• Written by Howard Grim

Grimm015If you have your dream home in your mind’s-eye, maybe a remodeled version of your present home, odds are it includes a beautiful staircase. When you move beyond the dreaming stage, getting what you want within your budget is the big challenge. As with most things, better quality and elaborate design cost more. Concerning style, think about how the design fits the rest of the house, especially the area surrounding the stair. If you want to update a stair, keep the new design in line with the character of the existing trim and finishes.

A handrail should be sturdy. When we climb and descend a stair, it should feel comfortable and safe. If you’re buying an existing home, check the soundness of any joints in the handrail, the handrail connections to posts, and if balusters are tight in their mountings. Posts should not wiggle. Finish should be in good shape – it is expensive to refinish. Squeaks can be annoying, but don’t usually mean the stair is faulty overall, and can usually be remedied by an experienced stair carpenter. A good home inspector should be also able to inform you about quality, condition, code compliance and safety.

I love the look of beautiful wood stairs. Wood stair treads are easier to clean than carpeted ones. But they are also more expensive and can be slippery to stocking feet. A hybrid alternative that saves money over full wood treads and provides the safety of a carpeted stair, is the use of partial treads and risers with a carpet runner between them. To make eventual refinishing practical, use solid hardwood partial treads rather than veneered ones. Set the treads flush with the rough plywood treads between them and have the carpet installed as if the partial treads actually extend under the carpet.

What factors increase cost? 1) Better quality and exotic materials 2) Complex designs with larger numbers of individual parts to install, including intricate assemblies of high quality – such as elaborate box newel posts with lots of “detail.” 3) Most curved pieces, especially custom made ones. 4) Unique designs that require design time and communications between designers, suppliers, fabricators, finishers and installers.

How to get a nice stair for less? Carefully select styles of off-the-shelf components that go together well and install them in an elegant but comparatively simple design. An expert in stairs can be very helpful here, and can bid the job as well. Get more than one bid. Your fair scrutiny of the bidding and building process should keep price realistic, but quality always has its costs. Labor is quite competitive now, but the cost of materials and of being in business have certainly not decreased, so, as always, expect to get what you pay for.

Howard Grim has been building stairs out of his Hollywood Hill/Woodinville location for 23 years.

Planning for a Successful Kitchen or Bathroom Remodel

  • Written by Nip Tuck Remodeling

Let’s face it, entering into a remodeling project such as a kitchen or bathroom renovation is not something the average homeowner does every day. It is likely once every 10-20 years. It’s not uncommon for clients to feel overwhelmed about project scope, to be worried about the budget, and confused about all the decisions to be made.

Kitchen and bathroom remodels are the most common as well as the highest cost per square foot to renovate because of their size and the type of products incorporated into them. A well-executed remodel will incorporate at least five of the following planning techniques to assure your investment is safe and sound.

Answer the Why question … There are many reasons to renovate and it is important to understand why you are embarking on this project in the first place. Are the materials out of date and worn out? Are some components broken or inoperable? Does the space need to be bigger or have better storage?

Great Design… Now that you understand why you are remodeling, incorporate solutions to this question into the design.  Great design comes into play with the layout of the space, the colors and textures and contrary to popular belief will likely save you time and money in the end.  It is imperative that design happen at the onset of the planning stage as the drawings and specifications will lead you to a well-defined scope of work and accurate budgeting.

The Budget … A successful project will almost always be partially directed by the ability to stay within a specified budget once construction begins.  One of the best ways to ensure this is to choose every product prior to swinging a hammer or deconstruction of the space.  It is important to understand there still might be some variables and surprises, but product issues should not be one of them.

Choosing The Right Contractor…Apples are not oranges and all things are not equal. Do your homework by interviewing contractors, research their experience and credentials and understand that price alone is not going to help you choose the right fit for your family. A professional will have resources and systems in place to ensure that your project is well executed and can rely on bringing your project in “on time and on budget.”

The Schedule … Planning, planning, and planning! The schedule is your roadmap to success.  A typical remodeling project might have ten or more players and it is very important to know who, what, where and when at all times.  This is where the rubber hits the road. All the design and product specifications will not be installed smoothly without a thorough knowledge of how to choreograph the players and monitor their progress.  Even when Murphy’s Law takes over and the schedule is blown, a well-planned road map will be the guide to get you back on track.

Today, every dollar counts and it is important to understand how to make decisions and research those topics out of your comfort level. If you would like a 12-page planning document that will help you plan for your kitchen or bathroom remodel, just e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with kitchen or bath planner in the subject line.

Nip Tuck Remodeling

Water Damage Repair Requires More Than Knee Jerk Reaction

  • Written by Craig Hawkins, EnviroShield

Let’s face it.  Water damage in our homes is a traumatic event that forces a lot of us to not think clearly regarding next steps.  The scenario usually starts with a leak from a toilet, dishwasher, water-line to a refrigerator, roof leak and/or broken pipe in a wall.  Even if we’re lucky enough to quickly discover trouble, lots of damage can occur in a very short period of time. Not to mention the psychological pain of water everywhere.

If you experience water damage, it’s important NOT to take a knee jerk reaction.  It’s best to call your insurance company immediately. Choosing the restoration company is completely decided by the home owner.

I would use this checklist:

1. Guarantee — Look for a company that provides a guarantee for mold remediation after the water dry-out is complete.

2. Experience — Make sure that the water damage/mold remediation company that you choose has the training and the certifications that are necessary for the type of job they are doing for you.

