Thursday, March 06, 2008

Home and Garden Show

This past weekend I talked a friend into going with me to the Home and Garden Show. The last time I went to the show was a few years ago, so I was ready to see what was new and trendy in all things house.

The thing about this show is that 95% of it is geared towards people building big, new houses in the suburbs. Not me. So, when you talk to most of the contractors, you need to translate most of what they say into "old house" lingo yourself and just tune out the vinyl siding/window pitches.

We started on one end of the show and walked up and down the aisles. The first section was the "Green Scene." I've probably written it before in my blog even though I know it's not p.c. I'm weary of the whole "green" thing. In my mind its a lot of hype to sell even more products. I gag a little every time I hear it.

We stopped to see the bamboo wood flooring in one booth and the sales guy came over to chat. It is a nice sustainable product. Here are some of the things that ran through my head: They warranty it for 50 yrs (my oak floor is 80+ yrs and will last another 100). It can't be refinished because it is really a thin layer of bamboo over a substrate. In the effort to be "green" you hear about people that yank out their existing old wood floors to put in bamboo (sigh). You also hear about people using it in new construction in their monster sized house on a few acres of lawn - green? I dunno.

I'll say it once and then move on. These home shows need to have more vendors that represent companies that salvage old growth wood and turn it into flooring/furniture.....that demonstrate how to use high quality vintage plumbing fixtures.....that show vintage lighting......that tell people about the advantages of materials like stucco over vinyl.....etc.

I was able to chat with a geothermal heating system contractor, the Icynene insulation guy, and some concrete stamping companies. I think these products are interesting and like to understand how they work and what's available. My friend was interested in gutter toppers, garage doors, and lawn services.

This year's booths of note:

Prairie Woodworking. They still are on my short list to build a window seat in my upstairs sunroom. This company's home is in the heart of Twin Cities bungalow country.

A few years ago I bid on a log bench at a silent auction fundraiser. The bench was made by Ryan's Rustic Railings. I had to stop by their booth and see his new stuff. Log cabins are big in our family. Ryan's website has some very cool photos of his work, primarily on log staircase railings.

If you have read my blog for a while, you know my stucco was painted with a bizarre Portland cement/paint combo. One day it needs to be fixed. So, I stopped by Donnelly Stucco to briefly chat. The woman there knew exactly what I was talking about and told me they had solved this problem for others. I really do need to have them come out and give me a bid.......

My bathtub finish is on it's last leg. There is even a tiny spot of rust showing through in one spot. Ugh. I did not have good luck with a tub refinish I did at my last house. I am dreading refinishing my current tub. I stopped by the Surface Renew booth and talked to the company owner. They use a two part poly finish developed by NASA on their tubs. I've read up on this product and it seems to be the best thing going for tubs right now. This company warrantys the tub for 5 yrs, has been in business for 12 yrs and they belong to the BBB. I think I'll probably be chatting with them later this coming summer. I'm still nervous.

My kitchen has been an ongoing saga. *If* I find the vintage 40" gas stove of my dreams......I'll need to have a custom cabinet built to relace an original that was pulled out of that corner. The majority of my kitchen cabinets are 1924 vintage birch. I want a replacment cabinet that will match the vintage woodwork exactly. I ran across the Meyer Woodworking booth and in talking to them it sounded like something they could accomplish.

One of my last stops was at the Better Business Bureau booth. They put out a publication called the Better Pages that lists local companies that belong to the BBB and promise to adhere to their standards. When I first moved into StuccoHouse, I joined Angie's List with disappointing luck. My new system is to use names out of the BBB book and check them online for complaints. So far (knock on wood) this has worked out well.

There you have it.


Jennifer said...

I feel the same way about "green" building... which is funny since I profess on my blog to be interested in such things.

I'm NOT interested in the sort of "green" proposed by big corporations, etc... for all the reasons you mentioned.

It's SO much better for the environment to use what you HAVE already, keep it nice, refinish it, etc. And, it usually LOOKS better, too, and is MUCH cheaper. :) All things I like!

I totally agree with you that the focus needs to be on QUALITY, using up salvaged materials, etc.

We are thinking about stuccoing our house, btw. Need SOMETHING to cover the asbestos siding that is cracking... and vinyl just won't do!

