Tips to Keep Your Cool All Summer Long

??????????????????????????????????Ah summertime, when the livin’ is easy. It seems like nothing can get you down except for maybe one thing – spiked electric bills. This summer, let’s beat the heat. See how you can help your family maximize fun without stressing your wallet.

Smart investments can help manage expenses in the summer, and for seasons to come. Achieve summer solace with an integrated solar roofing system. It’s an innovative, energy-efficient choice, and can generate most or all of the electricity a home uses during the day. In newer systems, unused power is transferred back to the power grid, which can reduce electric bills even further, and won’t compromise curb appeal.

My favorite features of summer are the long days and natural light. I love being greeted by sunlight in the morning so much, that I often find additional lighting unnecessary. I have discovered that switching out my incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs decreases unwanted heat in the home and will save you money at the same time.

Whenever possible, get outdoors! Another great way to prevent rising temperatures in the home is to avoid using electrical appliances such as ovens. Instead grill outside; it’ll help reduce energy use.

Sometimes you need to cool off, and that’s when air conditioners can come in handy. When possible, use the AC sparingly, and never cool a vacant or unused room. I am a huge supporter of fans – ceiling or portable. Both create a healthy breeze and consume far less energy.

If you find fans can’t seem to keep your family comfortable, there may be a larger opportunity to find a sustainable solution. It might be time to add insulation to your attic or walls. Adequate insulation not only keeps your house warm, it can keep it cool, too. Insulated siding and housewrap can have the same effect. Combined, these products can help reduce energy bills and improve energy efficiency – making summer even sweeter.

Spring is a time of renewal, remodeling

Spring is most certainly in the air. Temperatures are warming, color is popping and the sense of renewal abounds. Those neighbors you haven’t seen since last October are out in their yards again. People are walking, kids are playing, and the sound of hammering fills the air as many folks renew via remodeling. It’s just that time of year.

RestorationSmooth_Landmark

It’s the remodeling part that gets me most excited, Based on a recent study conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by CertainTeed, when asked which one factor is most important to homeowners when completing an exterior home improvement project, 39 percent cited curb appeal, 26 percent cited return on investment, and 21 percent noted impact on outdoor living and lifestyle considerations.

The survey also supports what we at CertainTeed have known for some time, that color is every bit as exciting as it is confusing. In fact, 40 percent of U.S. homeowners admit they are not quite sure which colors would work best on the exterior of their homes. 11 percent admit to being color “clueless” and don’t know where to begin when selecting colors for their home. Having spent a lot of time and energy on color science, this is something we get. We’ve actually built an interactive design center so that homeowners can explore, get inspired and gain confidence in their color selection. The online tool allows users to play around with different design and color combinations of siding, roofing, trim and more. It’s a fun tool to check out even if you’re not in the market for remodeling.

Beyond exterior home improvement projects, however, the Harris Poll survey reveals some telling facts about those out-of-sight, out-of-mind renovations that tend to get brushed over. One in five U.S. house owners (19 percent) give little to no consideration to insulation when planning a kitchen remodel or home addition. Even more – one in four – say the same about drywall. This is interesting because, According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we Americans spend 90 percent of our time indoors where thermal comfort and air quality matter quite a bit. The good news is by choosing high-performance insulation and formaldehyde-absorbing drywall, homeowners have more control over energy savings and indoor pollutants like mold and VOCs than they may think. It’s always advisable to work with qualified contractors who can speak to these issues and who stock quality brands and products.

While I’m on the topic of home remodeling, video entries are now being accepted for CertainTeed’s annual Living Spaces Home Makeover Contest.  It may just help you or someone you know undertake that remodeling project that is so desperately needed. The winner gets a $100,000 grand prize, which includes $75,000 worth of building products, including professional installation and $25,000 to help cover taxes. So get the family together, shoot a fun video and enter to win by May 31. For more information and complete contest details, visit www.CertainTeed.com/DesignCenter.

Happy springtime remodeling!

Tax Day Preparedness: Investing in Smart Home Renovations

BathMI_D9_BnB_flatThere’s no doubt that filing taxes can be a daunting challenge, but a refund check from the IRS comes with a lot of exciting possibilities. Pursuing home improvement projects this spring will be a great way to revamp your home after enduring a long, dreary winter. Plus, there are tax credits available that offer financial incentives to make your house energy efficient – giving you even more reason to invest in your home this Tax Day.

