Beautiful Illinois Home Uses Stone Veneer to Help Gain LEED Certification

Beautiful Illinois Home Uses Stone Veneer to Help Gain LEED Certification

eco-friendly-homes LEED Stone Veneer

Brick and stone veneer are nothing new to the world of architecture and construction. They are attractive, durable, and don’t come with the same hefty price tag as a traditional, full sized stone or brick.

And, in the instance of this beautiful new home in Evanston, Illinois, their use marks achieving a standard of sustainability measured by the popular certification program, LEED. These are no ordinary stone veneers. They are entirely man-made, which gives them several important qualities that do well to promote environmentally friendly design.

This article aims to examine this stunning work of residential construction, and answer a few fundamental questions about LEED. What is it? Why is it Important? And how do things like sourcing local, sustainable materials make an impact on the environment?

Leed Stone VeneerLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

LEED isn’t the only sustainability certification program in the design and construction industry, but it’s become the most ubiquitous. It began development in 1993 by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as an avenue for setting green building standards for architects, engineers, builders, material suppliers, and developers.

Few things affect the health of our planet more than the things we build. From design and construction to maintenance and upkeep, the embedded energy in the constructed world contributes to a host of environmental issues that architects, engineers, and legislators are responsible for addressing in an attempt to slow our impact on the planet and preserve it for generations to come.

LEED was designed to do just that.

The program is in a constant state of development – always adjusting to our ever-changing understanding of environmental impact and protection. While the intricacies and details of the criteria are complex, projects can earn credits for such things as using low-VOC paints and materials, insulating past code requirements, specifying energy efficient HVAC systems and appliances, and other design related issues such as solar orientation and water conservation.

Depending on how many credits a project earns in accordance with the building type, it will be awarded a silver, gold, or platinum designation.

However, for everything LEED does to set a project up for environmental success, it’s still up to the design and construction team to focus those efforts into something that is beautiful, comfortable, and functional.

The LEED Home Made With Stone Veneer

That brings us to Evanston, Illinois first ever LEED Platinum certified home. The home, which is currently undergoing construction and knee-deep in the certification process, is as architecturally interesting as it is sustainable. It is organized as an ‘H’ shape in plan and wraps around several exterior courtyards. The design focuses on energy efficiency, water conservation, and utilizing materials that reinforce its commitment to sustainability.

One of those primary materials is an exterior stone veneer product that has several embedded qualities that help the project earn valuable LEED credits.

The stone veneer used in this project, our stone veneer,  is entirely man-made. Ironically, it’s this very fact that made it such an appropriate and sustainable stone siding material for this home. It’s manufactured using significantly less water than natural stone, which requires a massive amount for the cutting and shaping process. Furthermore, the manufacturing facility is located in the nearby northern Indiana, earning LEED credits for proximity to the job site.

Our stone veneer helps the project achieve its status as a leader in sustainability, yes, but it also gives the home a unique, natural look in places its applied. The stone veneer product can be applied to the exterior, where it will last as long as the structure does, or the interior as fireplace stone or perhaps an attractive accent wall.

The versatility of the stone veneer allows architects and builders to be creative with a product that is also inherently sustainable. And better yet, it comes with an affordable price tag that will ensure it doesn’t get value engineered out of the project.

The Future of Building Materials

The construction materials industry is currently undergoing a massive shift in the way products are manufactured, delivered, and even installed. People today are aware of how important protecting the environment has become, and value sustainability in home building more than ever.

And when clients and home-buyers universally begin to value something, the industry responds. Sustainably manufactured exterior stone veneers are just the beginning of a story that includes a wide variety of eco-friendly, ‘green’ products. They are not only getting more and more affordable, they are easy to source no matter where you happen to be building your new home.

And more than that, a responsibility has been bestowed upon architects and engineers to take sustainability into their own hands, in part by developing relationships with vendors and product manufacturers to get the most out of the material specifications for their jobs. And whether you’re cladding an entire building in exterior stone or simply renovating a stone fireplace, there are small choices to be made that can have a massive impact on the built world.

