10 Things to Look for In a Contractor When Remodeling

10 Things to Look for In a Contractor When Remodeling

Stone Exteriors Stone Fireplaces Stone Veneer

Saving money for a home remodeling takes time and requires restraint in spending. So, when you get ready to launch your project, you don’t want it to turn into a remuddling due to selecting the wrong professionals to guide the work.

Depending on the size and complexity of the project, you may need to begin with an architect who not only can design the project but also provide referrals to reliable contractors.

How to select an architect is a topic for another day. What we’re suggesting here is that you’ll be happier with a remodeling if you ask yourself key questions about what to look for in a contractor and interview at least three before hiring. 

What a Contractor Does

Contractors generally aren’t designer although construction companies may have in-house designers. Instead, your contractor is the overall supervisors for your project. Their duties include:

  • Selecting sub-contractors, such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers
  • Overseeing all aspects of construction
  • Maintaining the work schedule you have approved
  • Handling payouts for materials and labor
  • Being responsible for meeting deadlines and
  • Ensuring that worksites are safe and tidy at the end of the day (especially important if you continue to live in the house during construction).

You may decide that you also want your architect to provide project management (an extra fee beyond design) aimed at making sure work proceeds correctly based on the design and materials specified in the design plans.

10 Key Questions to Consider

Here are some important issues to think about before selecting a contractor.

1. Are you hiring the contractor to be a designer as well as a project supervisor? If so, research the contractor’s design credentials and experience.

2. Do you have friends, neighbors or coworkers who can recommend contractors? Praise from someone you trust is valuable. Ask them specific questions about what went right or wrong with their projects. Negative feedback may help you to avoid hiring the wrong person or construction company.   

3. If you are relying on online recommendations, how trustworthy are these testimonials? Consider whether you or someone you know has found reliable help for other projects through these sources.

4. If an architect has designed your project, does the architect recommend any of your favored contractors? A contractor your designer respects is likely to be one on whom you can rely.

5. Does a contractor have a reputation for meeting deadlines and keeping the worksite safe?  This is a question to ask whoever provides referrals.

6. Is the contractor bonded, licensed and known for providing a well-detailed contract? Once again, ask those who provide referrals and then verify with the contractor. Also, insist on a detailed contract.

7. During the interview process, does a contractor answer your questions in an authoritative (not authoritarian) way? Your contractor should be able to answer your questions without forcing opinions on you.

8. Is a contractor able to provide referrals from former customers? If not, check the contractor off your list.

9. Is a contractor comfortable knowing that you will be interviewing others as well? If a contractor is experienced and knowledgeable, he or she will also be confident enough to accept competition.

10. Does a contractor have experience specific to your project, such as stone veneer work? A stone veneer contractor in the Chicago metro area will have experience with these kinds of projects:

The “Click Factor”

Finally, after each contractor interview, there is a certain gut-feeling factor to consider. You have to ask yourself how comfortable you were. Did the two of you “click” by communicating well? Do you think the contractor understands your project needs and can fulfill them?

Interviewing shouldn’t be rushed. You need to be patient and so does each interviewee. A prospective contractor who is willing to answer all your questions so you can make a well-informed decision is one who is likely to be a good communicator during construction.

North Star Stone is proud to say we meet all of these qualifications as a stone veneer contractor. We value our customers, their homes and their business and are always happy to explain the process and answer any questions you have. If you have questions you’d like to ask about stone veneer design for your stone fireplace or exterior stone siding, call us at (847) 996-6850 or contact us here and get a FREE estimate.

Considering Siding Options For Your Home? Here’s Why Stone Veneer is a Great Choice for A Home’s Exterior Siding

Considering Siding Options For Your Home? Here’s Why Stone Veneer is a Great Choice for A Home’s Exterior Siding

Home Improvements Stone Exterior Siding Stone Exteriors Stone Veneer

When it’s time to improve the outside of your home, stone veneer siding may be one of the best exterior siding options available. Thinner and lighter than natural stone, it is easier to install and less stressful for your home’s structure. It’s also less expensive than real stone, doesn’t disrupt the environment through quarrying, and is recyclable too!

Quality stone exterior siding that is correctly installed, offers many other advantages, including excellent payback, distinguished appearance, a wide range of natural colors and low to no maintenance.

Also, it’s a sturdy solution to solve the problem many homeowners face when renovating the exteriors of homes constructed with lightweight Dryvit siding — a foam product with a faux stucco-like veneer that is vulnerable to moisture and woodpecker damage- amongst other issues. After the Dryvit is removed, these homes can support a manufactured stone veneer that offers a safe, beautiful and long lasting exterior home siding.

