Homes for Our Troops a Humbling Example of How American Manufacturing Can Change Lives

HFOT1A few months ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Wilmington, Ohio, to witness Cpl. Josh Sams receive the keys to his new home from Homes for Our Troops, an organization that builds mortgage-free, specially adapted, energy-efficient homes for severely injured veterans. Cpl. Sams was a Marine sniper who stepped on an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan in January of 2012, causing him to lose both of his legs just above the knees and part of his right arm and hand. Thanks to this remarkable organization, he now has a comfortable place to call home and live independently for years to come.

Since its founding in 2004, Homes for Our Troops has built more than 190 homes for qualified recipients. Seeing the opportunity to make a difference in these men’s lives, CertainTeed signed on a number of years ago to donate complete roofing systems for the homes. Last year, our corporate involvement grew to include interior wall systems, as well, including fiberglass batts, high performance wallboard and tile backer. In addition, each home’s attic is now insulated with premium blowing wool.

Perhaps even more important, our involvement with Homes For Our Troops has provided a terrific venue to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and strengthen bonds within our communities throughout the country.

HFOT2As a retired Army Lieutenant, I knew from the start I wanted to be involved with this project. When regional sales manager Mike Singleton asked me if I was able to attend the Saturday morning ceremony in Ohio, I eagerly volunteered to drive three hours to be there to witness the end results of this process. To say it was moving and emotional doesn’t quite do the experience justice.

Josh was an all-state fullback at Wilmington High School, and his high school coach was there to speak at the ceremony along with his best friend and fellow Marine, who also happened to be his quarterback. He stood up in front of Josh’s family and friends and told the story of driving 13 hours through the night with his wife to meet Josh at the front doors of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., after learning his best friend had been injured. Also at the ceremony were the two Marines who were first on the scene to bind up Josh’s legs and get him on the medevac chopper, who surprised him by making the trip for the event. There in front of his new home, Josh wiped away tears as he thanked everyone for their support. The love, friendship and sense of community was humbling, to say the least.

If I learned anything from the experience, it’s that the role of a U.S. manufacturing company like CertainTeed extends far beyond simply making the stuff that goes into constructing a well-built home. The technologies and expertise we offer have the power to help transform lives. Through projects like Homes for Our Troops, we have an opportunity—and responsibility—to truly impact the lives of our neighbors.

As I witnessed firsthand at this event, “home” is a powerful thing. It is, after all, where the heart is. If I can say we played even a small part in helping Cpl. Sams find his home, someone who has given so much for our country and our freedom, I’d say that’s something to be proud of.

For more information on Homes for Our Troops and CertainTeed’s involvements with the organization, visit www.certainteed.com/followtheproject.

Living in Trees is No Longer Just For the Birds Thanks to Treehouse Masters

 

TH2When we were children many of us dreamt about or did sleep outside under the stars. If you were really lucky, you might have even had a tent in your yard or better yet, a treehouse. But nothing I ever imagined as a child could have prepared me for what I saw in the backyard of a house in Jim Thorpe, PA.

Home improvement TV has climbed to new heights with Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters series. The program turns treetops into private escapes for people with a passion for reconnecting with nature and their inner child. If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. Visionary Pete Nelson and his team of creative carpenters bring a whole new dimension to what we traditionally consider home improvement. They are constructing multi-room dream treehouses that come complete with functional plumbing and electricity.

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We at CertainTeed consider ourselves home improvement experts with many innovative products that create comfort and efficiency and wanted to get in on this creative, unusual, and inspirational endeavor. So, we donated several high-performance building products including premium asphalt roofing shingles and waterproof underlayment, a weather-resistive barrier, and state-of-the-art insulation to Treehouse Masters.

 

TH3Nelson and crew used these top-of-the-line products to construct a home-away-from-home for a family in Pennsylvania. Nelson’s crew built a dream treehouse right in the family’s backyard. It’s a two-level structure that features a bedroom big enough to fit a queen-size bed, living room with a cozy stove fireplace, functional kitchen, bathroom with full plumbing, deck with outdoor grilling area and shower, and more. There’s nothing they did not think of.

For more on the show and to see behind the scenes footage from this build visit www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/treehouse-masters/.

Warning: if you watch it once, you will be hooked.

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.

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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!