This home in Evanston, Illinois provides a beacon that future residential projects can look to for eco-friendly inspiration. It masterfully blends architectural innovation with environmental engineering, wrapped in a package that expresses its most choice material specifications. It gives meaning to its place, and provides the home owners with a comfortable place to live that pays the ultimate respect to the environment. North Star Stone was proud to be a part of this LEED project, and looks forward to many more down the road. If you’re in the process of building a LEED certified home, stone veneer is a perfect choice for your home’s stone fireplace, siding and so many other parts of the home. Get a free, fast estimate for your stone veneer here.

What Donating Custom Stone Veneer Taught Our Company About Habitat for Humanity

What Donating Custom Stone Veneer Taught Our Company About Habitat for Humanity

Stone Fireplace Stone Fireplaces Stone Veneer

At North Star Stone, we recently donated some of our fine custom stone veneer products to the Lake County chapter of Habitat for Humanity.  And although many readers have heard of this fine organization, some may be unaware of how exactly Habitat for Humanity operates in an effort to provide affordable and safe housing.  North Star Stone’s new partnership with Habitat has opened our eyes regarding the scope and impact of their efforts not only in the Chicagoland area, but around the world.  Now we’d like to share some of the information that we’ve learned along the way.

Habitat for Humanity’s History & Mission

Habitat for Humanity International is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that was started in 1976 by co-founders Millard and Linda Fuller.  Based in Americus, GA, the group’s mission is built upon the principle that every person deserves a decent place to live.  Since its inception, Habitat’s philosophy has been to engage in “partnership housing”, a concept focused on using teams of skilled volunteers working together in an effort to provide reliable and affordable shelter for families.  Habitat projects also include renovations, repairs and improvements to existing properties within a community.

Homes built by Habitat for Humanity’s thousands of volunteers and paid employees are done so without a profit motive.  In addition, the organization partners with mortgage lenders to obtain zero-interest loans for those they assist.  Habitat also operates The Fund for Humanity, which receives money from their ReStores, online merchandise sales, mortgage payments and cash donations to continuously finance more homes for those in need.  Today, houses built by the caring hands of Habitat volunteers provide shelter for nearly 10 million family members in 70 countries and 1400 communities worldwide.

How does a Habitat Home Get Built Using Stone Veneer?

There are several different factors that all come together to produce just one Habitat home.  For prospective new homeowners, there’s a non-discriminatory application process whereby the selection criteria varies from community to community.  It involves these steps:

  • The applicant must show a specific level of financial need.
  • An applicant must have a willingness to partner with Habitat.  This means devoting hundreds of hours of their own time to building their new home, while further participating in construction efforts on other Habitat projects in their area.
  • The ability to repay an affordable mortgage is a must. 
  • Applicants are screened and chosen based upon the above criteria by a local Habitat selection committee.

Volunteers partnering with Habitat include builders, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, roofers, bricklayers, carpet installers, and more.  These individuals not only donate their valuable services locally, but sometimes travel to other communities where Habitat operates.  For example, when a natural disaster strikes teams from Habitat for Humanity oftentimes can be found in the impacted area helping the locals rebuild.  Habitat offices are currently located within all 50 states and in every Canadian province.  ReStores also exist in numerous U.S. cities and towns which, as aforementioned, serve to raise money for future home building and remodeling projects. 

Many construction and building suppliers also donate their goods to Habitat, much like North Star Stone began doing recently.   Tools, building materials, cleaning supplies, equipment, machinery, and even trucks are needed to fuel Habitat’s daily efforts.  Companies or individuals also contribute appliances, furniture and housewares to support Habitat endeavors.  Planning for building projects within a given locality is done under the watchful eye of paid Habitat coordinators.   At this point the organization is entering the final year of its Habitat for Humanity Strategic Plan 2014-2018 with its motto of: “a world where everyone has a decent place to live”.

How Our Stone Veneer is Beautifying Habitat Homes

Starting in November of 2017, North Star Stone proudly began donating some of our high-quality manufactured stone veneer products to the Habitat branch in Lake County, IL.  These faux stone products are typically used as decorative enhancements by residential and commercial property owners for applications from fireplaces to home exteriors.  We recognize that Habitat not only believes in everyone living in an affordable, safe and decent home, but further that they strive to build houses that are attractive, energy-efficient and accessible.  Our manufactured stone siding solutions work well to serve Habitat’s structural objectives.

