Is It Worth It? Resale Value of Home Renovations

Based on the influx of home improvement shows, you’d think home renovation jobs are always an improvement and equate to a higher resale value. But how much will that home improvement project cost and is it worth it in the long run? Our friends at and Hanley Wood bring us this informative infographic to show you the real costs of a home renovation.


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Building Safety Month: History of the International Code Council

construction of commercial buildingDid you know May is Building Safety Month?

It happens every May, and it’s a public awareness campaign established by the International Code Council (ICC) in conjunction with its worldwide members and professionals from the construction, design and safety industries. During this month the ICC helps individuals as well as businesses understand the need for codes, and their strong enforcement, as well as the need for a professionally trained workforce to maintain the system, all so we have safe and sustainable structures.

But why are building codes all that important you may wonder, and why should you care? Well, if you (or people you care about) live in, work in, or ever enter a building, you should consider stringent, professional building codes important!

History of the Codes

The establishment of building codes purportedly dates back to as early as 1800 BC. The first known building code was enforced by the Babylonian emperor Hammurabi, and called the Code of Hammurabi. It simply stated “If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.”

Several building regulation codes were passed throughout the subsequent years, sometimes in reaction to disastrous events such as the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the Great Baltimore Fire in 1904. Much of the earlier codes were focused on fire resistance, but later codes focused as much on public health.

In the early twentieth century building regulations in the United States were based on building codes developed by regional model code groups: the Building Officials Code Administrators International (east coast and midwest), Southern Building Code Congress International (southeast) and the International Conference of Building Officials (west coast and midwest).

About the International Code Council

While the regional codes were deemed effective, in the early 1990s the three model code groups decided to organize and in 1994 they formed the International Code Council, a non-profit organization, as an effort to develop codes without regional limitations. The first edition of the International Building Code was published in 1997 and was based on the codes previously used by all three organizations. The ICC has been in existence ever since and still holds the mission of providing high quality codes and standards to create safe buildings and in turn protect the health, safety and welfare of people. The ICC’s International Codes® are comprehensive building safety and fire prevention codes that safeguard people at home, at school and in the workplace.

Conclusion/How You Can Help

This year’s Building Safety Month theme is Building Codes: Driving Growth through Innovation, Resilience and Safety. Each week of May there is a specific theme about building safety. You can check out the International Code Council’s events on their website, learn more about building codes, use the resources they provide to assist you in promoting Building Safety Month in your community or find out how to become a sponsor. Because while they are hard at work making sure our buildings are inhabitable, most of us take for granted the safety of the structures we walk through and live in every day.

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Trending: Reclaimed Wood Adds Instant Character

Our collection of reclaimed wood boards are organized into groupings in our shop

Our collection of reclaimed wood boards are organized into groupings in our shop

It came as no surprise when recently we saw yet another article touting the popularity of reclaimed wood. This particular article, published by Marketplace/American Public Media, mentions its popularity while highlighting a Brooklyn-based design+build practice/sustainable lumber resource that is securing their supply of reclaimed wood from New York City water tanks when they are repaired. The article hints to the fact that the popularity of the wood means suppliers are sourcing it from less known or unusual places. You can listen to the full story here:


Repurposing salvaged wood is a popular trend so much so that you can pick up popular home design and home product magazines and see it splashed across the pages. We recently mentioned the popularity of reclaimed wood in our blog 5 Custom Home Trends for 2016.

5 Custom Home Trends for 2016

Using reclaimed wood gives homes a distinct, unique look while also benefiting the environment. It has character difficult to duplicate as it most likely grew in natural environments, and is sturdy and strong. Repurposed wood is now commonly used in flooring, on doors and wall treatments, as well as for materials for furniture and other home decor pieces. We’ve previously talked about its use in wainscoting in our blog Rustic Wainscoting: What It Is and Why It’s Important.

Rustic Wainscoting: What It Is and Why It’s Important

A few years ago our client Stoney Creek Inn commissioned our custom fabrication shop, JT Unique, to create a bar top matching an upper bar already installed in one of its hotels. We made the top from 100+ year old reclaimed lumber and sealed it with a hard epoxy coat to preserve it for years to come. Watch the video below to see the raw, unfinished wood turn into a beautiful, durable, preserved piece:

If you want to know more facts about reclaimed wood, check out our blog Reclaimed Wood: What It Is and What You Should Know About It.

