10 Ways To Give Your Home Some Curb Appeal

10 Ways To Give Your Home Some Curb Appeal

Stone Exterior Siding Stone Exteriors Stone Veneer

Strolling daily in your neighborhood you may begin noticing improvements that friends and neighbors are making to their homes, including:

  • Repainting house trim
  • Cleaning brick or siding
  • Reroofing due to damaged shingles
  • Repairing or replacing driveways
  • Changing the landscaping in significant ways and
  • Just generally tidying the front yard by mowing, sweeping, trimming trees and bushes, and filling planters with colorful flowers.

As you gradually absorb all this change and note what you like, you may begin to wonder about the curb appeal of your own home. What can you do to make it look better even if you don’t plan on selling anytime soon?

10 Home Makeover Ideas

When you start thinking about improving street appeal, your improvement list may become long. You can avoid feeling overwhelmed by making one change at a time. Here are some suggestions.

1. Photograph your front façade and yard. Analyze what is strong and what needs improvement. Apply a critical eye to tidiness, features obviously needing upkeep or replacement, paint color and possibilities for improvement with new landscaping and hardscaping.

2. Power wash your house but be careful about damaging brick and mortar. High-pressure spraying of a home’s façade makes it sparkle by removing dirt, mildew and moss. High-pressure cleaning is best left to a professional who knows how to avoid moisture damage. But lightly spraying your house with a garden hose before scrubbing off debris may do the trick and is probably best for brick siding. Pressure cleaning can decay mortar and old brick.

3. Clean and repair gutters. Sagging gutters with broken bands and loose downspouts look forlorn. Regular cleanout of leaves and other debris avoids this problem. If you plan to attach a downspout to a rain barrel in the front yard, one topped with a planter may be the best choice.

4. Reroof if necessary. Are shingles coming loose or looking worn, and is the roof visible from the street? Roof damage not only puts the interior of your house at risk but also signals viewers that you aren’t keeping up your property. Spot repairs sometimes are sufficient, but it may be time for a new roof.

5. Decide whether new paint is necessary and what colors would be best. Repainting trim and siding makes a home sparkle. While out walking, look for color combinations that fit your neighborhood and appeal to you. Sometimes just repainting a front door with a stand-out color and adding large, shiny address numbers may be enough to give your home a new look.

6. Improve yard maintenance, including trimming trees, weeding and mowing. A neglected landscape makes viewers think the interior of a home may also need significant repair.

7. Re-landscape. Even if you’re great about maintenance, a boring landscape makes a home look blah. If you can’t afford a landscaper, creative websites may help with planning. Try eGardenGo for suggestions about plant combinations and Paper Garden Workshop for planning tools, including “doodle sheets.”

8. Build a berm or a raised bed with a stone veneer wall. Berms add shape and texture to yards. So do exterior siding options such as a stone fireplace or stone exterior retaining wall.

9. Repair or replace your driveway. Repairing driveway cracks, potholes and heaving adds polish to a home and communicates that you value it.

10. Add exterior stone siding for an upscale, rustic look. According to Remodeling’s 2017 Cost Vs Value Report, stone veneer is one of the top home improvement choices for recouping cost when selling.

The Wow Look

As you plan ways to make your home look sharp and sweet, keep in mind that what looks “wow” in one community may elicit “whoa!” elsewhere. Remodeling magazine seems to indicate that homeowners nationwide think stone looks stylish. Please contact us at North Star Stone for information about how we add wow to homes.

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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.

What’s New Is Old: Fireplaces and Stone Veneer History

What’s New Is Old: Fireplaces and Stone Veneer History

Stone Colors Stone Fireplace Stone Fireplaces Stone Interior Stone Veneer

Today’s thin cut stone veneer looks like the real thing.  However, it is manufactured from concrete, a combination of Portland cement and aggregate molded in rubber casts that capture the texture of real stone. Ground pigments provide its natural looking colors.

