New Concept: A Remodeling Coach

Reva Kussmaul, of Eye for Detail, Pasadena, Calif., offers a unique service designed to help homeowners and contractors navigate the often turbulent waters of long remodeling projects. Kussmaul offers a “7 step solution” — seven crucial things homeowners need to know before hiring a contractor. She also teaches contractors valuable lessons to make their interaction with homeowners a more positive experience for all.

Kussmaul’s advice to contractors: Stop underbidding even if it means losing out on a job. There isn’t much point for a contractor to be the low bidder only to find out half-way through a project, the bid is too low to make a profit. Kussmaul knows what she is talking about. She heads her own home remodeling business putting her in a unique position to advise both clients and contractors alike.

“We are passionate about bringing honesty, integrity and open communication to the remodeling field,” says Kussmaul, who also is CEO of Moneyvisions which gives business owners and the general public an opportunity to learn to manage their relationship with money. Kussmaul credits her even handedness in dealing with contracting issues to her recognition that homeowners are at least 50 percent responsible for so-called remodeling “nightmares.” Simply put, there are always two sides to every situation. It’s not ALWAYS about a “bad” contractor.

Homeowner Judy Louie came to appreciate Kussmaul’s direct approach after experiencing a remodeling nightmare with another contractor. “As an attorney, I appreciate her insistence on written bids and change orders so the parties understand each other’s expectations and obligations,” says Louie.

Kussmaul offers group and individual sessions for homeowners and contractors at her training center in Pasadena and also provides phone sessions for clients nationwide.

Coastal Construction

High-wind guide for use of wood

The American Wood Council and the International Code Council announced the release of the newly developed Guides to Wood Construction in High Wind Areas.

With a tremendous need in the hurricane-prone Southeast for simple design tools, AWC has developed a new series of easy-to-use guides for contractors in high-wind areas of the country. This new series of publications is co-branded with ICC.

Individually published guides address design requirements in 90-, 100-, 110-, 120- and 130-mph wind zones, respectively. The Guides are simplified versions of building-code-recognized Wood Frame Construction Manual (WFCM) for One- and Two-Family Dwellings 2001 Edition. Prescriptive solutions presented in the guides are compatible with the WFCM 2001 and in compliance with the ICC family of building codes. For example, use of any of the guides will result in design solutions that prescriptively meet the requirements of the International Residential Code.

These guides were developed with input from, and in cooperation with, the National Association of Home Builders, FEMA/URS, ICC, and the Institute for Business and Home Safety. To download FREE copies of the guides, visit the AWC website at www.awc.org.

Kitchens & Baths

A rare decline in cabinet sales

Reflecting the softness in the market for new residential construction, cabinet sales posted their first decline in 127 months, falling 2.9 percent in November 2006 compared to the same month a year earlier, the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association said last month.

According to the Reston, Va.-based KCMA, manufacturers participating in the association’s monthly “Trend of Business” survey reported declines for the month in sales of stock cabinets (-5.2 percent) and custom cabinets (-10.6 percent); in contrast, semicustom sales rose 1.3 percent for the month.

Despite the monthly decline, year-to-date cabinet sales for the first 11 months of 2006 were up 7.6 percent over the same period from January through November of last year, the KCMA noted.

“After 10 years and seven months of growth, the streak has come to an end,” observed KCMA executive vice president, Dick Titus. “It has been a great run. In addition to the well-documented softness in new housing construction, cabinet sales typically slow during the Thanksgiving-to-end-of-January holiday season.

Titus added, however, that cabinet manufacturers have adjusted their production schedules in response to the current market. “Long term, the outlook is still positive, with renewed growth expected this spring,” he commented. Industry projections are for a flat year, with sales comparable to 2006, “which would still be at a very sustainable level,” said.

KCMA president Bill Weaver, of Canyon Creek Cabinet Company, said that in addition to the housing decline and holiday season, weather has been a negative factor in several regions, contributing to disruption in some supply chain and product distribution channels.

Green Fixtures

EPA encouraging more efficient water-saving toilets

Americans are finally flushing away old attitudes about toilets. Eco-friendly consumers are targeting the bathroom, the largest drain on indoor water.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average family of four uses 280 gal. of water a day indoors, and toilets account for about 27 percent of that. So in sustainable circles, the question of the moment is “How low is your gpf?” — gallons per flush, that is.

Toilets made before 1994 were real water guzzlers, using from 3.5 to 7 gal. per flush. In 1994, federal law mandated that new toilets had to conform to a new standard of 1.6 gpf. The quest for improvement has led to other innovations, including dual-flush technology, which uses as little as 0.8 gal. to dispose of liquid waste and 1.6 gal. for solid waste.

The EPA is stepping up efforts to publicize the benefits of conserving water. “We believe water efficiency is the blue wave of the future,” says Benjamin H. Grumbles, the EPA’s assistant administrator for water. Last year, the agency introduced Water Sense, a labeling program similar to the Energy Star rating for appliances, to alert consumers to water-efficient products.

Recently, the EPA released a voluntary 1.28-gpf-or-less specification for high-efficiency toilets, down from the 1.6 mandated in 1994.

Windows & Doors

Premium vinyl brand launched

Weather Shield Windows & Doors, Medford, Wis., announced a stand-alone vinyl brand — Visions Windows and Patio Doors. Visions will be supported by a stand-alone strategic business unit that includes marketing, customer service, sales and engineering resources. The business unit will be led by Ernie DeBacco, Visions national sales manager, and a brand manager to be named soon. The company is establishing the brand’s infrastructure and will make its official debut at the 2007 International Builders Show in February.

“Vinyl products comprise about 50 percent of window and door sales today,” said Mark Schield, vice president of Weather Shield. “Selling vinyl windows is different than selling wood windows. It’s a different mind-set, a different game. We’re looking for top quality dealers who will embrace vinyl products the way that so many of our existing dealers have embraced wood product sales.”

Visions currently has dealers in the 48 contiguous states and will be continuously expanding its dealer network.

Roofing

CertainTeed Corp. helps Spanish-speaking roofing professionals

CertainTeed Corporation is leading the way in helping Spanish-speaking building professionals succeed in the U.S. roofing industry by offering “Lideres Exitosos” (Successful Leaders), a six-week professional development course. Available in DVD format, “Líderes Exitosos” is designed specifically for the Spanish-speaking supervisor or manager in the United States and provides training on leadership principles.

Made possible by a CertainTeed financial grant to Bilingual America, the course was created and is taught by Ricardo González, founder and CEO of Bilingual America, which provides customized Spanish and Cultural Management training programs to individuals and organizations.

Training presented in “Líderes Exitosos” is communicated entirely in Spanish to assure complete language and cultural understanding. The course has received official certification from the State of Georgia, Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission.

Decking

Weyerhaeuser extends contract with Lowe’s to offer ChoiceDek products

Weyerhaeuser Company announced it has extended its exclusive agreement with Lowe’s to offer the full line of ChoiceDek composite decking products in Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers in the United States. The three-year contract extension includes several enhancements to the ChoiceDek offerings designed to benefit consumers.

Beginning in 2007, the ChoiceDek product line will be expanded to include stocking of additional colors in Lowe’s retail stores, broadening the color selection available by special order and shortening the time for delivery of special orders.

“We’ve been pleased to work closely with Lowe’s to provide ChoiceDek products to consumers,” says Wendy Minichiello, vice president for Home Improvement Sales for Weyerhaeuser. “In 2007, the expanded product line will give consumers more color choices for the design of their deck and outdoor projects and make it easier to get custom materials.”

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