Getting remodeling ideas at the 35th annual Home Show

Originally Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2013, 11:41 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 11, 2013, 12:11 am
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By Jonathan Turner,

ROCK ISLAND -- If you don't have the time or money to buy a new house, the35th annual Home Show this past weekend at the QCCA Expo Center was a great place to find remodeling ideas.

This year's new feature was "Before & After" (in the North Hall) that showcased projects in their "before" and "after" states in various areas of a house, including the kitchen, bath, family room, closets, electrical room, outside decks, landscaping, siding and windows.

"We try to always have something every year to entice people," saidJulie Awkerman, executive officer of the Quad Cities Builders & Remodelers Association. "It'sjust to get people thinking and motivated to do something."

"New home starts are up, and that's great. Remodeling, though, is big, too," she said. "Some people are getting their homes ready for the future. Or some people, we're just going to sit where we're at. The interest rates for home buying, it's such a good deal now. It's a little bit of both.Talking to my remodelers, they are all very, very busy."

Michelle Verscheure, an interior designer in Geneseo, did most of the design for "Before & After,"updating rooms from a '70s to '80s era to their modern, sleek and stylish look. The new kitchen, for example, featured aback-splash made of metal strips, honed granite countertop (as opposed to polished), with cherry-wood cabinets and stainless steel sink and refrigerator.

"I wanted them to come through and dream," Ms. Verscheure said of show visitors, noting she transformed each room with the same amount of space. "To be able to relate to the before and dream about what they could have after."

"It doesn't have to be big to be functional and well laid-out," she said of rooms, noting the change from a drab, feature-less laundry room to one with updated, front-load washer and dryer, cabinets and shiny countertops.

"People use it for a lot more than laundry now. You can never have enough storage space," Ms. Verscheure said. "And it's really important to have somewhere to fold your clothes, so you're not using your kitchen table or your bed."

Themost common remodels now are kitchens and bathrooms, as well as finishing basements, and adding landscaping and furniture outdoors, Ms. Awkerman said.

"We have a lot of people who expand their yards. People put more emphasis into their backyards and make that an extra living space," she said, noting homeowners may add an outside kitchen, fire pit or whirlpools. For inside, no-touch faucets are new (activated by motion sensor) and heated flooring in the kitchen, Ms. Awkerman said.

Many people remodel not only for the personal satisfaction, but to increase their home's value, said Gayle Staples, of Eldridge-based Premier Bath & Kitchen Resurfacing. Her company refaces kitchen cabinets with new doors, new wood or some with glass windows in one or two doors, and resurfaces kitchen counters with a durable, industrial acrylic polyurethane coating that's sprayed on.

That countertop resurfacing is less expensive and time-consuming than installing new, Ms. Staples said. She also resurfaces bathtubs and bathroom tile.

"In the last 18 months, we've done a tremendous amount of renovations," saidColin Woods, owner of Milan-based Diamond Builders. "The last sixto seven weeks, new home construction has picked up."

Many people build new because of current low interest rates, or are empty nesters who want to downsize to a smaller, single-story home, he said. Whether remodeling or building new, people want similar features.

That includes new three- or four-season rooms (such as a living room with fireplace and TV); granite countertops in kitchens,programmed thermostats to automatically lower the heat when needed and motion-sensor lights.

"We're seeing a lot of just economical, energy efficiency things, just to save money," Mr. Woods said. "Everybody wants to save. With costs, everything keeps going up. It's for insulation, windows, HVAC, everything. Even the amount of water flushing in the toilet."

There is a federal energy tax credit, retroactive for work done in 2012, where homeowners can save $200 for each new energy-efficient window, with a maximum of $500 for windows and doors, said Kristine Girskis, of Suburban Construction of Davenport.

"The Home Show is good in bringing to light things that can save you money," she said.

Company president J.R. Girskis said he now sells half triple-pane windows with krypton gas, which are 10 times more insulating than traditional single-pane windows. Thetax credit is a bonus, but not the main reason people buy the new energy-efficient windows. The top reason is "because they need new windows, it's cold," he said. "They're easy to clean, low-maintenance."

They cost an extra $150 more per window, but the technology is changing, such as flat-screen TVs are much more common for new TVs, Mr. Girskis said, noting that soon all windows will be triple-pane.

The Builders Association itself has undergone a makeover.Formerly the Q-C Home Builders Association, it rebranded itself last year, representing more of the work done by its 300-plus builders, remodelers and others in the area, Ms. Awkerman said.

"Some people do some commercial, not just home building," she said. "We do building of other sorts too."

The price range for new homes averages between $300,000 and $400,000, she said, and new housing starts are up in both the Illinois and Iowa Q-Cs, but still more in Iowa (498 Iowa-side compared to 125 in Illinois in 2012, according to Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors). Rock Island, LeClaire and Princeton have seen the biggest percentage jumps from 2011 to 2012.

"Compared to five years ago, it's obviously slower because of the market and everything," Ms. Awkerman said of home-building. "Over the last five years, it's been steady, and picking up. Remodeling, though, has definitely picked up."

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