Lightweight fireplace stone veneer weighs far less than real stone, so it’s possible to construct rustic, historical looking surrounds that may even reach from floor to ceiling. It is a modern miracle that can give homes a historical look.

But dig deep enough into the past, and you discover that what seems new started in ancient times.

Ancient Synthetic Basalt

Many articles have commented on the strange trifecta of chance that an archeologist with the last name of “Stone” representing the State University of New York at Stony Brook, discovered the first evidence of artificial stone.

In 1998, The New York Times reported that Dr. Elizabeth C. Stone had identified slabs found a decade earlier in southern Iraq as being artificial basalt. Her team uncovered the find in the ruins of Mashkan-shapir, a Mesopotamian city that existed 4,000 years ago and had no basalt quarries.

Although real stone was scarce, basaltic river silt was plentiful in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Dr. Stone theorizes that artisans melted the silt to create material for construction and stones used in grinding grain.

Historical Uses of Stone Veneer

Concrete was an invention of the Roman Empire. The ancient conquerors used it as the underlying structural material supporting more attractive brick and stone veneers in buildings such as the Coliseum. The art of making concrete disappeared at the fall of the Roman Empire after 400 AD.

About 1,300 years later, a British engineer devised a new formula. Thin stone veneer construction with real, hand-tooled stone reappeared in the late 19th century.

By the early 20th century, most natural stone veneer work was limited to building interiors, but the exterior of the Empire State Building is an example of heavy limestone veneer over brick and steel.

Arrival of Manufactured Thin Veneer

Natural stone veneer is about four times the weight of thin veneer product. This makes it more difficult to support on walls and more expensive to ship and to purchase.

RELATED: Control Dust & Dirt During A Home Remodeling Project

In contrast, today’s concrete stone fireplace veneer is affordable and supportable for many kinds of construction projects from commercial to residential.

Thin veneer manufactured stones vary in thickness from about 1 to 3 inches depending on the stone on which they are styled. They have become increasingly durable and realistic looking since introduction in the early 1960s.

The color of some manufactured thin veneer may fade faster than others due to being spray painted with pigment. However, at North Star Stone, we infuse the pigment during the curing process so it permeates the stones and looks natural.

North Star also hand assembles fireplace walls and smaller surrounds to avoid repetitive patterns. We strive for the highest craftsmanship while also making a luxurious look affordable.

For more information about the many kinds of fireplace veneer and designs available for your project, please contact us at North Star Stone. Let’s make it an important moment in the history of your home.

How to Control Dust During Indoor Stone Veneer Fireplace Remodeling

How to Control Dust During Indoor Stone Veneer Fireplace Remodeling

Stone Fireplace Stone Fireplaces Stone Veneer

When plentiful, dust can make anyone sneeze and cover mouth and nose to avoid inhaling it. Construction sites are well known for powdery particulate. Architects and builders often refer to clients who stay in their homes during a remodeling project as “living in the dust.”

But home during indoor remodeling, such as construction of a stone veneer fireplace surround, there are several ways to control dust. This is especially important if family members have asthma.

Here are some practical measures you can handle or negotiate with your contractor to minimize construction dust.

Create Dust Barriers & Isolate Work Area

The first step in limiting the spread of construction dust is to erect clear, plastic dust barriers closing off openings from the work area to other parts of the house. This task may be as simple as hanging heavy mil plastic sheeting over doors or separating spaces with plastic wall systems, such as ZipWalls.

If there is furniture in the work space that can’t be moved elsewhere, it should also be covered to avoid dust from polluting upholstery.

Furthermore, isolating a stone fireplace work area includes moving any sawing outdoors if weather allows. It also requires delivering building materials to the remodeling space via a route that minimizes spreading dust to other parts of the home.

Construction dust clings to work clothing, so another wise step is to ask your contractor to limit worker access to other parts of your home.

Cover Walls, Flooring & Furniture

Next, you need to make sure your floors in the remodeling area — whether carpeted or bare — are covered wall to wall with rosin paper (a recyclable paper building product), thick plastic or drop cloths. Final cleanup will be much easier if walls in the remodeling area are covered floor to ceiling.

