing at every opportunity. We even had an unknown neighbor (who I have named “Freddie the Freeloader”) off a failed freezer knowing full well that we would properly dispose of it.
Here is an image of the claw assisting me with removal of over a ton of metal from my truck. (The funds go the celebration fund)

We have planted 3 nice trees this month at various projects and are encouraging folks to leave the earth uncovered as much as possible so it can breathe.

Every so often, we are asked to assist with a Lead Based Paint demolition project to give advice or assist.

I saved 5 vintage doors from the scrap yard to so some repurposing with.
My hat is off to Gail & Carter Duke of Lead Locators LLC who have consistently helped folks learn and understand the prevalence, as well as the health and safety risks associated with lead based paint through testing and reports that clearly state the location of lead based paint.

9 Volt Battery Safety Alert

9 Volt Battery

9 Volt Battery

I saw a heartfelt plea from a gentleman on the internet that had a 9 volt battery cause a serious house fire. Part of his concern is that he felt very responsible because he was ignorant of the danger and asked that I pass this information along.

I’m doing my duty to pass on the warning.

The story is that when he changed out his smoke detector batteries once a year at daylight savings, just like the fire department recommends, he put the old ones in a bag and left them in the garage on a shelf. Later he inadvertently bumped the bag and in doing so, jumped the contacts together which caused a heat reaction that ignited some nearby clothing. Ultimately a lot of property damage occurred but thankfully, there was no loss of life in this case.

In my estimation 9 volt batteries last anywhere from 2-10 years, hell the smoke detectors themselves should be changed out every 8-10 years. Smoke detectors, like CO (Carbon Monoxide) detectors save lives.

They all alert folks in enough time to either extinguish a small fire or get out in time to save lives. Most new ones are designed to be electrically energized with a battery backup.  However, many homes are still only equipped with the battery only units.

9 Volt Survival Tool

Fire Starter

Fire Starter

9 volt batteries have long been used as a survival tool. It only takes a second to start steel wool on fire, just to give you an idea of how much potential energy is stored inside of them.

Inherent problems

No one wants to hear the chirping or experience a false alarm (which always happens in the middle of the night.) Yet, I’m thankful that they do because the assumption is that, if they are silent, then they are armed and fully functional. A little known bit of trivia is that they start chirping when they still have 2/3rds of their strength left.

Building codes now mandate that all of the installed smoke and CO detectors are electrically tied together so when one goes off, then they all do. (Exceptions exist when remodeling, they are rare and likely hardship generated)

When to Change Them Out

Battery testing tool

Battery testing tool

Here is my recommendation: Disclaimer (This is just how I do it) Rather than switching batteries annually, test the unit by depressing the test button with the handle of a broom or some spray some synthetic smoke to see if it is working every year. If it doesn’t work, then do some trouble shooting or replace the darn thing. It is a small investment in the big picture.

Using a simple battery testing tool will also help in making a trouble shooting diagnosis. I’ll bet you’ll stop throwing away perfectly functional strong batteries.

Storing 9 Volt Batteries

Disposing of good batteries is silly. If you do have to dispose of a dead one, just throw it away. But if you are  saving one that has been chirping, or storing 9 volt batteries for any reason, put a piece of tape over the contacts to render the strong batteries super safe.

In the words of one of my hero’s, Sargent Phil Esterhaus of the Hill Street Blues, “Lets roll, and be careful out there!”

For more information than you would ever want to know about these batteries click here

Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, click here to email me directly, or call 208-947-7261

House #1 The Love Shack

The name of this home comes from the B52′s song of the same name that was on the radio at just the right time.

The Love Shack

The Love Shack

Flipping is an art form, now that the acquisition is done. Evaluating our current conditions and developing a plan for success was the first order of business.  My vision for this home is to alter it substantially, way beyond the typical “Fluff & Buff” that most flippers do. We start by cleaning everything out that needs to go. This clears the distractions and provides us with an opportunity to do a top to bottom review. Then we outlined the strengths and weaknesses of our home.

Flaws to overcome:

  1. It had a flat roof which added to the lack of curb appeal.
  2. It had resistance wires in the ceiling for heat. According to Perry Paine of Boise city, “It is some of the nicest heat you’ll ever get in a home but it is a bear to maintain if anything goes wrong.”
  3. The bathroom had a old look and feel with a bad floor and walls.
  4. Natural gas was going to cost over $6,000 just to get it into the area.
  5. The windows had been replaced but the original aluminum ones had leaked for years so we found mold beneath every one.
  6. The electrical panel had screw in fuses and no grounding lugs on the outlets or GFCI ones where needed.
  7. The washing machine was in the kitchen.
  8. The kitchen was not serviceable or adaptable because the cabinets had been built in place.
  9. There was no air conditioning.
  10. We had a carport but no family room
  11. It had galvanized pipes (usually this means obstructed water flow and potential leaks)
  12. The backyard was not fenced.
  13. All of the interior doors had damage.
  14. We were on a septic system.