According to the ENERGY STAR® program, renovations such as installing quality insulation or adding a solar reflective roof can help save money on utility bills. Pursuing these updates increase the beauty and curb appeal of your home and also enhance its value.

If a reroof is in your future, make sure to choose products that are designed for optimum performance that can withstand the elements. There are various roofing designs, styles and texture options that allow you to create a unique look.

Did you know the material surrounding the exterior and interior of your home can contribute to its efficiency and strength? Insulated vinyl siding provides thermal performance and protection against noise infiltration, and new insulation batt technology can help to manage the moisture found within a home. If that’s not enough, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association says spending $1 on insulation will save $12 in energy costs.

Renovations don’t have to stop at the walls of a residence. In fact, there are many opportunities to develop your home’s outdoor living spaces. New curved railing and gate options offer a decorative design that will accentuate the beauty of a homeowner’s yard while providing complete privacy. By investing in vinyl decking or fence, you can enjoy the warm weather or entertain guests, without having to worry about the hassle of continuous repair.

Last minute filers should keep available tax credits in mind. The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 allows homeowners who upgraded their insulation last year to take a federal tax credit on their 2015 returns. The credit is up to 10 percent of the cost of the insulation with a maximum lifetime credit of $500. For information on other tax credits offered by the IRS, visit www.irs.gov.

 

Home Remodeling Month: A Time to Shine

Home-Remodeling-Projects-wpckiPinterest, Houzz, Facebook, Twitter — each and every day I see amazing home transformations that delight and inspire. I’m constantly in awe of the skill and craftsmanship behind these remodeling projects. And, while smaller scale projects are suitable for ambitious DIYers, there’s something to be said for hiring a professional remodeler and getting the job done right.

Both the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) issue a rally cry during the month of May to recognize the work of professional remodelers and encourage homeowners to tackle a long-awaited renovation or needed repair.

Coined “National Home Remodeling Month,” both NAHB and NARI offer a host of resources to help remodelers shine and boost their bottom line. From logos, to social media posts to press release templates, there’s a myriad of tools that remodelers can use in their local markets. All of these promotional materials offer a unique way for remodelers to sharpen their competitive edge.

Also, this is a great time for remodelers to revisit the annual Cost vs. Value Report published by Hanley Wood and share this valuable information with their customers. The report outlines the remodeling projects that result in the greatest return on investment. For example, here’s a rundown of a few high-ranking projects from the most recent report:

Type of Project Return on Investment
Entry Door Replacement 96.6%
Deck Addition 87.4%
Garage Door Replacement 83.7%
Attic Bedroom 83.4%
Vinyl Siding Replacement 78.2%

Overall, remodelers bring curb appeal, comfort and value to our homes and that’s certainly something to honor and recognize during the month of May. Do you have an interesting remodeling project currently underway? If so, share you story here!

 

Homeowner Trends: Remodeling is In

Screen shot 2014-04-14 at 3.38.39 PMHouzz indicates that the vast majority of homeowners prefer to remodel their home rather than move. In a webinar hosted by Qualified Remodeler magazine, Liza Housman from Houzz — an online remodeling and design platform —  provided an in-depth look into their annual Houzz & Home study, which included the participation of more than 155,000 homeowners. A few key highlights…

  • 91 percent of homeowners said that reviews and recommendations are a top priority in hiring a contractor. A valuable reminder that customer service should always be top of mind!
  • 5 percent of homeowners spent more than a year researching a remodeling project — a sign that remodelers might need to exercise more patience in closing the deal with some customers.
  • Top remodeling projects included kitchen (31%), bathroom (27%), and patio (22%).
  • The highest-ranking replacement projects involved flooring (26%), window and door (21%) and roofing (15%)
  • For kitchen and bath remodeling, more than 40 percent of projects entailed framing or structural work — which definitely caught our attention since any project that guts to the stud is a great time caulk, seal and insulate in addition to aesthetic improvements.

Overall, the survey uncovered great opportunities for growth potential. Let’s get to work!

Generating Buzz for Professional Remodelers

NAHBRemodelingMonthTo help promote the benefits of working with a professional remodeler, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has designated the month of May as National Home Remodeling Month.

Websites such as Pinterest or Houzz might make home remodeling projects look like a breeze, but there’s something to be said for bringing in a professional remodeler to get the best results. After all, how many of you remodelers have been called to bail out a homeowner with a botched DIY remodeling project? These sites can also be a good way to showcase you work.

