Renovate Your Home the Eco-Friendly Way

Renovate Your Home the Eco-Friendly Way

eco-friendly-homes Home Improvements Stone Exteriors

Green is all the rage, and the good news is that many eco-friendly approaches can actually help you save that green … money, folks. Money. If you’re looking to do the environment a solid and pad out your wallet at the same time, the following tips will help you do just that.

 

1. Leave Asbestos Alone

Asbestos, a mined mineral that forms in microscopic threads, is incredibly dangerous to human health, causing multiple kinds of cancer. It was used extensively in the middle of the last century, and still exists in many homes built before the 1980s. You should be incredibly careful with asbestos when doing any home renovations; in fact, it’s recommended you just leave it where it is to avoid disturbing it and releasing the damaging shards into the air.

The good news is that there are many renovations that don’t involve exposing asbestos. For instance, when you apply exterior stone to your house, you don’t have to rip out any existing walls, insulation or facades. Instead, all you do is attach the stone to the front of the house, leaving everything underneath intact. This is also a great way to save money.

 

2. Buy Low-VOC Paints

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that not only lead to cancer, they make the air more toxic for plants and wildlife and get into groundwater, damaging our aquifers, rivers and oceans. While in previous decades paint contained high levels of VOCs, you can now find many low-VOC options, especially good for homes that contain children and not costing any more than regular paint.

 

 

3. Use Eco-Friendly Stone Veneer

Whether you’re outfitting an exterior chimney with some lovely red or gold fireplace stone, or revamping the entire outside of your home with new stone veneer, it’s important to ensure it’s the eco-friendly kind. Source your stone from a company that mines responsibly, uses a minimum of chemicals in making the stone aggregate, and avoids removing exterior walls – which, as stated above, can expose asbestos and other toxic chemicals.

Stone veneer is also more eco-friendly than other kinds of stone in that it requires no renovation to the existing home. While real stone requires a brick ledge on which to rest, exterior stone needs none. Plus, it can be applied to any surface, saving you time and money on preparing the underlying layer before application.

 

4. Landscape with Water-Wise Plants

Water is an increasingly critical resource, and everyone should use as little of it as possible. One of the ways you can do this is to plant species that adapt to your area, tolerate drought and don’t require constant watering during dry months. Succulents, grasses and herbs are all excellent options, and you can ask your neighborhood nursery about tips for others that will thrive in your climate.

succulents

 

5. Choose Eco-Friendly Roofing Options

While lots of shingles and other roofing options use unhealthy glues, chemicals and toxins that run off into your yard and leach into groundwater, you aren’t limited to such options. Instead, you can explore eco-friendly roofing options such as recycled shingles, wood shakes, clay tiles, metal roofing and even green roofs – which feature living plants and succulents adapted to your particular climate.

The latter approach makes excellent use of water and helps the bees out by providing the flowering plants they love. Any approach other than the conventional will be better for the world, though.

Mother Earth does a lot for us; isn’t it time you did something for her as well? Truthfully choosing a few eco-friendly ways to approach home renovations isn’t rocket science, and given it can save you money in the long run, is just the smart thing to do.

Seven Things You Should Do To Vet a Contractor Before They Work On Your Home

Seven Things You Should Do To Vet a Contractor Before They Work On Your Home

Home Improvements Stone Fireplace Stone Veneer

Remodeling your home and (like getting a new or updated stone fireplace) is an investment, but it’s one that will pay off over the long-term. Your property’s curb appeal increases, making the whole street more appealing. If you ever decide to move out, the improvements made could increase your home’s resale value. However, the difference between a gorgeous residence that should be on the cover of a home improvement magazine and one that looks shoddy and poorly-done is the contractor who does the work.

If you plan on hiring a contracting company to give your home a makeover, you have to be careful. You want to ensure that the work is quality and something that you can proudly show off for years to come. By asking the right questions and doing some research, you can find a reputable contracting company renowned for its work.

Here’s Seven Ways To Vet A Home Remodeling Contractor

1. Create a Plan of Attack — Home remodeling can be a project that goes on for weeks or months. Your life is going to be somewhat disrupted in the middle of the work. However, no one needs to be woken up bright and early at 6 a.m. on a Saturday because the construction workers are here. Make a plan. Ask whether your contractor will work during weekday mornings, afternoons, and nights and whether they will be here on weekends.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate — The contractor themselves won’t always be on-site working on your property. They have other clients. However, you should always be able to reach them. Before any work begins, ask if it’s best to contact the contractor by phone, email, or even text message. Communication should occur regularly, daily if not weekly, to let you know how the work is progressing.

