Questions: Or, what happens when an outsider joins the lumber business

By Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

If you’ve read the employee spotlight about me, you know that I’m not originally from the lumber/building materials (LBM) industry. My background is in history and marketing. Sure, I’ve done my share of home improvement projects, but I’m an amateur and I know it. In the ten months that I’ve been working at Country Lumber, I’ve learned a lot. And I’m wise enough to know that I’ve only scratched the surface. Today, I’m going to share with you some of the questions that I’ve had this past year, and what I’ve learned since joining the LBM industry. You might just learn something yourself!

  1. Cherry trees are tiny. How do they make enough wood to become lumber, millwork, or furniture?
    Through a quick internet search, I learned that there are different kinds of cherry trees. While we tend to think of the pretty flowering trees from Japan, cherry wood actually comes from a different species called the American Black Cherry Tree (Prunus serotina). The Black Cherry has a much thicker trunk than the ornamental varieties, and makes nice hardwood that usually has a straight grain, making it easy to mill and work with. A cut Black Cherry Tree looks kind of like a bullseye. The inner heartwood is darker in color, and the outer ring, or pulp wood, is lighter.
  2. Is MDF fake? Where does it come from? What is the production and use difference between MDF, plywood, and particle board?
    This question turned into a rabbit trail as each piece of information gave me more questions. As I’ve stated, I’m no expert. But here’s what I’ve learned:
    Engineered wood – including MDF (medium-density fibreboard), plywood, particle board, and a host of other products – is made from real wood, or at least wood fibres. So it’s not “fake” per se.
    These man-made products start with wood fragments, which are put together with adhesives. That’s as general a description as I can give, because each type of engineered wood is created differently. MDF, for example, is tiny wood fibres coated in wax or resin, then adhered together to form a dense, solid material. Particle board is similar, but instead of tiny fibres, it’s made from wood chips mixed with a binder. Plywood, on the other hand, is made of thin sheets of wood veneer which are glued together, alternating the grain to give it strength.
  3. Like I said, learning about engineered wood gave me more questions. Is engineered wood better than real wood?
    Yes and no. Like everything in life, you have to have the right tool for the job.
    Engineered wood is man-made, so it can be created to meet more specific requirements and have greater uniformity than natural lumber. Engineered materials can be made from recycled wood or wood or scraps.
    On the downside, engineered wood products don’t have the grain and look of natural wood unless they’re covered with a wood veneer. Also, the adhesives in engineered products may contain toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, so you should wear a mask when cutting it.
  4. What is maintenance-free decking made from?
    All this research on engineered wood made me wonder about composite decking. Composite decks are maintenance- and splinter-free, and look like new year after year. But what are they made from? Turns out they’re a composite of wood fibres and plastics, moulded or extruded to look like timber planks. Exact formulas and processes vary by manufacturer, but that’s the basic recipe. I had no idea there was wood involved, and many contain recycled materials, too!
  5. What about treated lumber?
    When we built our deck ten years ago, and when we fenced our garden, we used green treated wood. I wanted to know what that was about, so I did some digging. Wood is a porous, natural material, so it’s prone to rot and insect infestation when it’s in contact with moist ground. To improve the longevity of lumber, they use pressure-treating. This process involves soaking the wood in a preservative, then putting it in a pressure chamber so the preservative can soak deep into the wood. This helps the lumber resist rot and repel pests. As with the manufactured wood, there are chemicals involved, so it’s best to use gloves when handling treated wood, and wear a mask when you’re cutting it.

I hope you got some new information from my wonderings, or at least got a good laugh at what an LBM newbie doesn’t know. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment. I’m always up for new things to research!

Employee Spotlight: Al

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

It’s been a few months since I put up a blog post. We had some issues with the website, and between other priorities and getting someone smarter than me to fix it, it just took time. But it’s all working now, and I’ve even been able to touch up some things on the site!

In the meantime, we brought in a new Yard Foreman/Dispatcher, so it’s time to introduce you to Al!

 

(That’s him under the beard)

Al and his wife, Melissa, live in Big Lake with their two sons and two dogs. He likes living out here because it’s less congested than the Cities. It’s also a good place for Al’s hobbies, which include hunting, woodworking, welding, and cooking with his smoker – a convenient hobby since smoked BBQ is his favorite food.