Reclaimed Wood: What It Is and What You Should Know About It

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From Drab to Fab: Building Custom Hotel Furniture for the Hospitality Industry

It’s not everyday we talk about our work in the hotel industry, but there is always a lot going on behind the scenes at J. Thompson Builders for our hospitality client Stoney Creek Hotels. Today we give you a peek into one of our latest custom hotel furniture projects.

Last year we explained the finish work we completed for a new Stoney Creek Hotel in Independence, MO. We briefly told you the story behind our relationship with the hotel company. Again, in summary, we’ve helped in the building of Stoney Creek hotels since 1997. In 2009 J. Thompson Builders started its custom fabrication shop so we could take over engineering all of the interior trim and finish work for the hotel line.

How J. Thompson Builders Transforms a Hotel Into Something Way Cooler

The Stoney Creek Inn located in Galena, IL was one of the first Stoney Creeks, and we’ve worked on that specific property since 1997 before J. Thompson Builders was officially a company (we weren’t established until 2002). In the last year we have built 29 pieces of furniture for the hotel; what we call our custom “Bachelor Chest Combos.”

Prototype of our Bachelor Chest Combos for Stoney Creek hotels_custom hotel furniture by J Thompson Builders

The prototype of our Bachelor Chest Combos sitting in our office.

We purely started making them out of necessity. The Stoney Creek Hotels needed to upgrade their standard rooms to include a refrigerator and microwave due to driving custom desire and trends. We came up with the design, concept and plans simply by using a free 3D modeling software called SketchUp.

The finished product is more attractive and unique than the standard dresser once used in the hotels’ rooms, and it offers greater utility.

Bachelor Chest Before for Stoney Creek hotel_custom hotel furniture by J Thompson Builders

Bachelor Chest Combo_custom hotel furniture_Stoney Creek hotel

Just a few weeks ago we finished 15 more Bachelor Chest Combos in our shop and shipped them to the hotel.

Composition picture of Bachelor Chest Combos ready to ship to Stoney Creek Inn in Galena, IL_custom hotel furniture by J Thompson Builders

Composition of Bachelor Chest Combos ready to ship to Stoney Creek Inn in Galena, IL

So if you’re ever staying in a Stoney Creek hotel, you’ll see traces of our work all around, whether you’re lounging in your room, grabbing a drink in the bar or swimming in the pool!

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How Millennials Are Affecting Home Buying

millennial laying on grass with hat over face in las vegas tshirtAre millennials buying homes or are they instead staying in their parents’ home and living up to their reputation of being entitled, lazy and addicted to social media? The answer may not be so simple.

How Did Millennials Get That Bad Rap?

First off, let’s give millennials a fair shot and understand why they may have gotten a bad rap. In a CNBC article titled Why Do Millennials Get Such a Bad Rap at Work?, Lindsey Pollack, consultant and author of Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders explains the negative labels are often the results of misperceptions. For example, when it comes to laziness Pollack says the laziness label “may simply be a reflection of millennials’ comfort level with technology. Having grown up with Google and GPS-enabled smartphones, they’re used to finding the answers with just a few clicks.” Because of this millennials are going to the take the “quickest, easiest route.” It’s not that they don’t want to work hard, “they just want to know why they are in their role and what the larger goal is,” says Pollak.

More Millennials Living at Home

Now that we have our misperceptions of this generation out of the way, let’s talk about their home buying trends. A 2015 Forbes article titled More Millennials Living At Home Than Ever Before shows more of them are living at home than five years ago regardless of the economic recovery, based on a report by the Pew Research Center. The national unemployment rate for millennials was at 12.4% in 2010 and declined to 7.7% percent in 2015, yet millennials are still choosing to live at home. Why?

Again, it may not be as simple as to label millennials as lazy. Millennials actually have “more debt, a higher cost of living and stagnant relative wages,” says Luke Delorme, Research Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research. Delorme backs up this fact by explaining that student loan debt was at about $509 billion in 2006, and increased to about $1,360 billion in 2015, an increase of 167%.