Homes for Our Troops, A Cause to Celebrate

During this busy time of year let’s pause and focus on that for which we are grateful. I am grateful for the blessings that come with working for a company with compassion.  As a manufacturer of building materials, CertainTeed donates to several charitable organizations at the regional and corporate level. This year, CertainTeed proudly made a multi-year commitment to Homes for Our Troops.HFOTlogo_RGB_url2014-291x300

Homes for Our Troops is a national non-profit organization dedicated to building specially adapted homes for severely injured Veterans across the nation. The organization is committed to helping American heroes rebuild their lives. Our involvement is through product donation; however, there are many ways individuals can help, too.

This holiday season 10 Veterans are receiving their own specially adapted home. When you stop to think about what this means for these individuals and their families, it is humbling. The homes are provided mortgage-free to these soldiers who have returned home with life-altering injuries. Surely this is something for which we can all be thankful.

Homes for Our Troops raises money and provides building materials and professional labor to coordinate the construction of state-of-the-art homes so Veterans can live more independently. The specially adapted homes help empower these Veterans so they each can focus on their recovery and returning to their life’s work. Read more about these heroes and their post-war journeys at www.hfotusa.org.

So yes, this holiday I give thanks to Homes for Our Troops, American soldiers, and working for a company that allows me to be a small part of this generous and necessary effort.

 

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!

 

Build Home Insurance Perks into Your Pitch

cit5glamourimagesmallWhether you’re a builder or an architect, you’re always looking for new ways to sell your homes to your clients. Here’s something unique to build into your pitch – the homeowners insurance benefits. Savings and extra perks go along with insuring a new house versus an old one. You can get a leg up on the competition by using a lesser known perk to your advantage.

To start off: simply buying new can help your clients save. Homes built within the last 10 years could qualify for a discount of up to 20%. Given that the average U.S. homeowners insurance premium exceeded $822 as of the end of December, the new discount could generate savings of up to $164 a year. Providers prefer new homes because they believe there is a lower risk of them incurring an expensive claim.

Other ways that new homes can earn your clients home insurance savings and help with your sales message include the following:  

New plumbing

Plumbing system failures are the leading source of home water losses, according to the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety (IBHS). It’s no wonder that home insurance providers wish to avoid plumbing malfunctions when the average claim per incident weighs in at more than $7,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Updated plumbing systems in new homes form a major part of a moisture management strategy and can therefore earn your clients preferred home insurance policies, which generally come with lower premiums.

A modern HVAC system

Heating and cooling systems can be testy. In fact, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). To avoid the approximate $5.8 billion dollars in damage that heating systems cause in fire damage every year, insurance carriers consider new HVAC systems a major factor in determining whether a homeowner qualifies for a preferred policy. New HVAC systems also typically work more efficiently and can save your clients 20% or more in utilities costs.

More fire safety

From 2007 to 2011, the U.S. experienced nearly 50,000 fires due to electrical malfunction and $1.5 billion in direct property damage, according to the NFPA. The average fire claim costs insurers in excess of $33,000, according to the III. Again, new wiring is a factor in qualifying for a preferred policy. Other anti-fire measures in new homes include smoke detectors, which can win owners premium discounts of up to 5% ($41 on that average premium cited above).

Roof stability

Roof damage from wind and hail costs an average of $7,177 per claim, so home insurance providers favor sturdy roofs. If your building project involves roofs that the carrier qualifies as impact-resistant,—UL class 3 or higher—your clients could get preferred status and qualify for lower premiums. Some materials that qualify are metal and concrete tile.

None of these savings are one-time price breaks: They can extend for years, which should increase their appeal to buyers. In fact, homeowners who go 10 years without filing a claim can win a discount of up to 20% on their premiums. New homes make it much easier to reach that 10-year threshold.

When speaking with potential buyers about the benefits of buying new, add home insurance discounts to your toolbox. You can get your clients focused on protecting their homes, while adding the benefits of lower monthly premiums. Doing so can help persuade clients to buy new – and to buy with you.

Guest Blogger Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley has been Community Manager for HomeownersInsurance.com since 2007. She is a native New Yorker with a background in journalism and professional writing.

 This guest blog post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of CertainTeed Corporation.

It is Spring Tune-Up Time for Your Home

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

It is spring and we just celebrated the 42nd Anniversary of Earth Day. While you are contemplating changes you can make to your home and property to conserve energy or improve curb appeal in a re-heating real estate market, keep in mind that this is the perfect time to do a home inspection and make sure that your home is efficient, safe and in-keeping with the Earth Day ideals.