Prepping Your HVAC System

Not all homes have forced-air heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, but if yours does, precautions during construction projects include limiting the amount of dust that gets into ducts.

If your project occurs when temperatures are moderate, it’s a good idea to shut down your HVAC system for a few days during the stone veneer fireplace remodel. This includes closing or covering the work area’s air supply and return registers in the walls and floor. However, workers still need air circulation, so open a window for fresh air.

Stone veneer fireplace projects generally take less than a week to complete. During winter installation, it may be best to keep the HVAC running even if you aren’t staying at home. It keeps the house warm for your return and helps any moist construction materials, such as grout, to dry more quickly.

In cold weather, the registers in the work area can be closed, and the contractor can bring in a portable electric heater. Or the register grills can be partially closed and covered with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) furnace filters. To further capture any fine dust in ducts on return flow, install a HEPA filter in place of your regular furnace filter.

Capture Dust with HEPA Air Scrubbers

At any time of year, a portable HEPA air scrubber may be the best solution for keeping indoor construction dust from drifting through your house. It also captures any gases and airborne chemicals released by construction materials.

No ducting is attached to the air scrubber, which is placed in the center of the work space. It sucks in dirty air, then releases clean air. This is particularly important in older homes that may contain asbestos or lead in old construction materials removed during stone veneer remodeling.

HEPA air scrubbers contain a series of filters. The first stage of filtration is handled by a pre-filter that absorbs larger particles. Frequent replacement of the pre-filter protects the efficiency of the primary filter. If you add a carbon filter, it can absorb smelly gases and vapors.

As the Proud Green Home website notes, HEPA air scrubbers “meet standards that remove 99.97% of airborne particles down to the size of 0.3 microns.” A micron is a millionth of a meter or about .00004 inches wide. Due to their filtering power, air scrubbers are expensive. Yet home improvement stores make access to them more affordable through rental.

Specify & Share Cleanup

At the end of each work day, contractors for any indoor construction project should minimally vacuum up dust. (Sweeping with a broom sends much of the dust flying.) Then careful removal and disposal of floor and wall coverings, as well as dust barriers, follows at the end of the project.

The next step, generally handled by the homeowner or a house cleaner you hire, is to damp mop walls and hard flooring and deep vacuum carpeting. Finally, to avoid circulating any construction dust that remains in your home, continue to use a HEPA filter for your furnace for about two weeks, changing the filter at least three times.

Seek More Information

For any questions you may have about stone veneer fireplaces, please contact us at North Star Stone. You’ll also find answers to frequently asked questions at our website. We want to help you and your family breathe easy about home improvement.

In the meantime, check out our stone veneer fireplace galleries for some great ideas and see how other families updated their fireplaces with North Star Stone veneer.

Sources:

http://www .hou zz.co m/ideabooks/46866556/list/what-to-know-about-controlling-dust-during-remodeling

https://www .angieslist.com/articles/8-ways-protect-your-hvac-during-remodeling.htm

http://buildc lean.com/images/Best-Practices.pdf

http://www.aconco  rdcarpenter.com/how-to-protect-vents-from-remodeling-dust.html

http://www6 .hom edepot.com/tool-truck-rental/Hepa_Air_Scrubber_with_Filters/F284/

http://www.jondo n.com/flood-restoration/air-scrubber

https://www.drie az.c om/Uploads/DECA/GTAS.pdf

http://www.bacteria- world.co m/how-big-micron.htm

http://answers.angi eslist.com/Do-contractors-typically-clean-remove-dust-installing-drywall-skim-coating-walls-q54293.aspx

 

 

Best Flooring Options for Your Fireplace Hearth

Best Flooring Options for Your Fireplace Hearth

Stone Fireplaces Stone Veneer

Whether you already have a stone fireplace/stone fireplaces in your home or you’re planning to have one installed, you need to consider the flooring for your fireplace hearth. The hearth of the fireplace begins with the floor of the fireplace and extends into the living area in front of the fireplace itself, plus the fireplace surround. The hearth is the area where you would keep your extra wood and kindling, and any other accessories you have to build and maintain your fire.