His favorite thing about working at Country Lumber has been the people and personalities he works with – both employees and customers. We enjoy working with Al, too (even if he’s not a coffee drinker…)!

Next time you stop in, say hi to Al and welcome him to the team. If you’re lucky, he might show you pictures of some of his gorgeous woodworking projects!

Home Winterization

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

As much as I hate to admit it, winter is coming. And they’re predicting a bad one. Sigh…

It doesn’t have to be all bad, though. Winter is beautiful, and I do love a good, cozy snow day with hot cocoa and jigsaw puzzles. But I digress…

A little prep work now goes a long way in preparing your home for a comfortable and energy-efficient winter. Here are a few things to switch, check, and update before the snow flies:

As you can see, you’ll need to call on a few professionals, but preparing your home now will save you time, money, and headaches later. Your home is one of your biggest investments, protect it!

Getting the Most out of Online Design Tools

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

Have you ever played with online design tools? The ones where you put in a picture of your home and see what it would look like with a variety of updates? I’m a big fan of this tool. For one thing, you get to see what different exterior products would look like on your exact house. For another thing, it’s free, and available 24 hours a day. You can sit in your favorite recliner in your fuzzy slippers and dream about what your home could be.

I’ve shopped around the internet, and I have a few tips to help you get the most out of online design tools:

1. Start with a good picture. Waudena Millwork/Diamond Kote lets you start with an image from Google Street View, but with any other site (or if your Google view’s not great), you’ll need to start by taking a picture of your home.

  • Take the photo during daylight hours in decent weather
  • Take the photo facing straight at the front of your home. Shots from an angle make everything look off later.
  • Minimize visual clutter. Cars in the driveway, garbage cans in front of the house, or decor/furniture items in the shot will make setup challenging later.

2. Pick your website. If you have a preferred siding company you plan to work with, use their tool. If you have a preferred contractor, find out what brand(s) they work with. There’s no reason to go through all the setup for something you can’t use in the end.

If you’re at square one, or you’re just having fun with possibilities, there are a number of manufacturers who offer this tool. Here are a few I tried out:

  • LP Smartside – they offer custom looks at siding, accent siding, brick/stone, and trim. Their tool offers a unique feature allowing you to adjust the perspective and brightness of your photo. On the downside, I couldn’t find a measuring tool, so everything looked comically oversized on the little cottage image I used.
  • EDCO – EDCO’s design tool has roofing, siding, and trim options.
  • Certainteed – Certainteed’s design tool offers roofing, siding, accent siding, brick/stone, trim, and matching paint colors for visualizing colors on shutters and doors. I found it really complete, though the colors can appear a bit bright and cartoonish if your original picture isn’t bright enough.
  • Waudena Millwork/Diamond Kote – This tool offers the most options of any I tried, including roofing, siding, accent siding, stone/brick, trim, matching paint for doors and shutters, and exterior doors complete with lock and handle options. This tool is recently updated with a lot of great features, including the Google Street View option I mentioned above.

3. Patience and a Steady Hand. Setting up your image isn’t instant. Unfortunately, no matter which site you work with, you’ll have to painstakingly trace out which areas are siding, accent siding, roofing, etc. And the more careful you are, the better it will look in the end.

For my research, I downloaded a stock image of a simple cottage. On each site I traced out the siding, doors, windows, roofing, etc. Then the fun began! I imagined my little house as a rustic cabin, a beach cottage, and more. I gave it stone trim, accent shutters at the peak, and new color schemes. It was a really great way to see what was possible.

Check out any of the tools linked above, and when you fall in love, come see us at Country Lumber. We carry all of these great brands and more!

Employee Spotlight: Jonathan

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

Jonathan is another black coffee-drinking, long-commuting, hard-working member of the Country Lumber staff (we seem to have a type…). He came to us after living all over the country and working for more than seven years as an architect. Those experiences give Jonathan a unique perspective, which he uses in his work – Commercial Building Materials Sales and Consulting.

Jonathan has been at Country Lumber for three and a half years, and his favorite thing about his job is completing large and small projects on iconic structures in the Twin Cities metro area.