There are many copies of my housein the city that are actually stucco, so it should look good.

Omar said...

I agree about the whole green thing. By the time you get bamboo halfway around the world it don't have so much of that eco glow. I didn't know that you can't refinish it either. Seems mostly useless in anything but new construction and even then not being able to refinish would concern me.

We refinished the tub in the project house and it looks amazing! You should've seen what it looked like before.. People can be green by just reusing stuff that would normally end up in a landfill.

Hofersj said...

My wife and I went to the Home Show and had similar sentiments. I was surprised how few companies were marketing to us old house folks. I had to suppress the gag reflex with all the window and door manufacturers' suggestions of tearing out those "inefficient" old windows and putting in their unattractive, resource wasting and relatively short lived products.

I have the same thoughts on bamboo. We will probably end up using it when we remodel our basement since it's more tolerant of higher humidity environments.

Don't give up on the vintage stove! It's worth the wait and effort. It took us a while to find ours, but we eventually found a great deal. We actually found a 40s Prosperity for free in an alley and I started restoring it. We then found a slightly older Prosperity that had been almost fully restored for $250 on Craigslist. Almost all of the parts from the stove were interchangeable and we were able to finish the last few repairs needed. The great thing about vintage stoves is that they are incredibly simple appliances and are often pretty easy to repair. If you don't have to have one of the highly prized models and can put in some elbow grease, you can find some great, but reasonably priced vintage stoves.

I've heard great things about Donnelly Stucco, but we haven't used them. I can recommend McClellan Stucco. Bill McClellan has done a couple of repair jobs for me and he is recommended on Angie's List.

Ellen said...

We hit the Home Show as well. I felt like I was well out of the target market, too. I found the gardening and outdoor displays to be the most interesting for us, and we talked to some landscapers. I also joined the MN Horticultural Society.

My mother had Miracle Method refinish her old green tub, and it's held up very well. I don't know how similar that is to Surface Renew, but there you go...

Ranty said...

I share all of your sentiments.

There oughtta be a *preservationist* home and garden show - or at least a section of the regular one...

BTW: Speaking of gagging, as a realtor I cannot tell you how many times I hear things like:

"WELL! The FIRST thing we have to do with this place is change out all those oooold windows! And THEN this kitchen needs to be gutted and re-done... for sure."

It truly hurts my brain!

Josh @ Bungalow '23 said...

I've pretty much given up on the H&G Show for the reasons you and the other commentators have detailed. I'm going to go check out the little Home Improvement Fair at South High today, though. I think there might be some more restoration-oriented vendors there because it is marketed primarily to owners of older houses here in city. Have you ever gone to that event?

StuccoHouse said...

I must have been in a pissy mood when I wrote this post. It kind of sounds like I don't like new houses. I do (as long as they don't knock down a nice old one first). I like all houses.....most styles....most vintages. So, I do like to see what is on the market for homeowners in general.

The "green" thing does gag me. I have a friend, Oscar, who coined the term "E.F" to describe the folk who subscribe to this phenomenon and want everyone else to too. I can only post the acronym cuz the full term is nasty :-)

Here's the catch 22 - I like salvaged stuff, I like to garden, I picked up hobbies like canning, I prefer vintage hardware & furniture. Rain barrels just seem like a lazy way of getting around having to haul water from the spigot on the side of my house. I picked a lot of this up from my grandmothers as just practical living.

My friends are under strict orders to shoot me dead if I ever stop to look at Birkenstocks. Between the eyes.

Bamboo - Its seemed like kind of a cool wood. X% stronger than oak and sutainable. They had one option where the wood was "baked" and the color became "carmelized" that was very nice. I'd use it in new construction or basement, etc. I don't necessarily buy into the "environmentally" friendly sales pitch - for the reason Omar mentioned, the relatively short life (although 50 yrs *sounds* good), and the fact that only a thin layer of the product I saw was actually bamboo. I am defintely not a fan of engineered floors. Who knows, maybe there is a fully bamboo floor product out there.

Jennifer - Lol..I hope I didn't offend - I really like reading your blog. I don't think I've seen your house exterior, but have you seen the repro siding that looks like the old vintage asbestos siding - without the asbestos? It comes in those funky vintage shapes.

