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.


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.

Picture6 (1)

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.

Employee Spotlight: Jim

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

Jim Jim Dingmann is another fairly new face at Country Lumber. He has been with us for five months, working as an Estimator. Aside from being the “new kids,” Jim and I also share a preference for strong black coffee – the darker the better!

Jim lives in St Cloud with his beautiful wife of twenty-four years, Brenda. The couple are proud parents of two young adult daughters, Jennifer and Mikaela. When he’s not working at Country Lumber, Jim likes hunting, fishing, photography, woodworking, and riding motorcycle. His dream vacation would involve hitting the open road and going somewhere scenic on his motorcycle.

I asked Jim what he likes about working at Country Lumber, and he said that he likes the working environment where, “we can work hard and still have an enjoyable experience.” The fun and productive environment is a direct result of our great staff at Country Lumber. We’re glad to have Jim as part of our team!

Deck Materials Comparison

By: Karah Hawkinson, Social Media Coordinator

The best home improvement project we ever did was putting a deck on our house. When we bought our home there was just a second story sliding glass door to nowhere. I remember looking out and dreaming of a place where I could sit with my morning coffee, access the backyard, and grill in the summer.

When we finally had the deck built, I was like a kid on Christmas morning. The morning after the deck surface was put on, before the railings were added or the stairs were finished, I finally unlocked that useless door and walked outside with a cup of coffee. As I sat in the middle of my incomplete deck, all I could do was smile.


Year Three: Time to refinish again

 Fast forward a year, and I wasn’t smiling any more. I still loved my deck, but staining it is a HUGE job for amateurs who don’t own a paint sprayer. Protecting a wood deck with stain is vital. Harsh weather conditions cause unprotected wood to wear, and eventually rot. We’ve gone through the staining process every three years, and the job doesn’t get easier. You have to haul the grill and furniture down the stairs, powerwash the deck, wait for it to dry, scrape away the old peeling stain, and meticulously apply the new layer.

Properly maintaining the finish on a lumber deck is a lot of work, but doing it yourself saves money. With renting a power washer and buying supplies, it costs about $200 every three years (homeadvisor.com), plus two or three days of your time. If you don’t have the time or skills to do your own maintenance, you can hire it out. According to a pro contractor I spoke with, having someone come pressure wash, scrape, and refinish a 10×12 deck costs about $2000 every three years, and the process still takes several days.

Building with cedar instead of treated lumber reduces the maintenance burden. Cedar is more dense and rot-resistant than treated lumber. It costs more upfront, but the only maintenance it needs is an annual washing and coat of sealer.

AFCO Railings

A maintenance-free deck

 Maintenance-free decking is the ultimate labor-saving option. Composite decking materials resist damage and since they’re not absorbent, they don’t rot. The disadvantage is that maintenance-free costs more upfront.

According to Trex, a maintenance-free 10×12 deck (basic rectangle with substructure, deck, and railings – no stairs) costs about $2900 in materials. Compare that to cedar at about $1500, or treated lumber at about $1200 for materials (decks.com estimator). You can see that the upfront cost difference is significant. But does it save you money in the long run?

An untreated wood deck has a lifespan of about 15 years. With regular maintenance, that can be extended to about 20 years. With basic maintenance, cedar should last about 25 years. A composite deck will last 25-30 years.

Let’s lay this out in chart form so we can compare:


As you can see, though it’s a bigger up-front investment, the long-term ownership cost per year is lowest when you choose maintenance-free materials, not to mention all the time you save!

Whatever material you inherited when you bought your home, or what you choose when building, make sure you maintain your deck properly to protect your investment and keep it safe and stable for many years.

*Prices listed in this blog post are rough estimates calculated by various cited websites. For an accurate estimate of your project costs, visit our showroom.