3. Keep the House Safe — In the middle of the work, walls, floors, fireplace stone, and other parts of the home may be exposed. Besides that, you don’t want your family breathing in dust or tripping over debris. The contractor should have a good plan in place for keeping exposed items covered and your family safe.

RELATED: 4 Great iPhone Apps For Home Improvement

4. Get an Early Quote — You shouldn’t have to nervously guess how much your home construction will cost once the project is underway. Your contractor should offer you a quote before any work begins so you can decide whether this project is within your budget.

5. Plan for Emergencies — Even if you never have an emergency situation on your hands, you should be able to get in touch with your contractor once their company has closed up shop for the day. Don’t forget to give them your personal phone number if they ever have to call you. There were no Copyscape matches found.

6. Ensure There’s Room on the Street — Do your next-door neighbors work from home each Tuesday and Thursday? Does trash day clog up your street? If there’s going to be a reason the contractor and their team can’t get their truck on your street, you need to let them know so they can figure out an alternate parking situation.

7. Discuss Access When You’re Not Home — You can’t possibly be home for the duration of the project. How will the contractor get inside? Maybe create a spare keypad access code or let them know where you keep your extra key.

Source
http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/25030494/list/10-things-to-discuss-with-your-contractor-before-work-starts, http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/14602570/list/10-things-to-ask-your-contractor-before-you-start-your-project

More Than Masonry – The Beauty and Versatility of Pre-Fabricated Fireplaces

More Than Masonry – The Beauty and Versatility of Pre-Fabricated Fireplaces

Home Improvements Stone Fireplace Stone Veneer

Fireplaces aren’t just for homes with brick and mortar chimneys and hearths anymore. In fact, homes that do not even have chimneys can enjoy the beauty and comfort of a fireplace. With skilled assistance the options for installing and owning the fireplace of one’s dreams is easier then one might think. To learn more about the versatility of today’s wide array of fireplace options and accessories, we took a moment to speak with Neal Kaplan of Fireplace Plus. Founded on the idea that the public deserved higher-quality fireplace options, Neal and his family have owned and operated Fireplace Plus in suburban Vernon Hills, Illinois for 25 years, with another location in Downtown Chicago. Here at North Star Stone we have had the pleasure of being able to collaborate with Neal, who has helped us beautifully bring to fruition some of our customized stone veneer fireplace projects. Neal graciously took a moment out of his busy day to share with us his knowledge and experience in the sophisticated and highly creative world of fireplaces.

For decades, Neal and his team have been providing the Chicagoland area with the extremely safe, high quality pre-fabricated wood burning, direct vent and vent free fireplaces. One of the amazing benefits of pre-fabricated fireplaces is that not only do they install quickly but they allow homeowners to have the look and feel of a beautiful fireplace without the expense of having to construct a brick and masonry chimney to support the smoke and other exhaust that comes with a fire. What is even more amazing about these pre-fabricated fireplaces are the great options available:

Wood burning. Heating power and sophistication are considerations when selecting the right wood-burning fireplace. Wood burning fireplaces allow users to take advantage of a renewable resource while also enjoying the pleasant aroma of burning wood. Design options exist to fit every taste. Fireplace Plus specializes in products by IHP/Superior. Nothing goes together better than the warmth of a roaring wood fire and the luxury of a dignified stone fireplace.

Pre-fabricated firebox

Pre-fabricated firebox

Direct Vent

A direct vent fireplace is a fully enclosed chamber that draws combustion from outside air. Natural gas or propane is used to keep the fire burning. Beautifully complimented by a stone fireplace, there are many styles and sizes of direct vent fireplaces available; classic or modern, the choices are endless. When it comes to trusted brands, Neal at Fireplace Plus prefers Napoleon. For those considering the direct vent route, recent government safety mandates have made it a requirement that all fully enclosed, direct vent fireplaces have a safety screen in place.

Pre fabricated stone fireplace

This is direct vent and has gas and logs.

Vent Free

Vent free fireplaces, like their direct vent cousins, also use natural gas or propane. However, they do not require a chimney or vent, which makes them quite unique. Generally compact, a vent free fireplace can go almost anywhere in your home. Styles and sizes are also plentiful. If shopping at Fireplace Plus you can find vent free fireplaces from Lennox Hearth, Napoleon and Empire.

stone veneer fireplace wood

Non masonry firebox that burns wood

Custom Doors

The fun doesn’t end once the fireplace has been selected. Next comes finding the perfect doors to compliment your new fireplace. Fireplace plus specializes in doors and offers an extensive variety from custom and semi-custom to premium. When it comes time to selecting the right door, Fireplace Plus will come out to your home and measure your space at your convenience.