Here are a few places you should inspect:

  • Inspect your roof for missing or broken shingles or possible places where water could come in. If your roof is not ventilated properly you could have damage from ice dams. Nothing could be greener than making our existing resources last longer and your roof is the first line of defense.
  • Check your attic or crawl space to make sure that water is not coming in.  It is also a good time to see if you need to add additional insulation to your attic space. The attic is one of the easiest places in a home to add insulation and insulation prices are about as low as they get right now so no point in waiting.
  • Clean your gutters.  Make sure they are cleared for the rainy season. Leaves and dirt can build up in any season. Clogged gutters are one of the most efficient ways to redirect water back into your building once you have already shed it.
  • Tune up your air conditioner.  It is the prime time for specials from contractors. Making sure that your unit is working properly can help save on utility bills and actually improve your indoor air quality.
  • Check your walls and foundation for any cracks that could cause moisture infiltration. You must maintain your barriers.
  • Check the basement for mold. When the temperature gets above 41 degrees that is when mold is happy. If mold is present you will be able to smell it. If it smells bad it is bad.

If you have an older home it is critical to make upgrades and improvements when signs of weakness appear.  Taking care of simple repairs will save you money over time but will also make your home more competitive in the marketplace and make for a healthier habitat for you and your family.

Building Hope for the Future with Habitat for Humanity

We all know that homeownership is considered the cornerstone of the American dream.  But many of us take that dream for granted.  I was reminded of this when I attended the dedication and blessing of a home with Habitat for Humanity in Chester, Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia.

As a corporate sponsor of what we have come to refer to as the “CertainTeed House” because of the many CertainTeed products incorporated into the building envelop of this two-family house, I participated in the dedication and blessing of the house.  The family, a single mother with two daughters who will occupy half of the house, seemed simultaneously overwhelmed and excited.

The group of family, friends, sponsors and supporters clustered into what would soon be the family’s living room as the Reverend began the dedication and blessing.  The group traveled from room to room with the family carrying a candle as each area was given a special blessing – from the kitchen where nourishment is prepared to the dining room where bread is broken and shared to the bedrooms where sleeping safe and secure is desired.  Once the blessing was completed, the keys were presented to the family marking the final transformation of this building from simply a house into a home.

It was beautiful!

But there was an added sense of pride that I felt standing in this completed house that would be the dream home for this family. Over ten weeks during the building of this house approximately 80 of my co-workers volunteered time on the site to help with the build.  The opportunity to gain hands-on experience with CertainTeed roofing shingles, housewrap, vinyl siding and railing, insulation and gypsum products was as valuable as the satisfaction of giving back to the community in this very special way.  In some cases it brought employees together whose paths would not cross at work and in other cases departmental teams used this as a teambuilding exercise.

In the end, it was a learning experience for all and a lesson in community that has no equal.

Cautionary Tale on Installing Vegetative Roofs

LiveRoof

While presenting a workshop last week in Northern New Jersey hosted by Grubb & Ellis, Inc., a property management firm, I engaged in a conversation with an architect about a learning experience he encountered while installing a vegetative or live Roof.  

Vegetative roofs have been utilized in Europe for about 25 years and are gaining popularity in the United States especially for commercial buildings. From a building science perspective the thing I like about live roofs is the natural property of plants when it comes to resisting solar heat gain from infrared radiation.  The albedo, which is the surface reflectivity of the sun’s radiation, plays a large part in the benefit of a live roof.

On the hottest day in the summer, the average surface temperature of living plants in direct sunlight is only two degrees greater than the temperature of the ambient air. If you measured the temperature of a dark surface it could be as much 20 to 30 degrees higher than the ambient air.  Since plants never get more than two degrees hotter than the ambient air it makes them the obvious cool roof. 

While we are seeing an increase in cool roofs in building design, we can’t lose sight of common sense.  Now back to the architect and his tale.

This architect explained that the construction on the project was delayed which meant that the vegetative roof was installed in the summer.  By the time the plants arrived to be installed on the roof structure it was July, the hottest and driest time of year in northern New Jersey.  As a result, the first three months of the roofs’ life required watering.  The architect never imagined that he would have to water his roof for three months.

The designers and contractors never considered in the scheduling that the vegetative roof would need support if installed at the hottest and driest time of year.  The installation of the living component could have been delayed to more appropriately suit the environmental conditions but the benefit to the building of the vegetative albedo would not have been realized when it was actually needed the most- in the mid and late summer. It’s a great example of one of the many trade-offs we have to evaluate when building sustainably.  

 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation