Dear APEX Clients,
- Projects in production – We are monitoring the health of our workers, our clients, and ourselves daily and will not go to work if anyone is not feeling well. When we do go to work we are taking extra precautions to keep our distance via additional containment barriers on the jobsites and asking clients to respect the new social distancing norms. We will also ask clients on a regular basis if they are comfortable with us continuing our work in their homes.
- Projects in design – Aside from the physical on-site need to take measurements, we are/will be using technology for all communications: email, teleconferencing, and when possible, video teleconferencing via Webex with presentation/whiteboard capability.
- Future projects – When possible, we are replacing on-site project previews with client “before” photos, sketches, and emails to assemble a general scope of work and render a ballpark budget range.
I expect projects currently in the design phase to continue into construction if essential services continue to be allowed to work.
APEX Construction Management
March 10, 2020 – The National Association of the Remodeling Industry recognized APEX Construction Management tonight for having just received the 2020 national Guildmaster Award for service excellence. APEX is one of only four Minnesota remodelers to earn the distinction from GuildQuality. It is the country’s leading independent customer satisfaction survey company.
To be considered, contractors must allow the organization to survey their last 20 or past year customers. While the industry average for customer satisfaction among remodeling clients is 70 percent, Guildmaster recipients must score at least 90 percent to qualify. GuildQuality reported that APEX earned a perfect 100 percent score on its last 38 customer surveys.
GuildQuality goes deep
Unlike reviews on Google, Houzz or Angie’s List, GuildQuality verifies that each survey participant is an actual client. It also goes well beyond the typical 5-star rating system to ask a number of questions that probe specific construction-related performance areas. They include experience, professionalism, schedule, budget, quality, value, communication, problem resolution, cleanliness, safety, trust, punch list and likelihood to recommend.
NARI-Minnesota President Donella Olson commended APEX President John “JB” Biancini for his Guildmaster achievement at the association’s bimonthly Firm Nite. The event was held at the new Select Surfaces showroom in Plymouth. Some 110 NARI members and guests attended.
JB on GuildQuality and Guildmaster achievement
“We have GuildQuality survey APEX customers for quality control as much as for recognition,” Biancini said. “Houses are not perfect and neither is APEX. But everyone on the APEX team pulls together to improve our clients’ quality of life at home.”
The St. Paul remodeler credited APEX clients for successful remodeling outcomes. “It takes mutual trust and respect to deliver a positive remodeling experience. We are fortunate to serve good people who understand there will be highs and lows during their projects,” he said. He also recognized APEX Project Manager Matt Grudzielanek and Designer Lisa Stoll of Sparrow & Stoll for their support.
APEX has been a GuildQuality member for five years. This is the first time it has applied for the Guildmaster Award. APEX also is 2018 NARI Regional Contractor of the Year for Additions under $250,000. It is Better Business Bureau accredited. And APEX is a member of Housing First Minnesota and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
When remodeling your home, why just make it look and function better? Seize the opportunity to create a healthy home environment for your family. That starts with improving air quality.
About 90 percent of the breaths most people take each day are inhaled indoors. The air doesn’t need to smell or look funky to cause discomfort and serious chronic health issues. Cancer-causing radon soil gas, lethal carbon monoxide from combustion appliances, mold sensitivity from excessive moisture are just some of the hidden health dangers you can remedy during your next remodel. You also can mitigate dangers from lead, asbestos and chemical poisoning and respiratory problems from allergens.
What’s your Hayward Score?
APEX assembled this checklist to help you identify and overcome indoor air hazards and achieve a healthy home. Become more air-quality aware by obtaining your homes’ Hayward Score. The interactive online survey tool asks a series of questions and generates a customized action plan for improving your indoor air. Some measures are easy and inexpensive. Others are more costly and involved. All are at least worthy of consideration.
APEX doesn’t raise these issues to inflate the cost and complexity of your remodel. It’s entirely your choice. However, our mission is to improve your quality of life at home, and health is the cornerstone of quality of life. What would you spend for family members to avoid cancer, developmental problems, lung disease, chronic fatigue or accidental death?
Top 5 Indoor Air Quality Factors
Bill Hayward invented Hayward Score after his own home made him and his family sick. He believes that maintaining healthy indoor air comes down to five things:
- Continuous fresh air
- Proper sealing and insulation
- Non-toxic materials and products
- Cleanable surfaces
- Healthy habits
Here is how APEX can apply these health factors in your remodel.
Healthy fresh air
By fresh air, we typically think of air that enters your home whenever you open doors or windows. However, air also is drawn into your home by differences in air pressure and it is not always healthy.
Kitchen range hoods and bathroom exhaust fans expel moisture and bad air, and forced-air heating systems circulate air and reduce dead air zones. Unfortunately, the fans also lower indoor air pressure. HVAC ducts can spread airborne contaminants throughout the home.
Installing an air exchanger will equalize indoor and outdoor pressure so your exhaust fans, flues and and clothes dryer don’t cause carbon monoxide from your furnace and water heater to spill into your home. It also will scrub the air before it mixes. This is particularly useful in homes with finished basements that are susceptible to radon soil gases. With Minnesota’s long winters, we cannot rely on windows alone to provide fresh air and balance air pressure year-round.
A direct-vent, sealed-combustion gas fireplace will produce warmth and ambiance without potentially compromising air quality like a wood-burning fireplace with a chimney. The same is true for high efficiency, furnace, boiler or water heater. They draw combustion air directly from outdoors rather that from indoors. They are far less likely to spill deadly carbon monoxide into the home.
Be sure to test your home for cancer-causing radon, especially if you plan to finish your basement. If your radon level near the 4.0 action level and you already have drain tile and a sump pump, we may just need us to install a pipe from the sump to above the roof. If it is higher, we will need to wire and install an in-line fan to mechanically draw soil gases from the drain tile, so they don’t enter the basement. APEX also is licensed to deal with peeling or chalking lead paint., which can cause developmental problem in children.
Home sealing and insulation
Thorough air sealing and insulation go hand in hand with ventilation to prevent mold contamination. Done correctly, it will reduce condensation and mold where warm moist air meets cold surfaces.
Proper air sealing and insulation requires gap-free insulation and vapor retarder plastic taped at seams and around electrical boxes.
Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) insulation is considered the gold standard for both air sealing and insulation. However, it must be applied by an experienced, licensed professional who understands how to achieve proper curing and prevent prolonged chemical outgassing. The spray foam industry recommends residents and pets stay out during spraying and until the expanding foam cures (typically 24 hours) and dried trimmings are removed. If that is not practical, the contractor will increase ventilation and manage air pressure to reduce indoor exposure in living spaces.
Non-toxic materials and products
For a healthy home, choose natural cleaning products. Chemical residue can build up in a home over time. Using safer products will reduce the risk.
When remodeling, use low VOC finishes and formaldehyde-free building products. Limit the pesticides around the foundation of your home that can leach into your drain tile and sump and get into your basement. To avoid mold, direct your lawn sprinkler away from your siding.
Carpeting and wallcoverings trap dirt, contaminants and bacteria over time. It’s even worse if you have a dog or cat. If your carpeting is 20 years old, it should be considered contaminated. Wetting the fibers during cleaning can make matters worse by reactivating mold spores and bacteria and leaving behind chemical residue.
Consider limited area rugs or in-floor heat to improve barefoot comfort where needed. Hard flooring surfaces such as wood, luxury vinyl or tile are healthier and easier to clean than wall to wall carpeting.
Healthy home habits
Homes don’t come with operator manuals, so user errors are inevitable. You can improve your home’s health chart with these simple habits.
- APEX recommends a kitchen range hood that vents outdoors. We will suggest a quiet one and encourage you to use it whenever you cook.
- APEX will recommend a bathroom exhaust fan even if there is a window. Always use the fan when you bathe and let it run 30 minutes after you get out of the tub or shower.
- APEX designs functional mudrooms with benches and storage that encourage clients to remove their shoes at the door, so they don’t track contaminants indoors. What could be more Minnesotan!
- APEX prefers central vacuum systems that vent outdoors to portable vacuum cleans that recirculate fine particles back into the room. Vacuum carpeting weekly using long, slow passes and twice a week if you have pets.
- Store pesticides, fertilizers and other hazardous in an outbuilding if possible or attached garage if not. Don’t keep them in your basement, especially not in the furnace room where contaminants can be drawn into heating ducts.
- Have your furnace or boiler cleaned and tuned annually to minimize carbon monoxide and make sure your central air conditioner condensate line is clear, so bacteria do not build up in the pan.
Contact APEX President John Biancini to learn more about how remodeling done right can lead to a healthier home.
If you think remodeling your old kitchen will make you happier, you probably are right. Complete kitchen remodels achieved a perfect “10” Joy Score in the 2019 Remodeling Impact Report. The most popular remodeling project also is the top-rated improvement to make a home more desirable among future homebuyers. The findings are based on extensive surveys by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) this year.
To be clear, updating your kitchen won’t improve your profit at resale. You’ll only recoup about 59 percent of your investment. But your home will be more appealing and should sell faster and you get to enjoy it until you move.
Seriously, we could have guessed these results without a survey of nearly 2,200 consumers and 4,400 NARI members. Kitchens are the center of both family life and entertaining. It’s no wonder a more functional and attractive kitchen will serve up smiles.
What does remodeling joy mean?
The joy index is based on answers to three questions: First, does the project make you want to spend more time in the space? Second, do the improvements actually enhance your enjoyment of the space? Third, do you feel a sense of accomplishment after completing the improvements? I think the first two questions overlap and skew the scores. But because the same rules apply to all 20 projects, the study is a useful tool to compare alternatives for one’s remodeling dollars.
The good news is that you don’t have to overhaul your home’s social and functional hub to find happiness. The survey said renovating a closet also carries a 10-point joy grade and for a fraction of the cost. What’s more, repainting your home’s interior finishes a close second at 9.8. Just be sure the results look professional and you choose the right colors.
Remodeling ROI in 2019
The survey also estimates how much of your remodeling investment you are likely to recoup if you sell your house in the next few years. For example, if your home would sell for $400,000 with your old kitchen and you spend $68,000 on a new kitchen, the survey predicts you will get $440,000 at resale. So, you are at least partially remodeling the space for yourself, which should be anyone’s prime motivation.
Once again, the only projects that Realtors say homebuyers will value more than they actually cost the sellers are replacing an old roof or installing new wood flooring. The Realtors valued the payback on a new roof at 107 percent and wood flooring at 106 percent.
Homebuyers probably appreciate new roofs because lenders won’t underwrite mortgages unless deteriorated roofs are replaced. Meanwhile, wood floors are seen as a healthier alternative to wall to wall carpeting, which collects bacteria, allergens and cleaning chemicals residue over time that can compromise indoor air quality. Installing wood flooring after purchasing a home also would delay the move in date.
Visit the National Association of Realtors HouseLogic link to view the entire Remodeling Impact Report with Joy Scores, costs and paybacks for all 20 projects.
How the remodeling report was done
In June and July of 2019, HouseLogic surveyed consumers on the last remodeling project they undertook. A total of 2,193 respondents participated. The Joy Score was calculated by combining the share who were happy and those who were satisfied when seeing their completed project and dividing the share by 10 to create a ranking between 1 and 10. Higher Joy Scores indicate greater joy from the project. In March and June 2019, NARI emailed a cost survey to its 4,400 members. A total of 378 responses were received. The survey had an adjusted response rate of 11.6 percent. In July 2019, NAR emailed an interior remodeling project survey to a random sample of 52,491 Realtors. A total of 2,485 responses were received. The survey had an adjusted response rate of 4.7 percent.
Thomas Wolfe may have been wrong when he wrote You Can’t Go Home Again. APEX has completed two kitchen remodel projects this year for clients who acquired and immediately updated their childhood homes after years of living away. The latest was for a young doctor in Vadnais Heights. From outside, the house looks the same. But that changes the moment you walk through a door.
Kitchen remodel reserving the past
The small 1973 ranch style home was typical for its age. A back door had dumped into a small kitchen. Meanwhile, the dining area was a small ell off the living room. Bedrooms and a bath completed the floor plan down the hall. Rooms were small and dark. Work surfaces and storage were limited.
Lisa Stoll designed the kitchen remodel and guided selection for both the kitchen and the bath. APEX Project Manager Matt Grudzielanek supervised construction. The team gutted the kitchen, including the stubby peninsula and overhead cabinet by the back door and both interior walls. This created a larger footprint for the kitchen and integrated it with the living room. Finally, the bathroom received a throughout facelift with new fixtures, tile surfaces and a stylish vanity with a custom concrete top.
Lisa Stoll leads tour of remodeled kitchen
A large island with a range top and high seating forms the centerpiece of the project. It’s ideal when Brian entertains his many medical colleagues and friends. The rangehood helps to define the kitchen space without obstructing the view into the living room. This new kitchen is open to a small drop zone by the back door. The new refrigerator moved to the end wall and is flanked by a tall pantry cabinet.
Lisa specified a versatile stainless steel undermount sink with a low divider and tall spray-in-spout faucet. Glass panel upper cabinets display heirloom glassware. And Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring integrates the kitchen, living room and hall.
Client recommends APEX for kitchen remodel
The client gives APEX high marks for overcoming old house challenges and staying on schedule and budget. “I would recommend APEX and hire them again,” he said.
Contact APEX President John “JB” Biancini to learn how you can transform your home’s outdated floor plan and give your kitchen and bath new life.
Homeowners with cash may choose to pay for their remodeling projects from savings or investments. But many clients borrow money to fund their remodeling dreams. APEX works closely with Senior Mortgage Consultant Gail Vinje from AMEC Home Loans to satisfy its clients’ remodel financing needs.
“We trust Gail. She is a fellow NARI MN member who has specialized in remodel financing for the past 25 years and knows this business very well,” said APEX President John Biancini. “She has built a team of appraisers and title company agents who truly understand remodeling process, quality and investment value.”
Home equity loan vs. mortgage refinance
Vinje said obtaining a home equity loan can make sense for small remodeling projects on homes with high equity. Interest rates generally are higher for these second mortgages because of their second lien position. But there is no need to determine the value of the enhancements to qualify for the loan. However, she said it often is better to refinance and roll remodeling costs into a fixed rate 1st mortgage for large projects.
When one refinances to include remodeling costs in the mortgage, appraisers must determine the value of the remodel before it is built. This generally requires the contractor to provide plans and a scope of work to be done.
Remodeler’s role in securing financing
“Someone who wants to borrow based on future equity will need plans and a budget for appraisers to determine the future value. If they qualify for a program based on their current equity position, they might not need anything from the contractor,” Vinje explained.
Vinje said it typically takes four to six weeks for AMEC to process remodel financing for an APEX client. “Rates are good now, but it’s not possible to predict where they will be a year from now. I would say the timing is right when it is right for the client,” she said.
Quality of life improvements delayed are dividends lost
Biancini reminds clients that APEX remodels homes to improve their quality of life. “Remodeling is an investment that pays dividends of enjoyment for many years, so it makes sense to pay for the benefits over time,” he observed. “The one thing you cannot replace is time. The sooner your remodeling dream takes shape, the more time you and your family will have to enjoy it.”
If it helps, focus on the difference in your monthly mortgage payment rather than on the total project cost. But don’t over improve your property for the neighborhood unless you plan to own it and enjoy it for many years.
To begin your financing discussion, contact John Biancini.
APEX projects are not just about making everything fresh and new. We recently completed a Vadnais Heights kitchen remodel where preserving family heritage was every bit as important as the granite counters, custom birch cabinets and new appliances.
Barbara’s dad had designed a wall of cabinets when she and her husband Pete bought their home. They wanted to keep the upper cabinet, which still was in decent shape after 17 years. APEX’s custom cabinetmaker matched the design for all of the new cabinets. He even incorporated the original flour and sugar bins in a lower cabinet drawer.
Keepsakes on display
Barbara also wanted to be able to display her grandmother’s fine English china, which had languished in boxes in the basement for years. Because space was limited, APEX Designer Lisa Stoll incorporated a built-in china cabinet with glass doors facing the dining area. Now Barbara can appreciate the pieces every day and access them on special occasions.
Meanwhile, Pete wanted the kitchen remodel to showcase the old bird clock that played different birdsongs on the hour and had guided family schedules since the children were young. “The morning dove means it is 7 o’clock. That was time to get the kids out the door for school. It’s been the way this family works for a long time. We know what all the bird sounds mean. It’s how we keep track of time,” Pete explained.
Lisa chose a dark stain for the panel over the new range to create an eye-catching accent surface for the clock that’s visible from the dining area.
Finally, the couple hated to lose the 17-year record of their children’s heights when we replaced the coat closet door in the dining area. This time, APEX Project Manager Matt Grudzielanek had the solution. He salvaged a foot-wide strip of the marked plywood from the old door and laminated it to the back of the new door, complete with the tiny childhood photos.
At APEX, we look for opportunities to preserve a bit of the past when we remodel because memories are what make a house a home. Our goal with every project is to enhance our clients’ quality of life at home. By taking time to get to know our clients, we can incorporate design element and features that make each project unique and special.
Kitchen remodel’s functional features
Still, APEX understands that it takes more than nostalgia to pull off a successful remodel. We also must conduct ourselves with integrity, stay on schedule and create an environment that’s attractive and works. This Vadnais Heights project features natural birch cabinets with soft-close drawers and doors, a deep undermount sink with spray-in spout faucet, two ovens, undercabinet and recessed ceiling lighting, easy-clean luxury vinyl flooring, and an upgraded electrical panel and new water heater.
Excellent Value, 5 ‘Ruff’ Rating for Kitchen Remodel
“I would definitely recommend APEX. The workmanship was high quality. What a pleasure it was to have people who are experts in their field do the work after living with the results of not-very-good DIY work,” Barbara said. “With APEX, you get an excellent value for your money. They’re not the cheapest, but I would not want to go with the cheapest anyway. “We had another contractor give us a quote that was so low and at the bottom it said, for an extra $500 he would file permits. I don’t want to work with somebody who is going to try to do it under the table. That’s not what I believe in. I’m not trying to cut corners because you pay a lot more in the long run.”
Barbara gives the entire APEX team high marks. “All the people who worked on the project did a great job. They also were very friendly and they were nice to our dog, Sparky, who can be difficult. It was a good experience,” she said.
Note to self: Restock trucks with treats.
Galen and Marilyn had lived in their Roseville home for 36 years with a modestly finished but uninsulated basement. An addition had enlarged the space in 1993 but did little to improve comfort or features. An earlier contractor had partitioned and partially carpeted the the space A previous owner had merely painted the foundation and decorated it with waist high paneling and upper trim. The little bathroom with the tiny shower had no ceiling because the mechanicals hung so low.
Discovered APEX on Angie’s List
With no plans to move for the foreseeable future, the couple researched remodelers on Angie’s List and chose APEX to remodel the basement to make it more pleasant and comfortable. APEX installed proper framing, spray foam insulation and drywall along bare the block walls and a drywall ceiling above.