READ MORE ABOUT THE DANGERS OF DRYVIT AND WHAT TO DO IF YOUR HOME WAS CONSTRUCTED WITH DRYVIT

Stone Veneer vs. Stone

Stone veneer is made of Portland cement, aggregate and natural pigments (for stone color). Mixed together, we then pour the mixture into casts designed to provide the look and texture of real stone.

Unlike natural stone, which is typically extremely thick and heavy, stone veneer siding may range from slightly less than 2 inches to about 3 inches thick depending on the texture applied to the stone veneer. Natural stone often requires a brick ledge for installation. Windows also often need to be reset due to the change in depth of the siding. Both necessities slow project completion and make it much more expensive than using thin stone veneer on a home’s exterior. Being heavier, natural stone is also more expensive to deliver/ship to job sites.

Overall, installation of stone veneer per square foot often costs about one-third to one-half less than that of natural stone! That’s a big difference!

Get A Free Estimate For Your Home’s Stone Veneer Siding

Payback: Cost Vs. Value Report

Nationwide, stone veneer for exterior home siding has been one of the best home improvement choices for money spent, according to Remodeling Magazine.

For three years running, the magazine’s annual Cost Vs. Value Report has placed stone veneer close to the top of its list for payback value. According to Remodeling Magazine, the only items that have exceed payback value in 2016, other than stone veneer, are fiberglass attic insulation and installation of a steel front door.

The magazine’s data indicates that in the East-North Central Region (which includes Illinois) the payback on manufactured stone veneer siding is second to attic insulation. That’s a good sign for home owners looking to update their home’s exterior with stone! If you’re planning to sell soon, your stone veneer can add real value to your home!

Distinguished Natural Look

A rustic stone look increases the curb appeal and value of a home. It is extremely difficult- if not, impossible, to differentiate between manufactured and natural stone. Our stone looks just like real stone!

Customers select the natural colors and textures they want in their stone veneer siding. This makes it super easy to match other design aspects of a home. It’s easy to match or blend in new stone veneer with existing stone, siding and even landscaping. If you’re looking to use real stone, shortages can occur in the natural stone market and make it difficult to meet preferences and match an existing stone. With stone veneer, you can match the color and most often, the styles of existing stone. Stone veneer will not only save you money, it can also save you time! No more searching through endless places on line and in person to try to match stone!

Low Maintenance & Safety

Maintenance of stone veneer primarily involves hosing it down occasionally. Yep- that’s about it! Painting touch-ups aren’t necessary with stone veneer.

Even Hardie Board — a product our customers and builders often combine with stone veneer to create a beautiful home siding option — doesn’t require repainting. Hardie Board is a fire-resistant material made to look like wood but comprised mainly of sand and cement.

LEARN MORE ABOUT USING STONE VENEER AND HARDIE BOARD ON YOUR HOME’S EXTERIOR

Installation

Professional installation ensures that proper construction techniques are used to avoid moisture from getting behind siding and causing structural damage, If you choose to install the stone veneer yourself, we’re happy to provide installation instructions and answer any questions you have. If you prefer professional installation and are in the Chicagoland area, we have some very talented masons who will work diligently to make your home’s exterior shine.

Stone veneer, no matter what color or style you choose, is a perfect choice for updating your home’s exterior. With the many colors and styles North Star Stone offers to choose from, choosing stone veneer will help your home stand out as one of the best homes on the block!

Want to see some examples of the stone veneer that North Star Stone creates? Stop by our Libertyville, Illinois showroom. Call us today at (847) 996-6850 to schedule an appointment! *Please note- our showroom is open by appointment only.

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.

Eco-Friendly Landscaping & Stone Veneer Ideas That Will Help You Rock Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Eco-Friendly Landscaping & Stone Veneer Ideas That Will Help You Rock Your Home’s Curb Appeal

eco-friendly-homes Stone Exterior Siding Stone Exteriors Stone Fireplace

Stone is all the rage these days. Recalling the old-time carriage houses and mansions of the East Coast and the Old World, many people are turning to exterior stone to give their homes an instant facelift and the charm that comes with all things antique.

Paired with this emphasis on the antiquated is an equally strong desire to be forward-thinking and protect our Planet Earth. One of the best ways to marry these two values with your home is to design an ecological landscape that matches your home’s outward appearance. If you would like to match your landscape to your home the “green” way, here are five environmentally friendly ideas to help you do it.

