A willingness to try new products and techniques keeps this remodeler ahead of the competition.
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Keeping an open mind to new products and procedures while juggling the complexities of a 2,000 square-foot addition to a home is not the easiest task in the world, but it paid off for remodeler Ken Skowronski, CR, of KS Remodelers in Franklin, Wis., on a recent addition to a Northbrook, ILL., home.

For Skowronski, a willingness to explore new techniques is part of his philosophy. "You have to keep an open mind," he said. "When a new product comes along, a lot of remodelers will say, "Well, we've always done it this other way, so there's no sense in trying something new". But I don't see it that way. We'll pioneer new products and new ways of doing things. We see this as a means of expanding our business; a means of offering more than the competition."

The project where he did his latest "pioneering" was a home renovation involving a two-story addition on the rear of the structure.

Family room enlarged
On the first floor, Skowronski and his crew enlarged the family room and added a sunroom and guest bedroom. We took the existing family room down completely, right to the floor joists," Skowronski said. An expanded family room was then constructed. It features 3/4-inch raised cherry paneling and custom cabinetry work for bookcases and an entertainment center along with a wet bar for entertaining. The coved ceiling has indirect lighting concealed by heavy crown molding.

The common wall with the sunroom has a see-through fireplace flanked by French doors. French doors also allow access from the family room to the new redwood deck. The sunroom has eight-foot high windows and a cathedral ceiling, making it bright and airy. A sliding-glass door opens onto the deck, and built-in book-cases highlight one wall of the room. Next to the sunroom, the first-floor guest bedroom boasts a full-size bath and an angle-bay window. Ample closet space was provided, and plumbing and electrical connections were roughed in for the addition of a kitchenette should the owner opt to use the room as a maid's quarters. Part of the rear hallway was redone to provide a direct route to the family room without going through the main foyer.

Master bath highlights
Upstairs, the master bathroom was taken down along with the family room. When the family room was reconstructed, the former master-bath space became two walk-in closets for the master bedroom. An additional large closet was installed in the hallway leading from the master bedroom to the new master bath. This is large enough for storing exercise equipment or seasonal clothing. Skowronski noted.

The new master bath is a dramatic space characterized by a whirlpool tub in the niche created by the angle-bay window, a cathedral ceiling with two skylights, and fluted columns and molding. Two vanities and a separate shower stall add convenience. The whirlpool area and its raised platform are separated from the rest of the bathroom by a planter and a set of columns. In addition, a round top window above the angle-bay window brings visual interest to the area, with the radius of the window echoed by the ceiling above the tub.

The basement also received attention during the remodeling, with an office constructed for the owner and a room for displaying the owner's pinball-machine collection roughed in. While not part of the original plans, Skowronski suggested the installation of an exterior door and stairway leading directly into the basement to make moving the machines in and out easier. The existing basement stair was in the middle of the house, he noted.

Veneer plaster used
One of the things that made the job unique - at least for Skowronski - was a "new" product - veneer plaster. In fact, the product isn't really new, according to a spokesman for United States Gypsum Co., manufacturer of the material. "It was introduced several years ago as an upgrade to drywall and a cost-effective alternative to conventional plaster. While it is widely used in some parts of the country, most notably in the Northeast, veneer plaster is still 'new' to many Midwestern markets," she said.

The veneer plaster system includes: base panels, called "blueboard" (similar to gypsum panels but with a special water-absorbing face paper), joint tape, and ready-to-mix finish plaster. The boards are installed like drywall; the joints are taped; and a thin coat of the plaster finish is applied over the joints. The next day, the same plaster finish is applied over the walls and ceilings.

Skowronski applied approximately 8,000 square feet of veneer plaster to the interior walls throughout the six room expansion, and he was pleased with the results. "We like it. I think the product has a lot of potential.. .there are certainly a lot of advantages in using it." One of the advantages of veneer plaster, according to proponents of the system, is its hard, durable finish that has a rating of 1,500 psi, better than conventional plaster. But the real advantage to contractors like Skowronski is that it installs faster than conventional plaster and requires less material. A coat of veneer plaster is usually 9/16 inch thick, while conventional plaster is about 9/16 inch thick.

Another advantage over standard drywall is the fact that veneer plaster is completely dry and ready to decorate in two days, while gypsum-panel finishing can take from three days to a week, depending on drying conditions. "The baseboards install almost exactly like drywall," Skowronski noted. "There are just a couple of differences." (The screw heads are driven flush into the surface, not dimpled into the board; and the joints are simply taped with open-mesh glass-fiber tape and require no further treatment.)

"The quality of the veneer-plaster walls matches the quality of the home," Skowronski explained. "The owners love it.' Likewise, the addition enhances the quality of life in an already comfort able home.
Qualified Remodeler Magazine


Home Front - Your New Best Pal - The Contractor

Featured article that appeared in the "Wall Street Journal"
Friday 26, 2002
With quotes from Ken Skowronski.

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