Central Lutheran Church addition, Minneapolis

When he’s not selling building materials for cool projects, Jonathan enjoys going to live music events (more than 50 a year!). He also plays the drums, and enjoys outdoor activities like biking, kayaking, and hiking.

If you’re looking for commercial building materials and you want expert help with an architectural background and experience with unique projects, contact Jonathan at jonathank@countrylumber.us

Investing for the Sale: Preparing your home to get top dollar in a hot market (Interview with Realtor Cass Studor)

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

Sometimes, we do home improvement projects because we want to be more comfortable or make our home work better for our family and lifestyle. Sometimes, we invest to help make a sale. I wanted to know more about which projects make a difference in home sales, so I went right to the source and interviewed a local realtor.

Cass Studor is a realtor with Haller Realty. She works out of Haller’s Becker and Sauk Rapids locations. She also owns Snap Fitness gyms in Becker and Big Lake.

CL: My main question is what home improvement projects do the most to add equity or speed up the sale of a home?
CS: There are many updates one can do to help assist with the sale of their home. Some projects may be smaller in nature, while others a bit more of an undertaking. It is always good to look at what doing the upgrades/updates will do for the sale of your home.

Let’s start at the beginning. When a prospective buyer drives up to your house, what do they see? What does the entry of your home look like? You want to make sure that your front door is in good condition. I have viewed homes where there were cracks in the solid wood doors that gave buyers and uneasy feeling before even entering the home. Curb appeal is important as prospective buyers may drive by your home prior to requesting a showing, and you don’t want to lose out on someone viewing your home due to the front door/entry being in poor condition. Sometimes a new door and hardware are needed and others a fresh coat of paint will do the trick nicely. Also make sure if there are stairs leading into your home or a front porch that they are in good repair. Rotting steps or decking do not give a good first impression. Buyers will also look up when they first encounter your home. How does the roof of your home look? If a roof is in need of repair, it can be a turnoff for many buyers.

Another area that is always important is the kitchen, for some the most important area of a home. Buyers pay a great deal of attention to the condition of kitchens.

CL: Kitchens can be expensive projects.
CS: If doing an overhaul is not in your budget, there are less expensive ways to update the look of the kitchen if your cabinets are in good shape but outdated. You can refinish the existing cabinets or purchase new doors for them. Updating the hardware on the cabinets and on the kitchen sink is also good to do. New hardware can give the room a completely different feel. Next, after the kitchen, comes the bathroom. Bathrooms are a very essential part of the home. Kitchens and bathrooms can be the areas of a home that can be more expensive to update, but people do notice these areas.

CL: What are the small things a person can do to freshen up a home for listing?
CS: If your budget is smaller, you can always freshen your home up rather than some of the bigger remodel projects. Fresh paint and a good cleaning can go a long way to make a home more inviting. Now if budget allows, there are some fun projects that can make your home stand out against the competition.

CL: Anything else? What if you’re not sure where to begin?
CS: The list could go on and on for the updates that you could make to your home or things you could add, like a deck. You need to choose wisely for your individual home as to which areas need your care the most. If you are unsure which areas of your home could use some updating or TLC, make sure to talk to your realtor. They can help you decide which projects will help the most with increasing the value or curb appeal of your home.

Thank you, Cass, for taking the time to tell us about investing to prepare for real estate listing!

Employee Spotlight: Chip

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

chip Chip Frederickson is the sales manager at Country Lumber, and the contact person for our Launch Center location on Lake Mille Lacs. Chip also manages a marina and builds townhomes on the lake. He lives up in Wahkon near the Launch Center location, but he can also be found in the office in Becker (and I thought I had a long commute!).

Chip has been with Country Lumber for over nineteen years, and his favorite part about his job is the relationships he has formed with the contractors he works with (‘the people we work with’ is a popular answer when I ask the staff what they like about their jobs, so thank you customers for being great!).

Chip enjoys the outdoors, especially fishing, boating, and golf. When I asked him what his favorite treat is, the answered ICE CREAM in all capital letters, so I think he’s pretty serious! But his favorite thing in the world is spending time with his teenage son and daughter, whom he also calls his proudest accomplishment.