1. Match Existing Siding to Exterior Stone

Cobble Stack Stone 11

Our Cobble Stack Stone Veneer

Exterior stone is one of the best ways to give your home an instant makeover without requiring demolishing parts of it and using a bunch of chemically treated building supplies or other toxic materials. Instead, you can simply install stone veneer which can be applied right over a rigid surface like plywood, concrete block or brick. Siding that has ridges would have to be removed first.

Once you do, it’s easy to match any stone you use in your hardscaping to the color of your home. You can either choose to match very closely (we custom color stone veneer!), or you can use colors in the same tonal range – think beige stone with hints of burgundy paired with the off-white colored slate on your patio.

Check Out Our Stone Veneer Color Sample Boards HERE

2. Pick Plants That Complement Stone Color

exterior siding 01

You can also complement your stone veneer siding with plants in the yard. If you opt for blue tones, for instance, then planting Mediterranean herbs such as sage, rosemary and oregano will always look beautiful and be easy maintenance (just water them every day to every other day and pick/trim them every once in a while and they will keep growing!).

When it comes to trees and bushes, evergreens such as blue spruce, arbor vitae and juniper all have dark and cool tones that will offset your stone, no matter what color you choose for your stone. For flowers, you really can’t go wrong no matter what colors! Pick the colors that make you feel happy and will complement your exterior all summer long.

ECO TIP: Use Rain Barrels To Collect Water! More on that and other water saving tips for your home here

3. Opt for Water-Wise Herbs, Grasses and Succulents

Plants that don’t need a lot of water accomplish multiple goals. For one thing, they reduce the impact of using a precious resource. For another, they save you a lot of time and trouble, because once established, they can survive with only the rainwater available in your region. Hardy herbs, grasses and sedges, and succulents and cactuses are all great options.

Check Out Our Large Selection Of Stone Veneer Styles HERE

4. Use Stone Veneer for Outdoor Accents

unnamed (19)Once you’ve picked the exterior stone you love on your house, you can always match your other outdoor installations to it. Using the same shade and style of stone veneer on your shed or mailbox is a beautiful effect. On the other hand, if you have a visible chimney on the outside of your home, you might consider covering it with fireplace stone that stands in contrast to the rest of the exterior stone on your home: a nice dark brown color stone veneer for the chimney, say, paired with blue or tan stone on the rest of the home.

Take A Look At Some Of Our Indoor Stone Veneer Fireplaces To Match Your Home’s Exterior Stone

5. Match Landscaping Rock to Your Facade And Rock Your Curb Appeal

stone veneerLandscaping with gravel, rocks and pebbles is a great way to reduce the amount of water and time you need to devote to your yard. Choose rocks that work well with the color of your home’s exterior, to create a visually appealing effect from the street. You could even line a fountain with stone pieces or scatter natural river rock around the outside of a pond. As long as the shades are in the same color family, the effect will be beautiful.

See? Who knew it could be so easy to plan an environmentally friendly yard that looks beautiful and helps the planet? Now you’ve got tons of ideas for your next eco-friendly outdoor update. Stay tuned for the next in our latest Eco-Friendly series coming soon!

Are you thinking of adding stone veneer to your home? We can help you get ideas. From updating your fireplace with stone to adding to updating your home’s exterior siding with stone, we can help. Contact us here! 

How to Make Your Yard More Eco-Friendly … and Save Money Too  

How to Make Your Yard More Eco-Friendly … and Save Money Too  

eco-friendly-homes Stone Exteriors Stone Veneer

Your yard is an extension of your home, and making it a beautiful, family-friendly place to hang out is a major goal of many homeowners. However, environmentalism is definitely making headway on the home improvement priority list for homeowners … so finding ways to improve that outdoor space without sacrificing the Earth is a definite must. Add to that the priority of cost-effectiveness, and you’ve got quite the tall order!

Today, we’ll talk about 6 ways to make your yard more eco-friendly and more enjoyable to hang out in. Plus, you can save greenbacks while making it greener. It doesn’t get better than that, right?

1. Be Water-Wise

If the experts are to be believed, water will be the great commodity of the 21st century. That makes it crucial to respect this most valuable of resources to the best of our ability. What can you do? Become water-wise. That might mean installing drip hoses in your vegetable garden, or letting your lawn go brown in the summer. You can also plant low-water species like cactuses and succulents, which require much less moisture to thrive.

