From the category archives:


Over the years, home trends come and go. What was once ultra cool is now outdated. Remember those lovely 70’s orange countertops, or avocado green appliances? Most buyers today would shiver at the sight of them, but a simple kitchen remodel could be a home owners saving grace to successfully selling their home and having the buyers jumping for joy. While renovations can help your home sell faster, don’t expect to get much of that money back.

Each year Remodeling magazine comes out with a Cost vs. Value Report which highlights remodeling projects across the nation and by region, comparing their cost to the value retained upon sale of the home. The Twin Cities is one such region which gets its own specific report. Lucky us!

According to the Minneapolis report for upscale homes, the project topping the charts for greatest % of return is siding replacement with fiber-cement board. The next two top projects are garage door replacement and window replacement (vinyl). In contrast, the top projects for mid-range homes are minor kitchen renovations, front door replacement, and the addition of a deck.

It’s interesting that the areas of the home always thought to be the best renovation projects are not the chart toppers. Kitchen renovations get only 57% of their original cost for high-end homes, and one of the lowest bangs for your buck is a master suite addition. Of course home owners want to “live” in their homes and therefore will always do projects that makes their lives simplier, or more luxurious, not necessarily concentrating on if the project will be a good return on their investment.

If you are planning on a future remodel, and want to get an idea on the resale value of your efforts, take a look at the report. If you want to renovate your home for yourself, then does it really matter what the return on investment it? After all, replacing that roof might only get you 39% of your money back, but I am pretty sure having a dry home would trump any desire to recoup your costs.


When driving around some of the historic neighborhoods of Minneapolis, you might notice a unique roof on some of the homes. Rolled roofs at the eave are seen mostly around the Lake of the Isle area. The style is known as Cotswold Cottage and is designed to replicate thatch. It is an expensive roof to apply to your home, as special eaves must be constructed to support the roll over the roof line. In my opinion, this roof option should only be used on a Tudor style home, however I have seen it pushed onto a newer home with French design and it didn’t look to good to me.

Two basic materials are used the most.

1) For a more authentic look, only cedar shakes should be used. The first home has cedar tiles and you can see by the closeup just how many tiles are placed on the roof. The pattern varies and is very time consuming, but the roof will last you a long time. The home really looks like a cottage out of Hansel and Gretel.

2) A cheaper way to employ the style is to use common place asphalt shingles. It gives the same affect from a distance, but to me is less pleasing to the eye closeup. It too will last you awhile, 20-40 years, and is cheaper to apply as the only real cost comes from the eave roll.

In a quick Google search, I found one local builder who advertises he does the replicated thatch roof, but I am sure there are others out there that also offer the style. If you are looking to replace your current roof with an architectural roof like thatch, make sure to call several roofing contractors and get detailed quotes, time to construct, etc. With it being more expensive to build, you want to make sure you get something that is priced well, but also high quality too!


It could be if you purchase a historic home without doing your homework first. This post is a follow on to my first post Is this Your Money Pit, which featured the exterior problems to look for in your Minneapolis historic home purchase.

Remember Tom Hanks in the “Money Pit” and all the neat discoveries they found in the inside of the home? I specifically like the staircase problem and the tub falling through the ceiling. It was funny, right? Well, it is, until it happens to you. Here’s some advice on what to look for should you be thinking of buying an older home.

The house in these photos was a historic home we owned and planned on moving into upon completion. It started out great. Projects were going well, until a major Category 4 Hurricane hit. After that, it became a huge money pit. So my advice comes from first hand knowledge on this project and a couple others we have done as well.

So a couple things to look for on the Interior should be:

  • Water Stains – stains can be found most commonly in these two places, ceilings and floors. Ceilings usually indicate a leaky roof and that the whole ceiling will need to be replaced. Floors mean either the ceiling has leaked so much onto the floor that now the floor is warped, or that a pipe from a bathroom, water heater, or kitchen is broken. If a pipe is broken, it could mean tearing out the walls to find the source, and if you don’t find it right away, the cost to find it adds up and up and up.
  • Slopping Floors – walk into the home and take a good look at the floors. You will be able to see slopes easily by looking at the baseboards and the floors relation to them. Walk on them and you can tell if you go downhill. Start thinking of foundation problems, or settling issues. We have even seen supporting beams cut to put a pipe through, thus causing floors to sag under the unsupported weight.
  • Charred Attic Trusses – many historic homes used coal fireplaces instead of wood. The burning embers would sometimes leak through chimney mortar and cause attic fires. In the home above, during the inspection we found a 2200 square foot third level was completely charred. The good news was that by speaking with neighbors, the fire had been 60 years before and the wood was so thick that the fire barely affected the structural integrity. You might not be so lucky and find the damage was so great that the entire truss structure must be replaced.
  • Original Plumbing & Wiring – if the home still has cast iron pipes and the original electrical system, then you are in for a huge cost to replace these items. But to do a project right and to keep the old wiring from burning the house down, they really need to be replaced. For a 4000 square foot home, it might cost you $15,000 for the electrical and another $15,000 for the plumbing, and that is just to install it. It doesn’t include building the bathrooms, or installing fixtures.
  • Wall and Trim Paint – take a good look at the paint on trim and determine how thick it is. Over the last hundred years there is no telling how many coats have been applied and how much of it is lead based paint. Lead based paint is a health hazard if ingested, especially by young children. It is best to get rid of all paint in the home through stripping (a timely & costly process). But once the original wood is revealed, sanded, and stained, the value of the home has greatly increased in the eye’s of a buyer.
  • Cracks in the Walls – if you see alot of cracks in the walls, beware! Most likely the walls are the original plaster and have been taped repeatedly over the years. As soon as you go to hang a picture with a nail, the “walls will come tumbling down”. Replacing the plaster is expensive as most likely you will have to use thicker Sheetrock and account for the higher ceilings. Sometimes the cracks are also a sign of settling issues or structural problems. Best to have a contractor take a look at it to assess any problems.
  • Cracked Windows, Rotten Sashes, Broken Pulleys – if the original windows are still in the home, make sure to open each window. Check for rotten wood around the frame and on the sashes and cracked windows. If the window won’t open, chances are the rope pulleys are broken and need to be repaired. See the costs starting to add up?
  • Non-original Additions to Home – additions can add much needed square feet, but they can also take away from the original design of the home. The top photo shows an area to the right with new exterior siding. This is where an addition was added to the home in the 60’s to add a kitchen and studio (we converted it back from 5 units to single family). We had to remove this part which cost $10,000. After the demolition we found all kinds of rotting beams and shady construction, so beware the possible problems hiding behind an addition. We found a supporting beam under the home was completely eaten through by termites, something that would not have been found had we not removed the addition.

    This post just covers some of the interior parts of a historic home that you should pay attention to if planning on purchasing in the future. There is no telling what you will find when you buy historic real estate in Minneapolis or St Paul, so do your homework. Get a home inspector that specialized in older homes to thoroughly look over the inside with a fine tooth comb or you might be making your own “Money Pit” movie.


    Your solution for Outfitting your Minneapolis home with the Perfect Lighting Fixture

    One of the most difficult tasks of home design comes with the finishing touches. Choosing lighting fixtures can quickly become a headache. Size, orientation, finish, and design are just a few details that must be considered. Your best bet is to visit a lighting show room. Not only will you have fixtures you can see on location, but you can also speak with one of the store’s professionals and get some help and advice.

    Today you are in luck because I have made the process one step easier. Below you will find four lightening show rooms in the Minneapolis area to consider visiting should you find yourself in the need of more light. They are open to the public and also sell directly to trade professionals. Have fun shopping and before you get aggravated by the choices, remember, they are only lights…

    • Muska Lighting – Muska offers a good variety of lighting fixtures including high-end brands. If you are looking for vintage or antique pieces, they provide those too. Design consultations are available so if you have a large project, be sure to make an appointment. Open Monday – Saturday, their showroom is located at 700 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, 651-227-8881 or visit .
    • Citilights – Citilights is the exclusive dealer for Baccarat and Foscarini. Along with contemporary designs, they also carry ceiling fans and Tech Lighting. Open Monday through Friday, or by appointment, their showroom is located at 1619 Hennepin Avenue S, Minneapolis, 612-333-3168 or visit .
    • Cartier Lighting – Find it all here, including lights for residential and commercial use. Sit down for a consultation and work on a lighting layout and design, or ask for an after hours appointment. Open Monday – Saturday, visit them at 151 Cheshire Ln, Plymouth, 763-476-9555.
    • Creative Lighting & Home Accents – This third generation family owned business is 80 years old so they know about lights. They offer solutions for the entire home and have products from about 500 vendors. Open Monday through Saturday, appointments are requested for large projects. Located at 1728 Concordia Avenue, St Paul, 651-647-0111 or visit them online at .


    One of the most common problems found in older homes is a window that leaks air. In the winter the cold air comes in, condenses on the window, and in some cases freezes. In the summer, your precious air conditioning is sucked out into the warm atmosphere causing your compressor to go into overdrive. What do you do? Here are some options that will not only stop that whistling noise, but save you money as well.

    Loose windows – some older homes are not properly weather-stripped. Applying the proper type is the least expensive fix. For some homes, a spring bronze weather-stripping can be used, which is a strip of brass that is inserted between the sash and the jamb. If this is not available, you can also buy a vinyl strip that does on the outside and inside of the window sashes.

    Insulation – it might come as a surprise to you, but some older homes are not properly insulated around the windows or in the exterior walls. Fixing this problem might take some time and cause some headaches for you will have to take off the window trim or some of the drywall (maybe even plaster if your home is old enough). The best advice is to call in a professional insulation company who can do the work right and give you an estimate of cost.

    Worse case scenario is you might have to replace the window. Vinyl windows are the norm today, but if you have a historic home with double hung wood windows, finding a company that manufactures them could prove difficult. Either shop salvage companies that specialize in old home fixtures, or call someone like Pella who can custom make the window. In one of the Victorian homes we rehabbed, Pella custom made 4 floor-to-ceiling windows for us as the original ones had been destroyed by previous owners. It cost a little more than normal, but the aesthetic value of having new “old” looking windows was well worth the cost.