 

Fireplace Hearth

What Are the Safety Concerns With a Fireplace Hearth?

Since the fireplace hearth is directly in front of the fireplace and surround, you need to be careful about safety hazards that can happen on or near the hearth area. No matter how safety conscious or careful you are, accidents happen to the best of us. Some of the safety concerns that you should be aware of with your fireplace hearth are:

Sparks and Embers

Sparks and embers from the fire can fly out unexpectedly from a fire. Although it’s more common from fires with wood that is partially wet, these sparks can happen with any fire. It has very little to do with the skill of the person who built the fire, so sparks are almost uncontrollable.

Fireplace Hearth
If these sparks land on carpet or other textiles, however, there is a danger that damage or an unplanned fire can occur. A spark can land on the carpet or textile, smolder, and then build into a dangerous fire hazard.

Tripping and Falling

Some fireplace hearths cause another kind of home safety hazard, and that is the danger of tripping and falling. If you have a hearth that is raised above the natural level of the room’s flooring, the sudden change in elevation can cause visitors in the home to trip or fall, because they are unaware of the step up. Homes with small children face a similar problem, as youngsters tend not to be as aware of uneven flooring as adults.

Why Hearths Make a Home Safer

In most cases, though, the hearth makes the home safer. Hearths provide a natural area around the front of the fireplace and surround that signals to the residents and visitors that the fireplace is there. The hearth truly is the heart of the home, and having a custom stone fireplace and hearth is one of the most satisfying ways to make your home cozy and warm for your family, friends and guests.

What are the Best Flooring Options for a Stone Fireplace Hearth?

There are certain flooring options that help to make a fireplace hearth safe, beautiful and functional. These are all qualities that will work to bring value and style to your home. You obviously want to make your hearth safe, but you also want the hearth area to complement your home’s décor. Of course, the hearth also needs to perform the function that it’s intended for.

 

Fireplace Hearth

Slate

Slate tile is a natural flooring solution that goes with just about any living area flooring. Slate is a natural type of thin rock that lends itself well to home décor. It does not burn or singe easily, and can withstand extreme wear and tear. It’s available in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

Concrete
Concrete is a fantastic hearth flooring solution for those who are eco-minded. Concrete hearth flooring is safe and protective for any potential sparks coming from the fireplace, as well as offering a decorative flooring option.

Stone Veneer/Manufactured Stone
For the discerning homeowner who wants a natural look, there is perhaps no better choice than manufactured stone or stone veneer for the hearth. Stone Veneer is beautiful, functional, safe and affordable for the fireplace hearth.

Brick

Brick can also serve as a fireplace hearth. They also will prevent accidents from happening around the fireplace, but brick may not suit every home décor due to the lack of color options.

Whichever kind of flooring options you choose for your fireplace surround, be sure to consider all the issues mentioned above to ensure a lifetime of satisfaction. Learn more about our stone veneer and take a look at our stone fireplace galleries and see how we use stone veneer to make fireplaces beautiful.

Get What You Pay For!

Get What You Pay For!

Inspiration Stone Colors Stone Fireplace Stone Veneer

You know that expression you get what you pay for?  It’s true. 

 

stone-wine-celar

 

Once our customers find out that we custom color every batch of stone to their specifications they start to understand we are doing something special at North Star Stone. Clients will bring in a sample of paint, flooring, fabric or window coverings to help create the perfect color of stone. Then we discuss the shape of the stone to create the mood of the room. You don’t get this level customer service at Home Depot, Lowes or most of the specialty stone yards.