2. Plant Native Species

Native species are much more likely to do well in your area, which means they will require less water, less fertilizer and less overall tending. Usually this means using less total resources to keep them alive, and adding fewer chemical inputs to groundwater. You can check online or quiz your local garden center to see what’s native to your area.

3. Install Stone Exteriors

While you might associate stone veneers with fireplace stone, it can be used for many different purposes. Putting stone veneer on your home not only gives your home a cheerfully updated look, it also insulates your home. Exterior stone keeps rooms cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, lowering your bills and reducing your impact on the environment. If you buy the right stone veneer, manufactured in an eco-friendly way, which reduces quarrying and the environmental impact that brings, even better.

4. Use Rainwater

Rainwater is a much more available and replenishable resource than groundwater. Any time you water your yard from the hose, you’re drawing on aquifers that take a long time to refill. Any time you use rainwater, however, you’re leveraging a renewable resource. Install rain barrels under your downspouts to collect water during rain, then use a watering can or a siphon to water your yard with it. Many communities in the Northwest Suburbs are offering FREE rain barrels or reimbursing residents for the purchase of rain barrels.

Libertyville Rain Barrel Reimbursement Program

Arlington Heights FREE Rain Barrel Application
Mount Prospect FREE Rain Barrel Application
Greater Chicago Rain Barrel Program

Know of more rain barrel programs in the Chicagoland area? Post in the comments or on our Facebook page and we’ll be sure to add it to the list!

5. Make Up-cycled Yard Décor

Up-cycling is all the rage. Perhaps you solder cute faces to metal watering cans, plant a water lily garden in an old claw-foot bathtub, or use toy wagons as planters. Using otherwise useless objects instead of buying new items at the store or online is always the green – and frugal! – way to go.

6. Prevent Erosion

The washing away of topsoil due to rain and wind is a serious ecological problem, but halting this problem can start right in your front yard. Plant cover plants that spread across the top of the soil and anchor it in place. If you have room, plant trees with wide-sweeping canopies, which indicates they will have equally wide root systems, which also help keep soil in place. Avoid leaving graded surfaces like hills and embankments bare, because the rain will just wash the soil right off of them.

Greening up your yard is pretty simple, in the end. Next time you’re wondering how to do Planet Earth a solid and make your outdoor living space even better, try one of these tricks and watch the magic happen.

Stay tuned for more eco-friendly ideas for your home & yard and some more great tips on how you can use Stone Veneer in and on your home. And don’t forget to take a look at the first article in our latest eco-friendly series: 5 Environmental Benefits of Exterior Stone Siding

5 Environmental Benefits of Exterior Stone Siding

5 Environmental Benefits of Exterior Stone Siding

Stone Exterior Siding Stone Exteriors

Exterior stone siding is a trend that has caught on in recent years, offering homeowners a beautiful and affordable way to improve the curb appeal of their homes without substantially renovating. But many folks these days are concerned with making sure that not only do their homes look nice, they also don’t impact the environment.

If this describes you, we’ve got good news: Stone siding is not only lovely, it’s a great way to update your house without contributing nearly as much toxic byproduct to our ecosystem. Plus, it brings plenty of other benefits as well. Let’s talk about five of the best.

1. Stone Is Insulating

Insulation is a big deal. If your home is properly insulated, you’ll expend less energy (and spend less money!) keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Stone, which is naturally resistant to shifts in temperature and doesn’t respond to changes in weather as quickly as other types of siding, is a great choice for natural climate control.

2. Manufactured Stone Reduces Quarrying of Scarce Natural Resources

Many types of “real” stone are quarried, which leads to chemical runoff, leaching of toxins into groundwater and ecosystem disruption. Our stone, made from concrete, requires much fewer quarried inputs than other types, and is therefore much better for the environment as a whole.

3. Stone is Fire Retardant

One of the biggest dangers with chemical-heavy siding such as plastic and treated wood is that they will release toxins into the air in case of fire. Stone, however, is fire retardant, decreasing the chances that a fire will release those unhealthy toxins into the air. Even if your house never catches fire – which is unlikely, of course – treated lumber or plastic used as siding can still release chemicals, which we will discuss in a moment.

As an additional benefit, there’s often no need to remove many materials in order to install stone siding. Unlike with some other renovation projects, where you might have to remove many parts of the home (potentially exposing harmful minerals such as asbestos), we can often install stone right on top of preexisting facades. The two main instances where the siding would need to be removed are if it is lapped or if the siding is Dryvit- however, the stone veneer can be applied directly over brick or non-lapped siding.