Add this with compelling signs that homeowner demand for remodeling projects is on the rise and it couldn’t be a better time to proactively educate homeowners on the value of a professional remodeler.

An article from BuildingOnline reports strong growth indicators for remodeling in the first quarter of 2013. It’s reported a main contributor to this is that many homeowners now need to address projects that they had postponed for a lengthy amount of time. A recent study by the NAHB shows kitchen and bathroom projects remain the most popular remodeling jobs—both projects were up 17 percent from just a few years ago.

Whether it is the experience a professional can provide or the accurate costs and timeline, homeowners should recognize when it’s necessary to call in the experts and get the job done right the first time.

The NAHB also provides a recap of tools available to help advance your remodeling business. The materials can easily be adapted for use on an ongoing basis.  Remodelers should also research manufacturers for special programs that can help reduce costs on projects.

May might be National Home Remodeling month, but the opportunity to promote the benefits of a professional remodeler is a message that resonates 365 days a year.

Eric Nilsson is Vice President, Corporate Marketing for CertainTeed Corporation

Tips for Making the Most of In-person Homeowner Consultations

SellingTipsWhile new technologies and online selling tools continue to garner attention in the building industry, it’s important that we do not lose sight of the importance of in-person meetings with potential customers. Sure, a great website or Facebook page might raise awareness for your remodeling or contracting business, however a polished in-home selling approach truly is the key ingredient in sealing the deal.

Through my work at CertainTeed, I have the opportunity to connect with hundreds of remodelers and contractors on an on-going basis and have witnessed some stellar selling techniques. As peak construction season approaches, here are some useful tips and reminders.

Never underestimate first impressions. From the moment you enter the driveway, your appearance and actions are being judged. Arriving in a clean truck and wearing company-branded clothing will help set the stage for a successful meeting.

Make a proper introduction. Begin the discussion by providing background on your company’s history, including your location and years in business. This is also an ideal time to share information on relevant licenses, credentials and insurance documentation.

Let your presentation do the talking. Most manufacturers, including CertainTeed, will equip you with the necessary tools to create an easy-to-understand presentation. A good product sales presentation will speak for itself, eliminating the need for over-the-top sales talk that might turn off a potential customer.

Keep it simple. Too many options might confuse or overwhelm a homeowner. Consider organizing their options in good, better, best categories to simply the decision-making process.

Leverage resources from manufacturers. If you are looking for ways to spruce up your selling technique, get in touch with manufacturer representatives. These product experts can help ensure that you are up to speed on the latest product information, messaging and marketing tools.

Include a step-by-step description of the project. Paint a picture that describes the process from start to finish, and when possible, bring product samples that homeowners can see and touch. Also, by explaining the process from start to finish, you’ll provide homeowners with the added assurance to move forward, while also reinforcing your credibility and expertise.

Keep an eye on the clock. While arriving to an appointment on time is a given, it’s also important to refrain from overstaying your welcome. If possible, confirm the length of the meeting upfront and keep an eye out for restless activity.

Offer references up front. Streamline the selling process and save homeowner time by providing a list of references at your initial meeting. Doing so eliminates extra legwork for the homeowner, while also instilling confidence in your work.

Don’t leave in limbo. Before leaving the appointment, make sure you and the homeowner are in agreement on next steps. Whether you’ll be providing an estimate the next day, placing a follow up phone call next week or beginning the project immediately, establishing a clear set of actions will keep the project running smoothly.

Is there a tried and true selling technique that has worked well for you? If so, we encourage you to share your success stories.

Managing Your Expectations

Lucas Hamilton

When you are considering remodeling activities and the impact that those activities will have on the energy consumption of the home, a very good place to weigh the benefits of one activity over another is the Federal Energy Management Program.

Under this program there are a variety of things but the one I thought most interesting is the Technology Deployment.  This focuses on market-driven technologies and creating market pull for new and underutilized technologies.

If you look at the Building Envelope section you will see what activities will give you a great impact on reducing your energy consumption.  Activities such as using a cool roof or a green roof, installing window films or replacing older windows with high R value windows are rated so that the end user can identify which remodeling activities will give the biggest bang for the buck. You can also look at the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning and see that commercial ground source heat pumps, for example, have a huge impact.

This in a wonderful way for consumers to get to the bottom line and be able to make smart choices when remodeling in order to reduce energy consumption especially in older homes.

It is also a great way to avoid being disappointed because you were told by some radio advertisement that installing new windows will cut your energy bill in half. You will be smarter than that!