North Star Stone has so far donated over 1400 square feet of custom stone veneer that’s being used to beautify the exteriors and interiors of several Habitat-built properties around Chicago.  We’ve learned that since 1989 Habitat for Humanity Lake County has provided over 200 families with affordable and reliable housing outcomes.  North Star Stone will continue to partner with Habitat by providing our manufactured stone veneer products to support those efforts.  Get a free estimate or learn more about our custom stone veneer products here. 

Get Your Stone Fireplace Ready For Fall!

Get Your Stone Fireplace Ready For Fall!

Stone Fireplace

Fall is here and if you want to add some decor to your fireplace, you have a lot of different options available to you. The fireplace is an area of the home that is generally decorated with the current season in mind. Even if you do not decorate at all during the rest of the year, fall is the best time of year to do it because during the colder, winter months, your fireplace is a key focal point in your home. You may be enjoying several cozy nights by the fire in the next few months and you want your fireplace to look the best it can be all season long.

Incorporate Fall Colors

The easiest way you can decorate for fall is by using some traditional fall colors. You should look for decorations that feature some darker and muted oranges, yellow, red, and more. Essentially, fall colors are colors you would see on trees that are changing colors so you should look for items that feature these colors. It should not be very difficult during this time of year as decor featuring these colors will be everywhere you would normally shop for decor.

SHOPPING FOR FALL FIREPLACE DECOR

There’s tons of places you can find beautiful decor for your fireplace this fall. Some of our favorites are listed below:

Amazon! Of course! Amazon has some great deals right now on fireplace decor for the upcoming holidays.

World Market- They have some great finds from all over the world. Priced well, World Market has up to date styles, beautiful unique finds and so much more. If you look in the sidebar of this article, you’ll find a link with a 10% off coupon!

Home Goods – Always a good go-to for home decor items, HomeGoods has just about anything and everything you could ever need. If you don’t mind waiting in line for a while, you can save some serious dough on your new fireplace goodies!

And Last But Not Least:

At Home – There’s one in Schaumburg, and we swear- when you enter this massive home discount store, you will not want to leave. You’ll get sucked into the beautiful, discount vortex of AtHome, and never, ever want to leave. You name it, and they have it. Everything from flowers and floral decor to lighting and pictures, this store literally has everything you would ever need to make your stone fireplace beautiful. Good luck getting out of the store in less than an hour!

Focus on the Holidays

If you like to celebrate any holidays during the fall and early winter, you may want to try decorating specifically for these holidays. For example, if you celebrate Halloween or Diwali, you may want to put out some holiday specific items during this time. You can easily do this by adding a few small and subtle pumpkins for Halloween or even adding some fake spider webs. It does not have to be overwhelming unless you want it to be. Feel free to go all out if you want to or just add some basic fall colors, as mentioned before, and then a few items that hint towards the holiday.

Bring the Outside In

One of the best things about fall is that there are so many outdoor activities that you can do with your family. You may want to go to a pumpkin patch, through a corn maze, or simply on a nice fall walk through your local nature trails. You may spend a lot of great time in the crisp, fall air but that does not mean that your time outside has to end there. Many people actually bring some outside items inside their home for decoration. Not only is this inexpensive but it can also look great. Some examples of this would be bringing in some pine cones, gourds, pumpkins, and more. You also have options when it comes to these items. You can place them on your fireplace mantel for decoration as is or you can spray paint them a fall color or even a subtle gold for even more of a pop.

Don’t Forget the Stone Fireplace Hearth

When decorating your fireplace, it can be easy to only focus on the mantle at the top but you should not forget about the hearth. You can do something simple and elegant to bring the entire decoration idea together. Whether you want to put a fireplace screen that has some hints of fall design in front of the opening or you want to add some fall vases with plants, real or fake, you can really tie everything together in an elegant and classic fall way.

Your fireplace is a main focal point in your home, especially when the temperatures drop outside. Using these tips, you can ensure it is not an eyesore but an area of your home that you can be proud of.

