Nothing sets Jeremy Van Wagoner’s creative juices flowing like giving a house a thorough makeover.
Pinnacle Remodeling, Van Wagoner’s company, specializes in home renovations such as bathroom and kitchen remodels, decks, fencing and home additions.
For Van Wagoner satisfaction comes from helping homeowners transform an everyday dwelling into a showpiece that matches their taste and style.
A pencil and paper are as essential to the process as a saw and a hammer, he said.
“When I walk into a house, I instantly get ideas of what we could do,” he said. “A lot of times I’ll start out with some sketches. I’ll do a three-dimensional drawing, and then we can talk about it. I like hand drawing as opposed to using a computer because it’s more personal.”
For the past four years, many of Van Wagoner’s projects have involved features made from decorative concrete, a modern building material that’s troweled onto vertical surfaces like stucco. It’s then tooled and sculpted with various implements while still wet. Eventually the monolithic structure is dyed to resemble stone blocks that were cut and carefully stacked in place.
Van Wagoner learned the craft by taking a class on decorative concrete, and then refined his technique through practice and by watching instructional videos.
A floor-to-ceiling arch made from sculpted concrete is central to a bar that divides the kitchen from the living room in Pinnacle Remodeling’s latest project.
Sometimes, inspiration strikes in the middle of a project. For that reason, Van Wagoner suggests that homeowners budget an additional 20 percent in addition to the contractor’s original estimate.
Van Wagoner suggested that a copper foot rail installed in front of the bar would add a nice touch. The owners agreed, and they were delighted with the result. Later, a similar copper rail was added to the deck outside.
While contemplating options for the deck project, Van Wagoner and the homeowner agreed to fill screw holes with wooden plugs. He bought a couple of plug cutters, special wood-cutting bits that chuck into a drill. A couple of his workers spent a few days cutting about 7,000 wooden plugs.
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Van Wagoner has been running his own remodeling business for 12 years. Prior to that, he worked for his father, who is also a contractor. When the recession hit in 2008, new-home construction in Billings tumbled by 40 percent from a year earlier. Housing starts didn’t recover to their 2007 levels until 2013.
Van Wagoner said his business didn’t slow down as much as it would have if he had been involved in new-home construction.
Even though new-home construction has rebounded, Van Wagoner is happy with the niche he serves: home renovations.
Many homeowners wonder whether a home renovation project will pay for itself in added value when it’s time to sell. Experts say the payback depends on several factors, such as how much the renovation costs and when you plan to sell the house.
Susan Clark, a broker with Re/Max of Billings, said kitchen and bathroom renovations, new flooring and fresh paint all enhance the value of a home.
“If the carpet is worn and the paint is peeling, that’s going to affect the value,” Clark said.
A kitchen renovation can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $75,000, depending on whether the job includes new appliances and cabinets, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, an industry group.
Sometimes a kitchen renovation is as simple as refinishg cabinets, replacing hardware and replacing countertops and flooring, Clark said.
Rich Naylor, owner of My Handyman Service and Construction, said bathroom renovations are one of his most frequent projects he does. Prices vary, depending on the customer’s needs.
“If you wanted to do a remodel and put the house on the market in the next two months, your solution could be as easy as countertops and fixtures,” Naylor said. On the other hand, a homeowner who plans to remain in the home for a long time might not shy away from a more extensive renovation, he said.
While some renovations are more likely to add value to a home. Other’s don’t have much of an effect. In Montana, swimming pools and hot tubs don’t usually add a lot of value because many homeowners worry about maintenance, Clark said. On the other hand, a triple-car garage almost always enhances the value of a home because modern families often need extra space to store vehicles and other stuff.