Richard Fry, a Senior Researcher at Pew Research Center, agrees that the higher cost of living and student debt factor into the lack of millennials buying homes, but the article also points out the lack of home buying could be related to changing attitudes. Fry, as well as a millennial profiled in the article, point out millennials (and probably their parents) are more accepting of the living arrangements and more mindful that it’s wise to pay down debt first, establish a solid financial footing and get ahead before jumping into a home purchase.

Yet the Data May Not Be So Simple

Millennials still comprise 68% of all first-time buyers, according to a NAR 2015 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report. Millennials appear to be most attracted to markets that are growing, yet affordable. Des Moines, Iowa ranks as #1 with 59% of millennials representing the shares of purchased mortgages, according to Other cities that made the top ten list of millennials purchasing the most mortgages include cities in Utah, Michigan, Wisconsin, Louisiana (several cities), Pennsylvania and Tennessee. You can see the full list here.

The take away: Millennials are still buying, yet they represent buyers who are truly ready to buy and able to handle the expenses as opposed to not being able to come up with the down payment or having to foreclose on the home.

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Selling a House? Don’t Do These 5 Things

House for sale_Sold signYou want your house to look its best when you’re selling it. Even if you don’t have skilled design resources at hand, or the money to invest in design or a lot of home improvements, there are simple ways you can make your house ready to sell. Here is what NOT to do if you want your house to sell fast.

DO NOT paint your walls bold colors. Keep the colors bright, yet neutral. Bold colors add an appealing touch to personalize your house, except when you are trying to sell it. Resort back to the standard white, beige and tans you see in your everyday basic house. Basic sells! At least when it comes to the color of painted walls.

DO NOT use wallpaper. Wallpaper designs are a personal choice which most buyers deem as time-consuming to remove. Temporary wallpaper products, as we mentioned in a recent blog (look below), are a hot trend, and the product simply peels away when it’s time to remove it. But even if you use a “easy to apply and remove” temporary product, your buyers may not know it’s easy to remove simply by looking at it.

8 Home Design Trends for 2016

DO NOT show your house with a converted bedroom. These days homeowners see their bedrooms as multifunctional, often using them as a home office, an exercise room, or using them for a myriad of other uses, such as a recording studio, a game room or even a walk-in closet. But when it comes time to sell, convert the room back into a bedroom. It’s difficult for the buyer to envision and consider what it may take to return the room back to its original purpose.

DO NOT add carpet on top of hardwood floors. Carpets are often perceived as germy, and unclean, particularly when a potential buyer has no idea if you have spilled something on it, or if your pets or kids may have had accidents on it. If you have hardwood floors, keep them uncovered. They score better selling points!

DO NOT make it obvious you have pets. Even with the growing amount of animal lovers, most buyers perceive a house as dirtier if they see pets or their accessories in your home. Remove all traces of your pet, including its food and toys, before you take photos of the house for the listing, as well as anytime the home is shown to a potential buyer.

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5 Custom Home Trends for 2016

This waterfall, just outside of the screened-in porch, leads to a patio.

Our custom home Augustine features a waterfall adorning the sloped yard just off the large screened-in porch, and leading to a patio.

Indoor-Outdoor Living

More and more homeowners desire that their indoor and outdoor spaces flow smoothly together. Dining areas are created outdoors or in a screened-in porch and fireplaces are built right into the patio.

Flexible Spaces

In 2011 as we were preparing for the birth of our second child we knew we would need help from family after our baby arrived. We didn’t have room for an addition, but we wanted our live-in guest to have a separate space, so instead we remodeled our partially finished basement into a mother-in-law suite.

We’re seeing an increase in “flexible spaces” in custom homes, i.e. spaces which can double as more than one purpose as a family’s needs change. For example many homeowners desire a home office because many more people now work from home, But they also want the flexibility to transition it into a bedroom and bath for when an aging parent moves into the home.

Watch a video of our project:

Source: Pinterest/

Source: Pinterest/

Large Showers

Big bathtubs take up large amounts of space and use mass amounts of water. Instead homeowners now want large 2-person showers with fancy gadgets. It gives them the luxury of a spa experience, and maximizes the use of space.

For inspiration for your own bathroom check out these two person shower ideas on Pinterest.

Reclaimed Lumber

An environmentally smart trend that’s not going away! We use reclaimed lumber in a variety of projects, and so are other manufacturers. It’s making appearances in not only flooring, but doors, furnishings and any other place you would use wood. Learn more about reclaimed wood, including how we use it in our blog Reclaimed Wood: What It Is and What You Should Know About It.