Regardless of how you decide to decorate your stone fireplace, we can help you make it gorgeous with the addition of new stone veneer for your fireplace. With hundreds of styles and colors to choose from, our stone can breathe new life into your old fireplace. We can often update it in less than 3 days, with very little mess, and incredibly talented masons who will leave you with a gorgeous new fireplace that your friends and family will rave about. Get a free estimate today for updating your fireplace with our custom stone veneer and see how we can help you make your fireplace the focal point of the room it was meant to be!

Favorite Fall Stone Veneer Fireplaces:

Donations & Volunteer Work Help Hurricane Victims Rebuild

Donations & Volunteer Work Help Hurricane Victims Rebuild

Stone Fireplaces Stone Veneer

Before hurricanes Harvey and Irma this summer, 2005’s Hurricane Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history according to CNN Money. Flooding and ripping up the Gulf Coast, CNN reports, Katrina created what would amount to $160 billion in damages today for America alone.

CNN Money notes that financial losses from Harvey and Irma may reach about $200-290 billion dollars. What part of that figure will flow from rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure is unknown.

All of us can help minimize damages through donations to charitable organizations helping Houston, the Gulf Coast, Florida and other southeastern states.

What to Give

The logistics of storing construction supplies or other goods — such as clothing, food and water — is challenging following a natural disaster. Relief experts and journalists who have covered many natural disasters say it is best to contribute money in the immediate aftermath of such events.

First-responder charities are on the ground immediately after a disaster. They provide basic emergency and rescue services, including medical care and evacuation. Charities that help with rebuilding structures will arrive later when it is possible to begin work.

If you do plan to donate construction materials or other goods, such as clothing or food, be sure to talk with the charity involved about what is needed. Many non-profits do not accept clothing or shoes because they often get an influx of them and often have a difficult time sorting, cleaning and storing these items. So always call ahead and ask what supplies a non-profit is collecting.

At North Star Stone, we are organizing a donation of stone veneer to Habitat for Humanity Lake County. These supplies will likely be used here in the Chicagoland area, but we are looking into other options for donating to help hurricane victims repair and rebuild their homes. Habitat will be able to use our stone veneer to update stone fireplaces and add stone siding on HFH homes locally.

Choosing a Helpful Charity

To make sure your contributions help where intended, access a charity rating service online. CharityWatch, GuideStar and Charity Navigator are organizations that evaluate the efficiency and helpfulness of many kinds of charities based on a wide array of factors. It’s easy to access ratings at the websites of all three.

Habitat for Humanity, SBP USA and All Hands Volunteers are examples of charities that have solid ratings on all three websites.

Habitat allows donors to designate where their cash contributions should be applied. You don’t need to be a construction professional to swing a hammer or help with other rebuilding tasks on Habitat projects. However, check with the branch where you hope to volunteer to find out what openings and skills are needed. Churches often form Habitat teams of including volunteers of varying skill levels. Check with local congregations to see which ones are planning construction mission trips to disaster areas.

All three organizations help train volunteers on the job. But don’t show up at one of their worksites without applying to volunteer and receiving an assignment. Self-deploying to a disaster area can be chaotic and dangerous. It may also slow work teams.

Rebuilding is a slow process. However, SBP USA, which cut its teeth on helping the Gulf Coast rebuild post-Katrina, learned how to speed up its projects from auto manufacturer Toyota. SBP has shared the process with other relief charities, including Habitat.

Lending a Hand Internationally

Late August through mid-September 2017 will be remembered as a time of unparalleled hurricane destruction internationally. Hurricane Irma created tremendous damage throughout the Caribbean before making landfall in Southwest Florida. Hurricane Katia almost simultaneously walloped the east coast of Mexico shortly after a massive earthquake. At publication time, we’re hoping Hurricane Jose will continue winding down away from land in the Atlantic.

Both Habitat and the UK-based All Hands Volunteers help rebuild communities worldwide following calamities as do all the charitable organizations listed in this 2016 ThoughtCo. article about disaster relief organizations. There are also many smaller non-profits that are helping Hurricane victims that may be accepting donations of money and supplies, as well as looking for volunteers to help rescue, clean and rebuild after these disasters. Stay tuned and we will be updating this post with local charities that need help and are providing help to hurricane victims.

So, lend a hand at home or lend a hand internationally. Together we can fix what is broken one nail, one stroke of paint and one piece of stone at a time.