Other Options

Once your perfect fireplace has been installed, don’t forget to beautify your fireplace even further by adding stone veneer. Not only does stone veneer act, feel and look like real stone – it is highly customizable. Pick from a palette of colors and stone styles to add elegance, sophistication and charm to your home’s fireplace. When considering stone veneer, remember that North Star Stone and their highly experienced staff are happy to assist you with your stone selection and installation needs.

There is nothing more natural than gathering around the warmth and light of a beautiful fire. So why shouldn’t every home have that special space to call their own? If you are considering adding a fireplace to your home, why not call Fireplace Plus? To learn more, visit their web site at: firesidecollection.com. And don’t forget to visit North Star Stone when it comes time to complete that look of distinction and refinement that comes with a custom stone fireplace.

Fiber-Cement Board: Versatility, Durability and Affordability

Fiber-Cement Board: Versatility, Durability and Affordability

Home Improvements

When it comes to selecting a new siding for your house there are many options to choose from. Popular choices include wood, vinyl, aluminum, stucco and brick. However, despite their longevity in the housing manufacturing and remodeling markets, these options really can’t compare to the longevity, durability and customization of fiber-cement siding, also popularly known as Hardie Board, a name it acquired from James Hardie Inc., the company behind this versatile product. Since then, other manufacturers have begun manufacturing and selling fiber-cement board. Continue reading to learn more about this excellent product that is currently used in approxcimately 15% of new homes.

What is Fiber-Cement Board Siding?

Comprised of water, wood pulp, fly ash (or silica) and Portland cement, fiber-cement has become the go-to material when it comes to new homes, remodeling projects and other structures. Fiber-cement comes in many shapes and sizes from vertical and horizontal siding to shingles. Fiber-cement board is prized for it’s close appearance to wood but also comes in a variety of textures such as smooth, stucco and masonry. Known for being customizable, fiber-cement board and can be cut into specialized shapes and sizes depending on your architectural requirements. Fiber-cement board can come pre-painted or can be painted later and is known for holding paint longer than wood. Prices for fiber-cement board vary based on size and manufacturer.

What Advantages Does Fiber-Cement Board Have Over Other Siding?

In addition to what is listed above, fiber-cement offers many other advantages over other popularly selected materials:

  • Fiber-cement board is affordable and competitively priced when compared alongside wood, vinyl and aluminum siding, stucco or masonry. When compared to materials like wood, vinyl or aluminum you actually save money because of it’s resistance to mother nature and because it requires minimal upkeep.
  • Fiber-cement board has been described as indestructible and is virtually weather proof. Fiber-cement board is resistant to moisture, wind and freezing.
  • Unlike wood, fiber-cement board does not warp or swell and is resistant to termites and other pests.
  • Fire resistant
  • Unlike aluminum siding, fiber-cement board does not dent.
  • Easy to install
  • Lightweight

What are some different fiber-cement board manufacturers?

For best results with fiber-cement board, professional installation is always recommended. Some manufacturers of this versatile product include:

  • James Hardie Inc.
  • American Fiber Cement
  • Nichiha
  • CertainTeed

How Can Stone Veneer and Fiber-Cement Board Be Combined?

At North Star Stone, it is our passion to help create beautiful home exteriors using our highly customizable and versatile stone veneer product which continues to be one of today’s top choices for exterior and interior home beautification. In our experience, we have learned that in addition to other building materials, fiber-cement board pairs beautifully and seamlessly with stone veneer, which is due in part to stone veneer’s durability, weather resistance and ease of installation. Moreover, because our stone veneer is custom made to your specifications, it naturally coordinates with fiber-cement board to create an elegant and sophisticated look that any homeowner can be proud of. If you would like to discuss adding stone veneer to your home, please call us at 847.996.6850 or contact us at info@northstarstone.biz.