 

Schaumburg_stone_veneerNorthbrook_stone_veneer
 

When it comes to installation some potential customers will hire contractors that are a handyman and assure the client they can lay the stone. Just make sure they know the proper methods of preparing the work surface and use the proper adhesive. (Yes, the DIY’er can install the stone but the trick is taking your time).

diy-stone-veneer-34

 

diy-stone-veneer-2

 

Our masons have been laying stone for many years and typically only lay stone with a focus on stone veneer. The skill the masons bring to the project includes blending the proper color, shape, texture and size in a pattern that is random, not in a straight line and is not splotchy.  Each mason has a slightly different way of laying stone and that is why no two fireplaces will ever look the same, but they will all look beautiful when completed by our masons.

Additionally, we pay our masons a fair wage so they can live comfortably, the crews are all insured and a certificate of insurance can always be issued if there is a customer request.

Dry Stack Stone Fireplace 23

 

When you are reviewing your estimates for a fireplace, review our past projects and customer reviews. Did you know that North Star Stone has an A+ rating from the BBB and over 65 FIVE Star Ratings  on Houzz? We are proud of our custom made stone and the men that install the stone and the unusually high level of customer service.

Kildeer Long_Grove

Please call us at 847-996-6850 and let us help you with your next stone project.

 

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

Adding Value To Your Home With Stone Veneer

Adding Value To Your Home With Stone Veneer

Stone Fireplace Stone Interior Stone Veneer

As a homeowner, you probably look for ways to add to your home’s value and your overall satisfaction with your home on a regular basis. Not all “home improvement projects” are created equal, though, as some are more worthwhile than others. One home improvement project that will yield the most return on your investment is adding stone veneer to your home in some form. According to Yahoo Real Estate, you can yield up to a 92.2% return on your investment when you incorporate veneer siding into your home’s facade. Now that you know it’s a worthwhile investment, you might wonder how to go about adding stone to your home. Thankfully, we can help you with this. Read below for some ways to incorporate stone into your home:

Exterior Stone Siding:

In most cases, you can easily have stone installed on the exterior of your home. This creates a rich look that exudes class and luxury, while dramatically improving your home’s curb appeal. It will also help your home stand out from the others around it that feature plain vinyl or clapboard siding. Moreover, it creates the illusion that your home is built out of stone, increasing its value and appeal.

Keep in mind, exterior stone doesn’t have to be only in the form of siding. You can instead use veneer stone as an accent on your home’s exterior. You can do this by creating stone pillars on the porch, having a stone accent wall added to the front of your home, or use it to cover up unattractive foundation. The idea is to incorporate stone into your home’s exterior in small amounts. Doing this will break up the long lines of a ranch or add style and flair to an otherwise dull exterior. In other words, it gives the exterior of your home a little boost.

Fireplace Stone:

Another way to incorporate stone into your home is adding a fireplace and using stone veneer to cover the visible parts of that fireplace. You can install beautiful fireplace stone in your living room or can create an outdoor patio fireplace using stone. This trend of creating an outdoor fireplace is extremely popular right now. Of course, you could add both versions for even more appeal. Just imagine yourself sitting alongside a crackling fire enjoying a pleasant evening at home. What is more relaxing than that?

A fireplace will also give you the benefit of heating your home without the use of electricity, and in Chicago, that is a huge selling point. However, if the idea of a true wood burning fireplace doesn’t appeal to you, you can always add an electric or gas fireplace that provides warmth and gives the illusion of a fireplace.

Veneer stone is ideal for electric or gas fireplaces, as it gives it a more authentic look. This will make your electric or gas fireplace easily mistaken for a real, wood burning fireplace, but you won’t have to deal with the hassle associated with those units. Furthermore, adding a fireplace, whether it be wood burning, gas or electric, is a good move when it comes to increasing your home’s value, since according to a National Home Builders report, fireplaces rank in the top three desired amenities by homebuyers.

Adding stone to your home in some form or fashion is a great way to improve your home’s curb appeal and to increase its overall value. It also will ensure you love your home more than you ever have before. Therefore, the next time you are thinking about improving your home, consider adding stone through one of the methods listed above.

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!