3. Containment — A 1-inch by 1-inch area of mold creates millions of spores that are released into the air during the cleaning process, which can be very dangerous to the health of everyone in the home. Only water damage companies that utilize what’s called a HEPA Negative Air System to direct the contaminated air should be the ones you use.

4 Steps to Repair: EnviroShield

1)    On-Site Meeting – You will meet the supervisor who will be in charge of your job, and he will go over the water damaged areas. The initial investigation will determine the classification of water contamination. This establishes how much dehumidification will be needed to dry out your home.

2)    Protect Non-Damaged Areas – Once containment barriers are set up we will start removing the wet drywall and begin to dry inside the walls.  If there is damaged carpet, we will pull the pad that is under the carpet, which allows the carpet to dry.  We will also move furniture out of the wet areas to ensure that all excess moisture inside a wall or under a floor is dried, so no mold problems arise later.

3)    Dry-Out – After all demolition is complete we will check moisture readings again and set up drying equipment. The drying equipment will consist of dehumidification which will pull moisture out of the air, and start drying your home. Once the drying equipment is in place it will be necessary to keep the equipment on 24 hours a day until the drying process is finished.

4)    Clean-up – The final step is to restore your home back to its pre-loss condition.

Free seminars at Molbak’s

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

Designing with roses


Think roses belong in a bed of their own?

Not true!  Nita-Jo Rountree, garden designer and Past  President of the Northwest Horticultural Society, will show how to use garden design principles to successfully incorporate a variety of roses into mixed landscapes and garden beds at a free seminar at Molbak’s on Saturday, February 25th, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.

For more information visit

Molbaks apples

Fruit tree basics

It’s hard to beat fresh fruit from your own tree.

Join Seattle Tree Fruit Society volunteer, Greg Giuliani at Molbak’s for a free seminar, Grow Your Own Fruit, on Saturday, February 25th, 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. Giuliani will focus on apple, pear, plum and cherry trees and will cover how to select the perfect fruit tree and variety for the right location as well as the importance of cross-pollination.

He’ll also share tips on how to successfully plant, prune and stake young trees and basic first-year care.

A short grafting demonstration will follow.  For additional information visit .

For additional information about these free seminars or other events at Molbak’s, please call (425) 483-5000, 1-866-466-5225, or visit the Events page at

Molbak’s is located at 13625 NE 175th St., Woodinville, WA  98072.

Q & A with Dale Nelson, local processed specialty foods expert

  • Written by 21 Acres

CanningDale Nelson is owner and founder of Farmhouse Kitchens, a full-service specialty food development company in Washington State. Nelson has 25 years of experience in the food industry and a true passion in the artisan food environment.  He serves as a volunteer on the Board of Directors for the 21 Acres Center for Local Food and Sustainable Living in Woodinville.  As a faculty member of the School at 21 Acres, Dale is teaching a five week course titled, Introduction to Processed Foods, beginning on March 1. A free preview class of the course is offered Thursday, February 23, from 6:30-8:30. (For more details visit, We caught up with Dale recently to ask him some questions and to hear his thoughts about the market potential for local processed foods.

Q: The world of specialty foods seems to be exploding.  Everywhere you look there seem to be gourmet foods on the shelf.  Why do you think this is?

A: Consumers are very interested in knowing where their food is produced.  The very best gourmet foods are often made with the best ingredients, which I find are usually sourced directly from local farms.  That’s not always true, but informed consumers know to read labels and see where the ingredients were grown. In fact, in this economic downturn when families are cutting back on household spending, the amount that people are spending on specialty foods is still going up – researchers are finding that people are selecting nice small gourmet treats, which is more affordable than larger splurges, and enjoying these delicious foods.

Q: Knowing where you food comes from, and “buying local” is really appealing to consumers these days.  More and more farmers are considering ways to process their fruits and vegetables into value-added items and selling them at farmers markets, cooperative grocery stores and even at traditional venues.  Can you describe what the future looks like related to this?

A: The future definitely looks like it will continue to show an upward trend for value-added processing of local farm products.  Farmers are looking for ways to diversify their businesses and to lengthen their seasons.  They can do this by processing their abundance in the high growing season into wonderful, flavorful products that consumers can buy year round.

Q:  There are many people who seem to have special recipes that they like, and that they say everyone requests that they make it over and over again. Should they consider taking this on as a business venture?

A: It all depends. Does she have a reliable local source for high quality ingredients? Are other people, not just family members, willing to purchase the products? If so, and she’s able to spend focused time and energy thinking through all the steps that it takes to bring a good product to market, then I would highly encourage her to pursue the idea.  Customers want new products and they are very interested in buying from local cottage industry businesses.

Q: If someone does decide to take this on, what are the first steps she needs to do to make this a reality?

A: Just like starting any business, it’s important to conduct proper business plan research and to pursue related topics such as local and state licensing, food safety and how to source ingredients.  If someone is just starting out on this venture, it would make sense to begin thinking about marketing strategies and product development.  I would add that the sooner someone focuses on how to distribute and sell their product, the sooner they will have business success.  It’s good to think through how and who is going to be running the business on a day-to-day basis.   All this planning and effort definitely takes some resources to get started; money and labor, to name a few.

I must stress that I strongly encourage the startup business to talk to others who have gone before, as there is much wisdom to gain from other people in the specialty food business.