Energy Efficiency

Also often referred to as high performance homes, energy efficient homes are an ever growing trend for 2016 because they can offer up to 30% in energy savings in comparison to the typical new home, according to ENERGY STAR. But beyond that they deliver better quality, comfort and durability. In fact, according to an article by Builder called Is Energy Efficiency Cost Effective, the benefits of an energy efficient home have less to do with utility bill savings, and more to do with solving and preventing problems such as ice dams or cold drafts. Saving money is only another benefit.

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4 of the Coolest, Newest Products in Home Technology

Woman using virtual reality headset at SXSW

Source: Palmero

At the recent 2016 NAHB International Builders’ Show (held Jan. 19-21 in Las Vegas), virtual and augmented reality reigned, according to Digital Trends.

“The home improvement space is a fantastic place for AR and VR to take off,” said Beck Besecker, the CEO of Marxent Labs, a company building VR applications. While they build them for any industry it’s apparently builders dominating their sales.

When you think about it – as pointed out in the article – “You would never buy a $50,000 car without a test drive, yet when it comes to remodeling, people do it all the time.”

When building or remodeling a home, you can make all kinds of choices in materials, but you never actually know what it looks like until it’s finished.

Here’s the difference between the two technologies: Augmented reality blends virtual reality and real life where can people interact with virtual contents in real life, and can distinguish between the two. Virtual reality is a completely virtual world, which requires the use of headsets such as the Oculus Rift.

With either technology customers can see a project from all angles or see how a paint color or a piece of furniture or an appliance will look and fit in the room. Home builders can even use the technology with existing model homes by allowing customers to tour the home from their home via an app and a VR headset.

Audio and video analytics are a top home technology for 2016, according to CE Pro magazine. They believe this year we will see a decrease in the need for dedicated sensors monitoring such factors as temperature, motion, smoke and fire. Instead much of the monitoring will switch to audio and video such as mics that pick up the sounds of leaking pipes or gun shots, or cameras that use face recognition or monitor temperature via thermal imaging. It’s also predicted much of these analytics will be useful in determining the state of its residents including if a senior is showing signs of dementia.

Another technology CE Pro sees growing and expanding is home door technology. With such trends as homeowners renting their places via AirBNB as well as just wanting to keep their home secure the need for features directly on the door has increased. Some of the technologies include automated door locks, cameras, smart door bells, motorized shades and facial recognition — all integrated directly into the doors.

Inc. recently published a list of game changing inventions, and while few of them were home related, one is sure to change how our homes operate: Li-Fi. It’s a wireless optical technology which use LEDs for data transmission. Li-Fi is intended to be used with the LED light bulbs already used throughout businesses and homes. Now every light bulb can become a wireless hotspot! The technology comes thanks to a German physicist who first introduced it in 2011. It’s 100 times faster than standard Wi-Fi — Inc. says it can download 18 movies in one second!

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8 Home Design Trends for 2016

Sunrooms are making a comeback, except not in the traditional way.

Sunrooms are making a comeback, except not in the traditional way.

In the last blog we talked about the top 7 home building trends of 2016. For this blog we’ll cover the 8 home design trends you can expect to see in 2016.

In a recent Facebook post, we talked about inspiration coming from old homes. Particularly with an individual who desires a custom home, they desire a unique finished product, different from the rest of the homes in the neighborhood. Pulling ideas from older homes isn’t a new design trend, but we predict it will continue to grow in popularity. The design of older homes has stood the test of time so it’s not surprising that we continue to pull design ideas from them to incorporate into our newer, contemporary homes.

Here’s an interesting trend predicted by House Beautiful: The “Glamily” Room. They say more people desire a glamorous family room while still catering to those families with kids or pets. Bring in durable fabrics, such as outdoor fabrics built to withstand wear and stains, combined with functional furniture and pretty, practical flooring, and you have a beautiful living room that is family-friendly.

Cozy Nooks are a 2016 trend, predicts POPSUGAR. As our lives continue to get busier and busier, and increasingly more stressful as well, most homeowners want quiet, peaceful areas at home where they can retreat. The “nook” is not only an area you can sit to read a book, or enjoy your morning cup of coffee, but it’s also a place to meditate or just to take a breather when you walk in the door from a hectic day.