 

How To Easily Clean Stone Veneer

How To Easily Clean Stone Veneer

Home Improvements Stone Exterior Siding Stone Exteriors Stone Fireplace Stone Fireplaces Stone Interior Stone Veneer

Like many homeowners, you have made the decision to beautify your home with stone veneer. Maybe your have decided to add stone to the exterior of your home to various accent points or perhaps to highlight some of your home’s unique features. Or maybe your stone veneer is in your backyard where you chose to use it to help create a tranquil sanctuary. Here your stone can be seen on retaining walls, railings, or an outdoor fireplace. Then again, your stone might be inside your home where it is adding beauty and value to your kitchen, bathroom, or wine cellar. Either way, inside or outside, a time will come when you are going to need to wash your stone veneer. Despite the elegant complexity of how your stone appears, we are happy to tell you that cleaning your stone is far from complex and is actually quite easy. Keep reading to learn more.

diy-stone--fireplace1

What you will need:

Mild dishwashing detergent: It is very important to never use harsh cleaning materials or products that contain acid, ammonia, bleach or the like. Products containing these ingredients are way too harsh and can damage your stonework. Lastly, concrete cleaner is not recommended for stone veneer. An important note on cleaning products containing acid: cleaning products containing acid should always be avoided as they can easily strip the color from your stone and make it look dull.

Sponge or cloth: Use what works best for you. Remember to use soft products as not to scratch your stone.

Bucket: Fill your bucket up with water and use it to mix your cleaning solution and help rinse your sponge or cloth. Make sure to use clean water when rinsing

Backyard hose: Fortunately, to keep your exterior stone veneer clean, you do not need to rely on a heavy-duty pressure washer; for your stone veneer a simple garden hose is all that is needed.

Soft bristled brush: Never use a scrub brush with metal bristles as this kind of brush can easily scratch and damage your beautiful stone. A soft-bristled, nylon brush will do the trick. Remember to never apply hard pressure when using a brush for cleaning.

Ladder or step stool: For those hard to reach places

Rubber gloves: Optional

What to do:

Read these instructions thoroughly before you wash your stone veneer.

Fill a bucket with clean water.

Add some mild dishwashing detergent to create a gentle cleansing solution.

Use a clean cloth or sponge containing the solution to thoroughly wipe down your stone. Use a brush to gently remove any dirt or mud. Keep in mind this mild solution will not remove stains like tar or oil that may have gotten on your stone during be other home improvement projects.

Rinse your stone with the hose.  If indoors, use a clean cloth or sponge to remove any of the cleaning solution.

Let dry.

Important – A note on how to clean newly installed stone: If your stone is newly installed and wet mortar or grout has gotten onto the face of the stone, let it dry to a point where you can easily scrape it off with a masonry brush. If you try to wipe off wet mortar or grout it will smear and will be extremely hard to remove completely. Do not use water. On the flip side, if you wait too long, you will not be able to remove the grout or mortar, so make sure to remove it the same day as the installation of the stone veneer.

How often do I need to clean my stone? As often as you feel cleaning is needed.

Clearly the ease of cleaning stone veneer is just another reason why this highly versatile and customizable product is such an excellent option for improving the home. If you would like to move forward with your stone projects then give North Star Stone a call and see why Chicagoland has chosen us for their stone veneer needs. For more information contact us at info@northstarstone.biz or call 847-996-6850 for a free estimate on your new interior or exterior stone.

Watch the North Star Stone blog next week we will discuss sealers and enhancers.

Is It Time to Replace Your Exterior Siding?

Is It Time to Replace Your Exterior Siding?

Home Improvements Stone Exterior Siding Stone Exteriors

Throughout the year the exterior of our home can take quite a beating. Rain, hail, ice, wind and snow are all environmental elements that can put a strain on the outside of your home. After years of this regular abuse, it is not uncommon for many homeowners to decide to repair, change and or update the exterior of their home. And as most experts will tell you, the best time to begin a home improvement project like this is in the spring, which all of us in Chicagoland know is just around the corner! Fortunately, there are some exciting options available that can completely transform the exterior of your home, like stone veneer for example. Continue reading to discover some options you may not even know existed.

exterior siding 06

Vinyl Siding

Used on many homes, vinyl siding has come a long way in terms of its strength and versatility. Many homeowners like vinyl siding because of its cost effectiveness and the color options available on the market. Easy to install and available at home improvement stores, vinyl siding is popular with do-it-yourselfers. But beware; education is a must if installing yourself. If installed incorrectly, in addition to water damage, other damage can occur to your home and you might find yourself in need of some costly repairs.

exterior siding 03

Hardie Board (cement board)