Assets to celebrate:

  1. Original Oak flooring that had potential to be refinished.
  2. It had a solid structure, what I like to call “good bones”
  3. It had not been substantially altered.
  4. The crawl space was insulated.
  5. The windows had been replaced.
  6. It had a decent floor plan that could be improved easily.
  7. There was city sewer in the area
  8. The exterior bricks were in good shape and very unique. (I had never seen anything like them.) Plus we had extras!
The Kitchen

The Kitchen

Our initial assessment was that we were going to do a Deep Renovation. We needed to tear out the drywall, all the lighting and plumbing fixtures (except for the toilet and bathroom door). How far to go with drywall removal was a point of heated discussion and some waffling. Eventually I was convinced to remove it all because it will make it easier for all of the subcontractors and will render a better finished project.

The big transformations were going to be a vaulted front half of the home, done with scissor trusses and a central HVAC system. Without natural gas in the area I turned to a Mini Split system for it’s energy efficiency and low operating cost. We decided to enclose the car port and turn it into a family room.

Consulting with our relator Donna Jacobson, we made sure we were not going overboard with our plan. She is going to be the listing agent, so what we were doing had to also make sense to her. Getting buy in for the plan from my team is always a big emotional boost. We created a DOW and had some rough numbers for executing the plan but pulled the trigger on the plan prior to getting the subcontractor bids like we normally do.

Once the floor plan was drawn up we went and obtained a Boise City Building Permit and separate  Fencing Permit, we quickly built a typical cedar picket fence with metal poles to create some sturdy privacy. With a plan, permit in hand, and an eager crew, the project was in full swing.

Thanksgiving 2013 update:

The place is looking up

The place is looking up

The demo is done and the rebuilding is happening. The big deal is changing the roof line. The new look is pretty dramatic.  At first glance it looks too tall, yikes! It grew on me quickly and I think it will be fine, getting the sheeting on the roof and “drying it in” is a high priority at the moment. A pleasant surprise was the carport being framed in feels great and the floors can be refinished.

12-1 In looking things over today, I saw the opportunity for a loft reminiscent of the tiny home tour. I also decided to trim out a wall from the kitchen to the family room that will create a bar stool area. Diane mentioned a great idea about a light well that we will explore tomorrow.

12-6 Rough plumbing is in and the sewer connection was done just before the snow and hard freeze.

Saint Patrick’s day 2014 update:

We had some minor setbacks that threw the schedule off including sub-par framing issues that needed to be fixed. Finally the HVAC and rough electrical are done, we are insulated dry-walled, taped, textured, painted and roofed. Working on finishing up siding now!

Late April Update

Sod in cropped

Sod In

The exterior was painted, the flooring is done, finish plumbing and electrical is done. The hardwood floors have been refinished and the last few touch up things will be done next week.
There are a bunch of Finish line items to get done which we hope to get done this week.

The property will be going on the market within the week.

Does Being “Green” Cost More?

Wild flowers

Wild flowers

Does green remodeling cost more? It depends upon when you are doing the accounting. If you are counting the upfront cost, then perhaps it does. If you are counting after the X and Y curves cross in a few years then, -no it doesn’t.

Trust me, there are seemingly intuitively “Green” seeming things that are absolutely not green at all.

I recall a humorous conversation with a client that lives near our local Co-Op. (a place I love but is a specialty store for me). I was showing off the green aspects of the DOW when they stopped me in my tracks and asked to have the green things eliminated to save money.

Wow I had not realized it but the connection is that being green costs extra. It doesn’t help that Whole Foods is here now, nicknamed “Whole Paycheck”.

Now that’s organic looking, but who knows?

Naturally this is often the case when we see that organic things cost more at the checkout line. Carrots are carrots, if you can’t taste the difference why should you pay more. If you were paying attention to what you are eating and were doing a blind taste test, my guess is that you may not be able to taste a difference. I admire those that choose “Healthier” food, don’t get me wrong, but you must admit it is ironic that we are talking about cost vs. value here too.

The problem is that being Green and being Organic are two different things entirely. Unfortunately, the Green Remodeling process has a serious marketing problem to address.

I encourage the use of green materials and techniques but I am at the whim of my clients’ requests. I also understand that not everyone is interested or willing to try alternative materials or techniques which is OK.

Sustainability Logo

Our Sustainability Logo

The only way this green stuff is going to be incorporated on a large scale is to limit availability or eliminate availability of wasteful materials and building techniques.

If I were a spec home builder, I could incorporate all sorts of green things and price the home accordingly, allowing the market to set the price or shall I say value of my project but alas I am not.

In the meantime I approach each project as a unique opportunity to do what I can to be true to my 4 principals of green or shall I say, sustainable remodeling.


Second Chance

As the economy eases up and manufacturers are being pressured into being more energy efficient and ecologically sensible. I see more products are evolving into the realm of being more verdant.

As a professional residential remodeler, I am looking to the future. I am also keeping a finger on the pulse of the manufacturing world while scouring the recycled building sources, to make sure to make these materials and products available for my clients to choose to incorporate into their remodeling projects.

We are exploring a new relationship with Second Chance involving tax credits for donated item and dedicated deconstruction teams. If it works, it may evolve into being a real player in offsetting the cost of remodeling projects. I also just learned about a pneumatic de-nailing tool that sounds pretty cool too. Stay tuned for more on the topic.

Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, click here to email me directly. or call us at 208-947-7261

Disclaimer: Some of these images came from the WEB. If they are yours, and you object to them being used, please claim them and I will gladly remove and replace them at once.

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