POPSUGAR also includes temporary and fun wallpaper designs in their predictions. Do you remember the days when homeowners started to shy away from wallpaper because it could be a grueling task to remove it, and the application could be tricky? Thanks to lots of advances in materials, wallpaper is much easier to apply and remove these days. Particularly if you use temporary wallpaper. It’s a self-adhesive removable wallpaper so there is no need for paste or water, and you simply peel it off when you are ready to remove it.

And another design prediction we love to hear from POPSUGAR is reclaimed wood. We’ve appreciated reclaimed wood for quite some time, using it in many of our projects. We don’t expect this trend to go away anytime soon especially with the ongoing respect for finding environmentally conscious materials.

Houzz recently released their list of 25 design trends for 2016, and here are some of our favorites:

Stainless steel appliances will stay, but it won’t be the shiny silver metal you’re accustomed to. Houzz is seeing a buzz on their site about colored stainless steel appliances such as black stainless steel or sunset bronze. Apparently Houzz took a poll, and two-thirds of those answering said they would consider using colored stainless steel appliances.

Heated entryway floors. This is such a great idea! Why haven’t we thought of doing this sooner? With a heated entry way – particularly in colder locations – the heat helps to quickly melt snow and dry boots.

Sunrooms. This is a luxury that’s gone to the wayside for those homeowners who want to take advantage of their space in more seemingly practical ways, but now (as with the nooks) more homeowners are realizing the value in spaces where they can retreat, relax and refresh. While not everyone will choose to include a sunroom in a custom home design, many are finding other ways to incorporate a sunroom by carving out a space wherever the sun hits in their homes, according to Houzz.

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The Top 7 Home Building Trends in 2016

While most energy efficiency upgrades prove expensive upfront, solar power has become much more affordable due to leasing programs.

While most energy efficiency upgrades prove expensive upfront, solar power has become much more affordable due to leasing programs.

Welcome to 2016! What can we expect to see trending in the home building industry this year?

Here’s our top 7:

1. New homes are back! According to Beth Braverman in an article written for The Fiscal Times she reminds us new home construction was one of the industries hit hardest during the housing bust in 2009. But single family home building increased 10% in 2015, and is expected to increase another 23% in 2016 according to the National Association of Home Builders. As well new home sales increased 15% in 2015 and are expected to increase 23% in 2016.

2. Buyers want green homes. Although higher in initial costs more affluent buyers are incorporating energy efficiency upgrades into their new homes. Over half of builders surveyed report they are working on green projects, according to a study from Dodge Data & Analytics. While most energy efficiency upgrades prove expensive upfront, one such technology has fallen in price dramatically: Solar Power! Using solar power leasing homeowners can pay by the month, resulting in a more affordable investment. One caveat: understand the lease terms and if you’ll have to stay in the home for several years to make it worth it.

3. 2016 may just be the year the smart home takes shape. It’s a technology we’ve talked about for some time, but yet it’s still in its infancy. Manufacturers have been working tediously to grow this market. We’ll see what 2016 has in store for this niche that many homeowners seem to desire. It’s time for manufacturers to fully catch up. Check out some of our past blogs on the subject including Smart Homes: Convenient AND Safe?, Smart Home Regrets and What’s Next for Smart Homes?

4. Open floor plans aren’t going away yet. Our active lifestyles mean formal spaces have no use in our homes. But instead we need our homes to be connected to work with the fluidity of our lives.

5. Gone are the days when homeowners thought of the basement solely as a man-cave or an entertainment room. Welcome to the time of the multipurpose basement. Homeowners continue to expand their ideas on the use of basement space creating a whole new living area and a true expansion of their home. Some ideas include meditation/yoga rooms, spa rooms, libraries and wine cellars.

6. Buyers are preparing their homes for multigenerational living. As more young people live with their parents longer into adulthood, and more aging adults are moving in with their children, our homes demand space for all of us to live together in harmony.

7. Home prices will rise. Although home prices will rise only moderately, according to Fiscal Times’ Braverman. She bases her opinion on a survey by Zillow which predicts home values to rise by a 3.5% average. The impending increase also indicates this year may be the time to build or buy before home prices grow exponentially.

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