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed

Skill and Life Training are Part of the YouthBuild USA Experience

Little did I know that when I accepted the invitation to participate in theYouthBuild USA sponsorship launch in Worcester, Massachusetts that I would actually be put to work! 

My first professional job when I finished college was in Worcester and it was nice to return, especially to take part in an event bringing student skills training and neighborhood rebuilding together.

CertainTeed’s parent company Saint-Gobain recently launched a three-year partnership to support YouthBuild USA projects in Philadelphia, PA; Worcester, MA; Schenectady, NY and Akron, OH. The sponsorship is not just financial but includes product donations, technical expertise and training.

While it is always nice to be part of a check presentation supporting an organization providing valuable service and training to youth, this particular event brought in a new and personally gratifying dimension for me – the opportunity to work along side the teachers and the students from YouthBuild.

I was assigned to a team installing a CertainTeed Evernew® deck and railing on the back portion of the building. Other groups were working on installing CertaWrap™ house wrap and our Weatherboards™ fiber cement siding product.

I don’t usually have the opportunity to get ‘hands on’ with building materials and had forgotten how important math skills and teamwork are in the building trades.  The YouthBuild teacher would ask the students questions about the measurements and checking on the accuracy before cutting product. It was obvious this had recently been part of the classroom instruction for these apprentices.

I also realized that what makes YouthBuild special is that not just the teaching of building skills but the development of life skills that these students experience by showing up every day.  For example, the importance of listening to the instructor or foreman on a worksite, the attention to detail, applying knowledge learned, working well with others, the commitment to completing the job, and the pride in seeing the finished product.

We should all be reminded of the value in an honest day’s work.  I could see it in the accomplishments of these students in Worcester.

Eric Nilsson

Eric Nilsson is Vice President, Corporate Marketing for CertainTeed Corporation

Are We Entering a Decade of Growth for Remodelers

Rosemary Hayn

Rosemary Hayn

Every two years, The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University publishes a report supported by the companies and organizations who participate on two of their committees; the Policy Advisory Board and the Remodeling Futures Steering Committee.

The most recent report, A New Decade of Growth for Remodeling provides some insights that can help building professionals as they continue to struggle with a sluggish housing market.

If you follow the industry to great lengths, as I do, these reports provide a great deal of factual information from an historical perspective but only a small amount of forecast data.

For example, it is a given that older metropolitan areas have older stock that need energy efficiency upgrades while growth areas in the South and West have newer inventory. The number of remodeling opportunities, therefore, will be more abundant in older parts of the country.

When reading this report the questions one should ask are:  What’s new? What’s different? What do I need to know? 

Here are a few highlights:

  • Green projects will continue to provide important growth opportunities.  The results of the National Green Remodeling survey indicate that important projects where homeowners specified green features increased by 25% over all projects. Tax incentives due to energy efficiency, under the Federal Stimulus, helped support that increase.
  • The share of replacement product systems upgrades that support energy efficiency will continue to grow.
  • Energy efficiency upgrades for new and existing homes offers a huge potential for remodelers.
  • With the economic downturn, immigration has slowed but as the economy recovers, new immigrants will contribute greatly to the remodeling industry over the next decade.
  • Homeowners will continue to invest in small upgrades that provide a quicker payback or have incentives attached to them.  With the reduction in the 2011 Economic Stimulus to $500 the projects could remain very small in scope.

From 2000-2005 there was a  7.3 percent growth rate for homeowner improvement spending, followed by a five year trend showing a -1.4 percent in spending.  The report anticipates a 3.5 percent annual growth rate in home improvement spending which puts the 2010-2015 period in the middle of the two previous five year periods.

Also, in the next five years the number of households moving into 55 – 64 and 65+ age ranges will be preparing for retirement.  If they plan to age in place they will, most likely, need to make renovations to their home to improve the energy efficiency and lower the maintenance needs of the structure such as increased insulation or low maintenance exterior cladding. This will be another opportunity for remodelers.

From 2002 – 2007 there was a 23% increase in specialty contractors and self-employed remodelers but since then, remodelers have struggled due to declines in homeowner spending and the increased competition from builders-turned-remodelers. 

What we don’t know, because the data isn’t collected annually, is how many have survived the economic downturn. Clearly those who diversified their services or moved into niche markets, such as energy efficiency upgrades, most likely, have survived.

Rosemary Hayn is Manager, Market Research and Planning for CertainTeed Corporation