If you’re in the market for a lakeshore cabin, check out Chip and Shooter’s Meshigun Point townhomes for sale on realtor.com. As I write this (July 2019) there are three available units of the ten built in the community. There are also a couple lots available, which offer a custom building opportunity.

First Impressions: Exterior Trends 2019

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

You know the old saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” The same is true of your home. Realtors call it curb appeal, and they know that it makes a big difference in attracting buyers. Here are some of the top trends for home exteriors in 2019.

  1. Colors: When choosing a long-lasting siding like steel or vinyl, you have to walk the line between current trends and the long haul. Fortunately, neutrals like beiges, tans, and greys are popular right now. Greige, a mixture of grey and beige, is on-trend for both exterior siding and interior walls.

    Grey house LP Smartside

    Grey doesn’t have to be cold. The deep wood-tone accents on this home by LP Smartside adds warmth and richness.

    If you prefer more color, consider blues or autumnal reds. Both are popular right now and classic enough to live with long-term.

  2. Details: Visit the Parade of Homes, or scroll through their inspiration galleries, and you’ll see lots of beautiful details on homes. Features like decorative trim and railings, carriage hardware on garage doors, or a pop of accent color are often simple and inexpensive touches, but they add so much character to a home.

    Lecy Bros. Parade of Homes

    Parade of Homes house by Lecy Bros. Note the detail trim at the peak, and the columns that add character to the front of this white house.

3. Try Before You Buy: Several siding manufacturers have tools on their websites to help you imagine all the possibilities and see what they look like on your home. Certainteed Colorview is one such tool. You upload a photo of your home (one taken on a clear, sunny day helps with color accuracy), map out the areas of siding, doors, windows, trim details, etc., then choose different products to try on your home. I’ve played with it some. Initial setup of mapping out the details of my home was a bit tedious, but once it’s set you can go back and try all kinds of siding, maintenance-free shakes, roof colors, trim options, and more.

Country Lumber is a supplier of several brands of roofing, siding, exterior stone, doors and door hardware, and other products to freshen up your home’s curb appeal and help you make the right first impression. Stop in the showroom today to check out all the on-trend finishes and color options.

Employee Spotlight – Diane

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

Diane is the Controller/Human Resources person at Country Lumber. Between the vendors, customers, and staff, she stays very busy! Lucky for all of us, her favorite part of her job is the people she gets to interact with.

Diane and her husband have two teenagers and a dog. They love the lake life – being outdoors, kayaking, gardening, attending their kids’ events, and going out on the pontoon are her favorite things to do.

Diane has worked at Country Lumber for four years. She represents us at Chamber of Commerce meetings and community events. She’s a big part of what makes our workplace work, and we’re glad to have her on the team!

Cabin Season – Country Lumber Launch Center in Wahkon

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

According to the Department of Revenue, there are 124,000 cabins in Minnesota. Many of them are on the over 90,000 miles of lakeshore around the state. Heading “up north” for the weekend is a tradition in Minnesota, and the recreation, relaxation, and communion with nature is part of our high standard of living.

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The Launch Center, 407 Bennett St. Wahkon MN

Owning a cabin isn’t all fun and games. Just like your home, your cabin needs maintenance and updates. That’s why Country Lumber opened the Launch Center in Wahkon back in 2006.

The Launch Center is a Country Lumber showroom conveniently located in the heart of lake cabin country, on the south side of Mille Lacs Lake. Just like our Becker showroom, customers can shop for options in roofing, siding, windows, doors, millwork, and much more. There are no scheduled hours at the Launch Center, but Chip takes appointments with builders, buyers, and cabin owners who want to shop, and products are delivered from Becker.

The Launch Center can be your headquarters for fishing too. We have seasonal boat slips, guide service, a fish cleaning setup, restrooms with showers, and half/full day boat rental.

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Launch Center showroom

We invite you and/or your company to consider hosting employee seminars, workshops, conferences, family reunions, or employee gatherings for up to 30 people. Launch Center amenities include a large conference table, galley kitchen and a 60” big screen – perfect for presentations or watching sporting events and movies.

Contact Chip Frederickson at chipf@countrylumber.us or 612-221-6923 for Launch Center rental rates or to schedule a visit to the showroom.