4. Stone Siding Uses No Unnatural Pigments

We use no unnatural pigments in our stone siding, instead taking our color from natural stones. You may see major color variation in quarried stones in showrooms, our stones are consistently colored and molded using a reliable process that produces beautiful results every time. This leads to a very natural-looking material, with some eye-pleasing variation, and it also makes for a streamlined look and overall appeal.

5. Great Replacement for Chemical-Heavy Wood or Plastic Siding

Many types of siding have to use a great deal of chemicals to make them resistant to weather or to reduce the chances of warping and fire danger. Stone doesn’t require treatment to protect it from weather, to reduce shrinking or expansion or to protect from fire. Plus, far fewer chemicals are used in the manufacture of stone than in plastic or treated wood.

Take the Eco-Friendly Approach

If you’ve been thinking about updating your home, stone veneer may be just the ticket. They’re not only beautiful, they’re incredibly eco-friendly and easy to install. Here at NorthStar, we love helping customers improve the look and value of their homes through the application of stone veneers. Although a popular use of stone is for the exterior of houses, we also offer veneers for fireplaces and mailboxes in many different styles. Call or visit to learn more about us and our stone veneer today.

How Woodpeckers Can Damage Siding and or Dryvit and What You Can Do About It

How Woodpeckers Can Damage Siding and or Dryvit and What You Can Do About It

Stone Exterior Siding Stone Exteriors

If you have ever noticed an annoying drumming noise on the outside of your house or found holes in your siding, you might have a woodpecker problem. This is no small issue, as woodpeckers can cause substantial damage to the exterior and siding of your home. Don’t worry though; we have solutions for you that will help you protect your siding and dryvit from a woodpecker. We decided to see why those pesky woodpeckers are eating your siding, and explain how to use stone veneer to replace your house’s siding that’s been damaged by woodpeckers.

What Kind of Woodpecker Might be Visiting?

There are a few species of woodpecker that are native to Illinois. Some of these species stay year-round, while others only show up in the warmer months. The following information will tell you about the various species you might see:

Downy Woodpecker: This is the most common woodpecker in our neck of the woods. It is small, measuring only 6 to 7 inches. The back of the male woodpecker’s head has a very distinct red patch. The Downy Woodpecker has a solid white belly and black wings, which are marked with white stripes.

Hairy Woodpecker: This is slightly bigger species of woodpecker. They measure 8 to 9 inches. The Hairy Woodpecker’s bill is longer and larger than the smaller Downy Woodpecker.

Northern Flicker: This species of woodpecker is significantly larger than the Downy Woodpecker. It measures 12 to 13 inches. Their bodies have black spots on the back and belly region and they have a large black patch on their chest. Their bodies; however, are mostly brown.

Why Do Woodpeckers Peck At Your House?

Another issue to consider when dealing with a woodpecker invasion is determining why woodpeckers are targeting your house in the first place. The following are the most common reasons why woodpeckers peck:

Food: If your home has wood shingles or siding, it can harbor insects, such as ants, spiders, caterpillars or larvae. Consequently, sometimes, woodpeckers will peck siding to find these insects as they are a common food source for them.

Territory: If your home doesn’t have wooden siding–if it instead has stone veneer– and you are still dealing with a woodpecker, they might be marking their territory. Woodpeckers use their drumming to attract a mate and to mark their territory.

Nesting: The final reason you might be hosting unwanted guests in the form of woodpeckers is nesting. Although woodpeckers prefer large hollowed trees with softened centers to make their nests, they will drill into the siding of a house to make a home if they cannot find a suitable location.

What to do About Woodpeckers Eating At Your Siding:

Now that you know what type of woodpecker has invaded your home and the reasoning behind the invasion, you likely have just one more question, that being what to do about it. Unfortunately, that question isn’t easily answered. Due to the fact that getting rid of woodpeckers is a notoriously hard task, there have even been studies created just to find a solution. One such study was completed by Cornell Lab. It tested common deterrents to determine which prevented woodpecker damage the most efficiently. The methods tested included the use of life sized plastic owls, reflective streamers, roost boxes, plastic eyes on fishing lines, suet feeders and a sound system that broadcasted woodpecker distress calls and that of a hawk. According to this study, only one method worked consistently as a deterrent, that being streamers. The shiny coating and constant movement of the streamers seems to deter the woodpeckers more effectively than any other method.