Is the aluminum siding that has graced the exterior of your home for twenty years a little beat up and let’s face it, looking a bit blah? A versatile product, Hardie Board might be just what you are looking for. Unlike aluminum siding, Hardie board is literally quite hardy. Known for its strength, Hardie board comes in a variety of colors and has been engineered to withstand even the harshest of weather. Hardie board also comes in a plethora of widths and textures, so customizing the look of your home is going to be fun and easy. Better still, Hardie board is a cost effective product and has been a top choice for millions of homeowners. If Hardie board sounds like the right option for you, why not consider pairing it with stone veneer? This beautiful combination will make your home look elegant, refined and distinguished.

exterior siding 02

Wood Siding

Often offering a homey, country feel, wood siding is also a viable option and has been a choice for many homeowners. Wood siding comes most commonly in a shingle, clapboard and shakes style, which allows people who choose it a few unique options in terms of thickness and texture. One important thing to keep in mind is that wood siding requires routine maintenance to check for water damage and even insect damage and infestations such as termites and carpenter ants. Wood siding also may need to be painted and treated on a regular basis.

exterior siding

 

Stucco

Believe it or not stucco has been used in architecture since ancient Greek and Roman times. And although it has been improved upon, the general idea of stucco remains the same. Perhaps it is the timelessness and endurance of stucco that makes it such a highly regarded option when considering the exterior of one’s home? Stucco is a mortar mixture containing among other things, cement. Resilient and versatile, stucco has a great track record when it comes to protecting the outside of your house. Make sure not to confuse stucco with synthetic stucco also known as EIFS (exterior insulation and finish systems or Dryvit). It may look the same but has a history of responding quite differently to the sometimes harsh forces of nature bombarding the exterior of your home. Frequently used on larger homes, the color options for stucco are near limitless and it pairs beautifully with a coordinating and custom colored stone veneer. The resulting look is classic and stately and defines the term curb appeal.

exterior siding 01

Stone Veneer

Stone veneer is quickly rising in the ranks of being one of the most popular choices for the exterior of one’s home. There is very little not to like about stone veneer. A home with stone not only exudes dignity but a classic beauty that can only come with a stone facade. Typically at a higher price point, stone veneer is usually paired with other exterior options like stucco and Hardie board while still maintaining the grand presence of being the feature element of the house’s exterior. A major bonus to stone veneer is the variety of stone options available. Custom colored to your specification, there is a stone shape and cut for every discerning taste. For a look that will totally transform your home, stone is one of the preferred options.

exterior siding 04If updating the exterior of your home sounds like a springtime project you would like to undertake, remember there are many options available today. Why not consider the beauty, elegance and charm of stone veneer with a complimentary pairing of Hardie board or stucco? Established in the greater Chicagoland area, North Start Stone has brought their sophisticated brand of exterior products to Libertyville, Arlington Heights, Barrington, Mount Prospect and Long Grove, just to name a few and they are excited to bring them to you.

For more information about adding stone to the exterior of your home, visit our Exterior Stone FAQ page or contact us at info@northstarstone.biz or call 847-996-6850 for a free estimate on your new exterior stone.

How to Pay For Home Improvements

How to Pay For Home Improvements

Home Improvements

As a homeowner, there’s always a list of projects you wanted to start yesterday to update your home. Maybe it’s new hardwood floors, a back deck, stainless steel appliances or transforming your existing, dated and ugly fireplace to a beautiful stone fireplace.

As a local business in the housing construction industry, we have seen firsthand that local and regional banks have begun offering money for home improvement projects again. We’re not just hearing stories from customers, we’ve heard from the regional banks themselves.

Just recently a Vice President and Branch Manager of First Midwest Bank came to our offices talking about a new program that offers from $10,000-$25,000 for an unsecured loan. Yes, an unsecured loan and you don’t need a home appraisal or a third-party inspector. But wait, there’s more. In addition, loan rates start at 6.15% and terms can be up to 7-years.

Obviously these loans are great for homeowners, but they are also a boon for communities because they stimulate the overall local economy in terms of higher home resale values, more building projects and improving neighborhoods.

With these new loans now becoming available, it is time to pull out that list of projects. Maybe it will be replacing that old siding and adding stone to the exterior or a landscape overall.

For more information on how we can help you with your stone veneer projects for your home please contact North Star Stone, Inc. at 847-996-6850 or at info@northstarstone.biz. Our digital visualization program allows you to see just what your home or fireplace will look like with brand new stone If you are in the Chicago market, call First Midwest Bank or your own local bank and see what rates are available.