Omar - Your project house is oh-so-cool.

Hefersj - It kind of surprises me how few market to old house folks here - after all 95% of houses in the cities proper are old. Even finding an old house contractor can be tricky - and this always mystifies me. It seems to me that a lot of people end up gutting or replacing simply because it takes so much energy to find someone to deal with restoration.

Thanks for the encouragement on the stove. I've been keeping an eye out. Makes no difference to me what brand - I'm just looking for a 40" gas, 1940-1950's, in good condition, at a decent price. I'm in no rush. The biggest hassle for me has been trying to figure out how I'd get a stove home. Thanks also for the tip on Bill McClellan. Wonder if he also does plaster work?

Ellen - My feet hurt really bad by the time we got to the MN Horticultural Society, so I didn't stop to look. That and the Arboretum. I regret it now. Thanks for the tip on Miracle Method - I'll check them out.

Ranty - Lol...when my realtor showed me StuccoHouse, she mentioned how easy it would be to yank out the vintage cabinets & sink and close up the extra door. My dad (who was with me) and I just smiled. It's amazing how many people move right to gutting the house, huh?

Josh - I actually got a flyer for that fair on my Luce pizza last week :-) I missed it - I was a convention delegate most of the day Sat. (making sure eminent domain wording was in at least one party's platform in MN :-). If you went to the fair, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. It never ceases to amaze me how few contractors advertise to the restoration crowd. I guess thats why blogs sharing info. about good contractors that can deal with our restoration idiosyncracies is so important - we need to send work their way and make it worth their while.

Cybèle said...

I've been lurking on your blog for a while now but the comments on bamboo made me come out of lurkdom. My partner is building his own house, from scratch. For his job, he gets to see a lot of renovations and new builds. Something neither of us likes, is a brand new house, made to look as if it was built 300 years ago. It just doesn't feel honest. He wanted this house to be as he liked it and reflect the period it was built in. He said that every other house now has oak flooring, which definitely has its place, but not in his house. We ended up getting bamboo flooring from here which can be refinished and is bamboo all the way through. We both love it - it's different (you don't see it much over here in the UK yet), it's warm and above all: it really suits the style of the house.
Recycling is slowly becoming quite 'trendy' over here, with many people trying to keep a house as it was originally. It does seem to be the way forward to stop a throw-away society.

StuccoHouse said...

Cybèle - Thanks for coming out of lurk mode :-) I have to agree with you about the new "old" house - I also think that if I were to build a new house it would be an architecturally designed modern home. Designing & building a house has to be a very fun (most of the time) project. Interesting info about the bamboo - I suspected there had to be a 100% bamboo flooring. That would seem the perfect choice for some situations. I have to say, it looked very nice and the strength of the wood would make it last for a coupel of hundrer years, I'd think.

Restoration becoming trendy is a double edge sword. It makes it easier to find resources for parts, etc. Which is good. But the price skyrockets. Which is bad.

woolywoman said...

I hve a 40" gas stove in jadite green. Too ba you live in the midwest and I am in California...I would love for it to go to a home that appreciated it. Untill then, it will lurk in the amazes me how beautiful these old stoves are, and how few people appreciate them. It also amazzed me how much it would cost to get this stove ( used to be great grandma's) brought back into safe working order.

Anonymous said...

Do not use Donnelly Stucco, they have been a complete nightmare. We have had scaffolding around our house for one year and are about to file a lawsuit. Save your money, time and energy for a reputable stucco contractor. We are at the end of a long line of unhappy customers. Anne Hunt Minnetrista

StuccoHouse said...

Anne - I'm sorry to hear about your experience.

In light of your comment, out of curiosity I pulled up the report for Donnelly Stucco at the MN BBB website. Here's what they had to say:

"Customer Experience

The company has promptly responded to all complaints since early 2005. They have not had any complaints in 2006.

When considering complaint information, please take into account the company's size and volume of transactions, and understand that the nature of complaints and a firm's responses to them are often more important than the number of complaints.

The BBB processed a total of 3 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period.Of the total of 3 complaints closed in 36 months, 0 were closed in the last year."

I guess as with any contractor, research, research, research.

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