Another great solution is to replace your damaged siding with stone veneer. Birds are likely to want little to do with stone veneer siding. Stone is a versatile, easily installed option for homes. Our stone veneer can be custom colored, and there are many, many stone veneer styles to choose from. Stone can often go right over the existing siding, stopping woodpeckers from the start. Stone veneer is durable, weather resistant and can be installed often in just a few days.

Finding your exterior siding or dryvit damaged as a result of a pesky bird can be very frustrating. Let us know if we can help you decide if stone veneer could help you stop damage from woodpeckers on your home’s exterior. Fill out this form and send us a message or call 847-996-6850 for a free estimate for your exterior stone siding.

Exterior Stone Veneer Q&A With A Valued Customer

Exterior Stone Veneer Q&A With A Valued Customer

Stone Exterior Siding Stone Exteriors Stone Veneer

We had the wonderful opportunity to ask some questions about an exterior stone veneer installation we recently completed in Gurnee, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Read on to see what was involved in this homeowner’s decision making process about choosing and installing stone veneer on his home’s exterior and find out how his home has gained value within the neighborhood. 

 

Question No.1:

What was your thought process about changing the look of your home’s exterior?

After living here for the pasted 23 years Donna and I thought through the process of possibly moving to another home with a more modern exterior look. After much debate we decided to stay here and give our home a much needed face lift. We love our 1/2 lot, the cul-de-sac location, our proximity to the toll road and all off the local services.

When we built our home it was the typical tract style approach where you picked from a number of models and had one build. As a result most of the homes in the area ended up looking pretty much the same. This new face lift has definitely set us apart from the other homes in the area.

 

Question No. 2:

Why did you select using stone veneer versus say a different color siding, stucco or maybe brick?

We wanted a more modern look. When we drove through the newer neighborhoods with the up scale homes we could see the use of stone building materials rather than the typical aluminum siding and brick facades. As you know we aren’t finished yet. We plan to have you wrap the remaining lower portions of our home and we plan to change the remainder of our siding to the new wood styled cedar shakes. Once completed, we hope to have a much more craftsman styled exterior look.

The stone has given our home a custom look. It certainly set us apart for all the other homes on our street, all of which used the more traditional aluminum siding and brick facades.

 

Question No. 3:

Why did you select North Star Stone to supply and install stone for your project?

After extensive research, we discovered that your quality of materials and expertise in this field were second to none and once again you’ve confirmed all the great reviews I’ve read.

 

Question No. 4:

Please share any comments about the installation process and the final outcome.

As you know I’ve owned my own industrial contracting business for the pasted 30 years and I tend to watch the quality of the installers very closely as I do my own people.

Your installers were very professional, very courteous and most of all they were extremely clean. Even though they worked very late in the day and they still had to drive a great distance all the way back to the shop, they didn’t seem at all to be in any hurry to run off!!!  I’ve experienced this with other installers and I know that feeling when someone just wants to finish the installation and leave as quickly as possible.

I might also add that they’re to a very large degree “artist”! This is a very specialized type of installation. This isn’t like stacking bricks with the same mortar line, etc. This requires much more of artistic approach and your guys do it as though they’ve been doing it for years!!!!

 

Question No. 5: Would you recommend North Star Stone to others considering an exterior facelift?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

If anyone is looking to break away for the typical cookie cutter look this is the way to do it! If you love your home, your location, not to mention the hassle of moving and you really don’t want anything more than a fresh exterior look “THEN WHY MOVE”!

We are the talk of the neighborhood! I still can’t believe I’m driving up to the same house and I can’t wait to finish the process!

 

Chimney Liners & Stone Fireplaces – What You Should Know

Chimney Liners & Stone Fireplaces – What You Should Know

Stone Exteriors

One evening while enjoying the warmth of your stone fireplace, you notice what appears to be clay tile littering the floor of your firebox. After a phone call and a visit from your local chimney repair company, you find yourself being told that you need to have your chimney liner repaired or even replaced. Maybe up until that point you didn’t know what a chimney liner was or that you even had one. Perhaps what makes this situation even more frustrating is that because you cannot see the inside of your chimney, you are unsure of whether or not the expensive repair work you are told that your chimney requires really needs to be done. Should you get a second opinion or should you get the work done as soon as possible to avoid further “deterioration”? If you find yourself in this situation or fear that you might some day, continue reading to learn all about chimney liners.

What Is A Chimney A.K.A A Flue And What Should It Do?