When designing this basement remodel, APEX bumped out the bathroom into an adjacent storage room. This increased headroom for a large, full-height tile shower with proper ventilation. The accessible shower features an attractive shelf that doubles as a grab bar. With the entire basement now insulated and finished, the couple will move their office by the egress window in the addition. That will make room for a Foosball table in the large family room.
Remodeled basement is more comfortable
Although the project was just completed last month, Galen and Marilyn say they already appreciate how much better the remodeled spaces feel and looks. “It’s quieter and feels drier. The family room will be a relaxing space now that it is not packed with too many functions. It will be nice to have an separate office area that’s not the first thing you see when you come down the stairs,” Marilyn said.
Positive APEX basement remodel experience
The couple gave APEX high marks for both design and project management. “Lisa was very helpful and easy to work with. Matt was easy and fun to work with. He stopped by frequently when we were home. We could ask him questions when he was here or he promptly answered any emails that we sent,” Marilyn said.
“We liked that we received a calendar that showed what was planned for each day. The project followed the original calendar very closely. It only went over by a couple of days because it took longer than usual for the drywall mud to dry with the high humidity,” Galen said.
When this Chris bought his childhood Circle Pines home from his parents he knew the kitchen would need to be remodeled. Wife Renee wanted two tables, no formal dining room, extreme storage and a particular refrigerator. He wanted a premium Wolf range with griddle, better traffic flow and lighting, and more functional surface areas. And they both insisted it reflect their traditional, wood-centric style and be completed before the fall school year.
The couple gave APEX a 100% score in its Guild Quality survey and began to refer us to colleagues and friends even before the project was completed on July 8. “If you want a remodeling done and have no worries, hire APEX,” Renee remarked. “Lisa (APEX’s designer) got me.” Best of all, the young boys love the new space — especially the cool banquette — as much as their parents do. Menu please!
Making it work
The design challenge was to reconfigure three disjointed rooms and create one cohesive open space to connect this family of 5 during the most important parts of the day: mealtimes. Daily life now revolves around the banquette island in the open floor plan.
The combination center island/banquette provides seating for 6 while keeping dinner table free. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch and homework during dinner prep. Both tables are used daily, vs. the seldom used former dining room.
Other practical improvements include:
- The large L-shaped island is ideal for buffet-style meals and entertaining.
- Storage and work surfaces increased with ceiling height cabinets and the larger island, and accessibility improved with deep drawers and pullout shelves on full-extension slides.
- Eliminating the clipped corner pantry closet and the entrance from the formal dining room created a better dining room turned piano room, improved traffic flow in the kitchen and increased wall space for cabinetry. No more choke points!
- The new kitchen enjoys an efficient work triangle separate from traffic. The accessible coffee center with Wolf toaster is conveniently positioned by the banquette.
- Dual Wolf steam and conventional wall ovens are perfect for canning, baking and reheating leftovers.
- Enhanced, dimmable overhead and undercabinet LED lighting and open plan created brighter, safer, more pleasant heart of the home.
Modifying walls changed everything
Removing the former living room wall and converting the space to a dining area improves sight lines from the entry hall and the kitchen and spreads natural light from the patio door and rear windows.
The design incorporates two tables in one open space without making them look like they compete. Bright banquette cushions complement the wall paint and accent the natural wood and stone surfaces. Rich knotty alder perimeter cabinetry and weathered oak island cabinetry replace blah honey oak cabinets. Dated popcorn ceiling was removed.
The honey oak floors were refinished and stained a medium tone for an updated look that complements the dark cabinets. The mixed mosaic stone tile backplash and cool walls and cushions update the décor.
Custom cabinets were expertly built, finished and fit. New oak flooring was laced into old where walls, island and closet were removed. Ceilng patches from wall removal disappear behind skimcoat despite soundproof assembly.
APEX scheduled trades back to back to complete construction in just eight weeks so the family could move in and get settled before the school year.