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Sources:

https://www.thoughtco.com/after-disaster-they-rebuild-178385

http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-earthquake-20170909-story.html

5 Tips Your Realtor May Not Tell You About Selling a Home

5 Tips Your Realtor May Not Tell You About Selling a Home

Stone Exteriors Stone Fireplace

Remember when you were little and had your first tooth pulled? Probably your mom or dad told you that the dentist would make it painless with Novocain. Then you saw the unexpected needle coming and discovered novo-pain.

Daily life is full of surprises that arise because someone fails to tell us something. Thunderbolts of bewilderment may even strike when you are in the process of selling your home, because your realtor fails to share the following tips.

Ask for a Short Contract

One reason why people say “locked in” when forming a contract with a realtor is because it can feel like you are serving time if the relationship sours. This may happen, for example, if your property stays on the market so long you must lower the sale price.

You may begin to doubt whether the realtor priced your property correctly or is doing enough to market it.

Consequently, when your realtor suggests a contract of six months or longer, be brave. Ask for something shorter, such as a standard minimum of 90 days. In tight markets favoring sellers, you may want to ask for even less.

Help Write Your Listing

You know your home and neighborhood best. You may also know how to write better than your realtor. So, offer to help compose or proofread the real estate listing for your home’s sale. This probably isn’t something your realtor would emphasize, but you can put the extra touches on it that your realtor just may not be able to.

Expect Unexpected Costs

No realtor can predict all the costs that will arise when selling your home, such as a bathtub refinishing job that leads to a subcontractor’s pitch for a far more expensive bathroom remodel or any of the hundreds of things that could come up in a home inspection.

Work together with your realtor to estimate how much you can afford to spend on these unexpected costs prior to listing. The budget will depend on a break-even calculation. Beware of anyone who suggests you can break even based on a sale price that meets your equity. To avoid being in the red, the sale price also should cover home improvement expenditures and myriad closing costs.

Invest in Stone Veneer Versus a Bathroom

Now to get back to the bathroom makeover: It’s true that buyers are attracted to homes with new bathrooms. Yet that improvement may not provide the greatest value versus investment.

It’s your wallet, so pay attention to payback. One valuable tool is Remodel magazine’s annual Cost Vs Value Report, which provides statistics about what you can expect to gain financially from investment in a wide range of remodeling projects.

The report divides the nation into regions. Illinois is part of the East North Central Region where payback for a bathroom remodel this year is 57% of cost. In contrast, the addition of stone siding returns 79%. 79%!!!! That’s pretty awesome. We’re a little biased, but we think you should consider updating your fireplace or your home exterior over your bathroom.

Stone veneer exterior siding options are lighter weight than full stone construction yet provide the same distinguished look. Mom was right — first impressions matter.

Don’t Nap Before a Showing

One thing nobody ever tells you is how intensely exhausting it can be to sell a home, which must shine for showing at all times.

Aside from tiring of 24/7 cleaning, you may feel overwhelmed by constantly packing up all evidence of habitation, including your cranky toddler and pets.

Your realtor probably never warned you it is a big, big mistake to set your alarm clock and lay down for a quick catnap even two hours before a showing. You may wake up to strangers who discover you, the baby and Fido snoozing on the couch. No sale!

Think About Staying Put

Once your stone exterior is in place and you’ve further indulged in the kind of equally distinguished stone fireplace renovation Chicago homes deserve, you may want to drop the idea of selling and take a nap without interruptions.

In all seriousness, selling a home can be very stressful. Making sure you’ve taken the time to do your homework, and have an open line of communication with your realtor can really benefit you in the long term. If you’re in the process of getting your home ready to sell, and are looking at making some quick updates that will increase your home’s value, consider adding stone veneer to your home’s exterior or updating your fireplace. That 79% return on updating your siding with stone veneer can really pay off.

If you need an estimate for your stone siding, we’re here for you! Give us a call or send us a message here. And did we mention we’re fast? We can update a fireplace in as little as 2 days! If you’re in a hurry to sell, and still want to make some quick updates to your home’s siding or fireplace, we can work with you to get it done quickly- and beautifully. Our stone helps homes sell!

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.

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.