Solstice means planning for fall construction

June 22nd, 2010 by Peter Schmelzer

Every summer when the days start getting shorter, I am reminded of the passing of time. Summer won’t last forever, then we’ll drift into the warm and earthy colors of fall before we are plunged again into winter.

We northerners want to get our construction projects enclosed before then, to save money on temporary heat, frost removal, snow removal, and temporary enclosures. Summer Solstice means four to five months, hopefully, before serious snowfall. If you haven’t started planning your addition or remodeling and hope to beat the winter weather, now is the time!

Summertime planning with a September construction start will usually wrap up your building’s exterior for the winter, allowing time during the chilly months for interior finishing and occupancy. Wouldn’t it be nice to celebrate Christmas in your new addition?

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Oh No….The Printer’s Out of….Tile!

June 18th, 2010 by Mary Schmelzer

Just when you thought you’d seen all the uses for an ink jet printer, along comes a new, innovative one. Large scale ink jet printers are now being used to precisely spray ink onto tile. The inks used are a combination of salts and glazes which are sprayed onto a white body tile. A computer is used to design the pattern which is then sent to the tile on the production line. Nearly any image that can be created by the computer can be copied onto the tile.

Natural stone is being replicated using this technology. By combining different ink jet printing and different glazing, greater depths and texture can be achieved, making the tiles look even more like real stones. Ink jet is also better at accommodating surface texture on the tile and can randomize the patterning (so you can’t see an obvious repeat on the tiles.) Printed “stone” is useful for commercial installations where a natural stone would be beautiful but not long-wearing or may be difficult to maintain.

Because the tiles are printed right on the production line with computer control, small batches can be provided with quick turn-around. This gives the consumer amazing control. Previously, small batch productions were very costly and had a long lag time. Because of this, tile distributors ordered in large quantities then had to pay to warehouse the tile.

How could you really push the envelope on this technology? My first thought was corporate identity: it would be interesting to have a logo or other company imagery printed right into the tile used in its offices. How about reproduction tile for an historic project where the tile is no longer available? Maybe we’ll start to see art tile using artists’ images that are duplicated or divided and printed onto individual tiles.

Let us know if you’d like to see this tile and consider it for your own project. We can discuss its possibilities for your application. Plus, you never get a paper jam!

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Smart Remodeling

June 9th, 2010 by Peter Schmelzer

Which of these home improvements do you think can cause condensation on your windows and cause your water heater to back draft?

  • Replacing the old furnace with a high-efficiency furnace
  • Caulking and sealing windows and other wall penetrations
  • Increasing the R-value of insulation in the attic
  • Installing a new range hood or bath fan
  • Adding conditioned space to an existing home
  • Changing a fireplace
  • The truth is that they all have the potential to cause unexpected consequences, including condensation on the windows, carbon monoxide in the air, and mold in the walls.
    At the Smart Remodeling seminar in Rochester, we reviewed the interdependence of the systems in the house and how well-intentioned upgrade can cause a snow-ball effect in pushing an existing house toward and over the cliff to failure.


    All of our existing homes rely on energy to keep them stable and to manage moisture. Older homes may be stable for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. For example, wood fireplaces traditionally allow a high volume of air to escape through the chimney. That air may actually be removing moisture from the basement in the spring. If you install tight doors over the fireplace and the air is not allowed to escape, what happens to the moisture? It stays in the house, causing odors, mold, and condensation, unless overall ventilation of the house is addressed at the same time. The same holds true for other seemingly innocuous renovations.

    The improvement ideas in the pop quiz above are all great things to do for energy efficiency and sustainability, yet experience has shown that they can lead to unintended results. These can be prevented through the right analysis and design process. We invite your call to discuss how careful planning can keep your remodeling project on track and improve your home’s performance at the same time.

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    New! Upcoming Tour of Remodeled Homes

    June 3rd, 2010 by Mary Schmelzer

    A brand-new tour of homes is on the horizon. On September 18, area homeowners will open their doors and show off their new improved spaces. This tour is featuring homes that have been remodeled or had an addition that has made a significant change for the owners. This will be your opportunity to see some great ideas on ways to improve your home: bath and kitchen remodeling, basement finishing, whole-house remodeling, mudroom….or come see what great improvements your neighbors have been doing. There will be a drawing you can enter for a big prize (we’re thinking big screen TV, but let me know if there’s something else you’d rather win!) and building professionals available to answer your questions at each home.

    If you are a builder or supplier in our area and would like information on how you can participate, please feel free to call or email me for more information.

    Watch the Northfield Entertainment Guide, redoux home magazine and other media for upcoming information on the tour.

    This tour is being organized by Vivus and Schmidt Homes Remodeling of Northfield. Call or email for more information and we look forward to seeing you on the tour!

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