Before we get into what the job of a flue liner is it is probably a good idea to briefly discuss exactly what the role of a chimney is. First off, it is important to know, so that we avoid any confusion, that the word chimney and the word flue can be used interchangeably because they essentially mean the same thing. And now we get to what the exact purpose of a chimney (or flue) is: The job of a chimney is to act as an exit duct for gasses and smoke that are produced by a wood fire, gas heater, furnace or other fuel-burning source. So why would you need a flue liner? Continue reading to learn why..

 

What Is The Job Of A Flue Or Chimney Liner?

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, “A flue lining in a masonry chimney is defined as “A clay, ceramic, or metal conduit installed inside of a chimney, intended to contain the combustion products, direct them to the outside atmosphere, and protect the chimney walls from heat and corrosion.” Although building codes vary from one state or locality to another, the installation of flue lining has been recommended since the early part of this century, and indeed most fire codes now mandate liners.”

To be more specific, the Chimney Safety Institute of America states that a flu liner serves 3 purposes:

“The liner protects the house from heat transfer to combustibles” In other words, it prevents things like creosote or gases, which are both combustible materials from igniting into flames.

A flue liner protects the masonry of the chimney from breaking down due to smoke, gasses and other byproducts of combustion. Furthermore, a liner will also help prevent gases, such as carbon monoxide, from leaking back into your home, where it can potentially cause great harm or even death.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America also explains: “Liners provide a correctly sized flue for optimum efficiency of appliances. Modern wood stoves and gas or oil furnaces require a correctly sized flue to perform properly. The chimney (flue) is responsible for not only allowing the products of combustion a passage out of the house, but the draft generated by the chimney also supplies the combustion air to the appliance (fireplace). An incorrectly sized liner can lead to excessive creosote buildup in wood burning stoves, and the production of carbon monoxide with conventional fuels.“

Additionally, a damaged or poorly maintained flue liner can also break down and cause damage to your home or even your health. Things such as bird’s nests, plant material and excessive creosote buildup (from the burning of logs) can cause chimney fires or force carbon monoxide to back-up into your home.

As you can see, the job of a flue liner is pretty important when you consider what can happen without one. And if you are being told that you need a new liner or you need to repair the one you have, the person recommending the liner is going to suggest at least one of the following materials:

Terra cotta, the original material used as chimney liners. Terra Cotta is still used today in new construction and typically comes in 24-inch clay sections, which are held together by a mortar joint. Although they perform their job well, a terra-cotta liner can also crack and break over time (hence finding pieces of terra-cotta in the fireplace) and have a typical longevity of 50 years with routine maintenance and cleaning. Replacing a terra-cotta liner, which as mentioned above, is made up of 24-inch segments of terra cotta connected by a masonry joint, can be difficult if not impossible. Tearing down all or part of your chimney may be required in order to get the new terra-cotta liner fully installed.

Aluminum and Steel – either flexible or rigid, this particular liner system has been tested and approved by the Underwriter’s Laboratory. Depending on the installer some prefer one metal to the other. Steel is particularly popular. By using metal flue liners such as aluminum or stainless steel, you can re-line existing flues or run an entirely new one. These are great because they are generally flexible and work well with offset chimneys. Metal liners can also be damaged due to extreme temperatures, weather or other factors. Fortunately, these are typically easier to replace than terra cotta. Metal liners, in most cases, require insulation around them.

Cast-in-place – Liner is essentially cast within your current chimney or an old flue liner using a castable cement material and an inflatable bladder. Once the cement is dried the bladder is removed having created a cylindrical chimney flue. When the cement is poured it is able to fill in cracks that may have formed and thus improve the structural integrity of the chimney or other surface it is lining.

 

What Should You Do If You Are Told You Need A New Flue Liner?

Chimney repair scams are not uncommon. Unscrupulous individuals have talked many an unsuspecting and trusting homeowner into unnecessary and expensive repairs. It is a good rule of thumb to get several estimates. Using a tool such as Angie’s list, which utilizes crowd-sourced reviews, can be helpful. On Angie’s List, individuals are able to rate and detail their experiences with various contractors such as chimney sweeps. Subscribers to Angie’s List can also find the contractor’s contact information, hours of operation, helpful coupons and deals. Talking to friends, family and neighbors who have also had reliable work done on their chimneys is also a decent place to start. Finally, when seeking out your chimney care professional it is a good idea to make sure that they have been certified with the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) who’s mission it is to “advance public awareness while educating and certifying industry professionals.”

How Much Do Chimney Repairs Cost?

Depending on numerous factors including but not limited to:
Damage
Size and length of your chimney
How many flues you have feeding through it (furnace, fireplace, other appliances)
Materials required to complete work
As you can see, the price of repairs or replacement of a flue liner can vary, which is why it is important to find a reliable chimney sweep. For example, one company we asked explained that the cost of a steel flue could vary. With some work capping out at $1000 while other work can cost much more.

Helpful Resources:

If you are interested in learning more about flue liners, chimneys and the work of the professionals who maintain these items take a moment to visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s web site at: http://www.csia.org/

We hope that you found this blog post on chimney liners helpful. Please join us next time when we discuss the importance of regular chimney maintenance and cleaning. Once your chimney is in tip-top shape and you can once again enjoy your fireplace, why not consider updating this important focal point in your home with elegant stone veneer? Versatile and highly customizable, not only can you add the timelessness and beauty of stone to the hearth that warms your home but you can also enhance your home by adding stone veneer to your chimney’s exterior. Discover what homeowners in Arlington Heights, Long Grove and Mount Prospect already know about stone veneer and learn more by contacting North Star Stone at 847.996.6850 or visit our Exterior Stone FAQ page and Stone Fireplace FAQ Page.

Should I Seal My Stone Veneer?

Should I Seal My Stone Veneer?

Stone Exterior Siding Stone Exteriors Stone Fireplaces Stone Veneer

You have recently decided to improve the appearance of your home by adding stone veneer. You have decided after some research that you would like to seal and possibly enhance your new manufactured stone but you’re not sure where to begin. Fortunately, North Star Stone is here to help. Continue reading to learn a bit more about stone sealers and enhancers.

 

What is a stone sealant?

Sealant is a product that is typically brushed over stone in order to provide a protective layer against things such as salt, weather, moisture, stains and potential color deterioration. There are several brands on the market that can be purchased at retail stores like Home Depot and Lowes as well as on the web. It is recommended that you avoid products with acid and use a silane or siloxane-based sealant that is penetrating yet provides breathability. Eagle Natural Seal or The Armor SX5000 WB are two brands available at Home Depot. At Lowes you can find Eco Advance Concrete/Masonry Siloxane Waterproofer.

 

What is a sealer + enhancer?

Like the name implies, a sealer + enhancer does the job of sealing as well as enhancing the stone, which essentially means it works to bring out the natural character of the stone and to essentially make it more vibrant. It is important to make sure when selecting a sealer + enhancer that it is safe to use on manufactured or man made stone such as stone veneer. Just like with sealer, it is always a good idea to do a spot check in an inconspicuous place to see how your stone reacts with the product. 511 Seal & Enhance by Miracle Sealants is safe to use on manufactured stone and can be found at Home Depot.

 

Why should I use this product?

The general rule where sealing stone veneer is concerned is, if the stone darkens when a drop of water hits it then it can also be stained by other materials in the environment like oil, dirt or plant residue. Furthermore, the up side to sealing your stone is that it makes stone veneer even more easier to clean and will provide protection against the environment and color fading. Additionally, depending on the weather conditions and climate where you live, in order to protect your stone’s appearance and longevity, the relatively short time it will take you to seal your stone is well worth it. As a result, applying a sealant to your stone is most likely a good idea. Many stone veneer manufacturers will often say their stone does not require sealing, which essentially leaves the choice with you. Most sealers can be applied to stone on the interior and exterior of your home, so keep that in mind for any stonework beautifying the inside of your home as well.

 

Things to Know about sealers

 

  • Certain sealers may make your stone appear wet, slightly darker and or vibrant.
  • Always test a small portion of your stone with the sealer or sealer + enhancer product first in an inconspicuous place before applying it all over. This will help you know how your stone will respond to the product.
  • The more porous the stone the more coats required. Read instructions carefully.
  • Check with your stone veneer supplier to make sure the product you purchase is safe to use on your stone.
  • Sealing or enhancing your stone is something you will need to repeat periodically. Check your product information for details.
  • Make sure you are applying your product under the right weather conditions, as it may not perform correctly.

 

 

If you aren’t at the sealing and enhancing stage of your stone projects yet but are still considering stone as a way to update, accentuate and add character to your home – why not contact North Star Stone? Our experts are here to help. You too can see why homeowners in Chicagoland suburbs like Libertyville, Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect have chosen North Star Stone as their source for expert stone veneer fireplace and exterior stone siding selection and installation. For more information please call 847.996.6850 or email info@northstarstone.biz.