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Beware! Spring Thaw in Vilas County Can Mean Wet Basements

Here in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, spring is long-waited and well celebrated. Say goodbye to shoveling, scraping windshields, and tough driving conditions! For your home, spring thaw equals a new set of problems. You have just conquered the dangers of ice dams pushing water through your roof – now that pesky snow is seeping into your basement! 90% of homes suffer basement leaks, and, in Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, fast melting snow is often the culprit. North Twin Builders reminds homeowners to watch for signs of a wet basement this spring, to take preventive steps, and to address the issues that create this threat to your home.

Why You Should Worry About a Wet Basement

You should first direct your attention to your stored belongings. Even a little moisture can be detrimental to stored books, paper, photographs or clothing. Getting rid of the water will not prevent more problems. Besides the potential for mold, you could be looking at deterioration of the interior of the basement as well as serious structural damage.

Water can seep in through cracks in the foundation or through weakened mortar joints. It can get in around windows or utility openings not installed correctly. It can even be forced up through cracks in the floor! Your first instinct might be to try to patch these cracks up, to prevent water getting in. However, waterproofing and patching only addresses the penetration, and water can always find another way in.

With any home maintenance problem, North Twin Builders recommends avoiding the quick and seemingly easy solutions in favor of a long term fix. Or better yet, make sure your home is built by an experienced contractor who applies building science to reduce the potential for future problems like this. Although preventing future water leakage into your basement should be handled by a professional, there are some things you can do to lessen the problem.

Control the Water Flow around Your home

It is important to identify where the water in your basement is coming from. You may be surprised to hear that your roof could be to blame. If the downspouts from your roof and gutters are not directed properly, they can create a rush of water aimed right at your foundation. To prevent this, make sure that any downspouts are directed at least 10 feet past the foundation, preferably onto a sloped surface that will carry the water away from the house. Make sure to keep gutters free of debris, snow and ice.

The snow on the ground around your home is another source. If your yard is not properly sloped, the melting snow will naturally flow towards the foundation. In some problem areas you can be proactive by clearing all snow away from the exterior of your home. Shovel it back about 5 feet, and make sure that the water can run downhill away from your home as it melts.

Call a Professional to Prevent Future Wet Basements

If water is flowing from your yard into your basement, you have a landscaping issue. Ideally, your lawn should slope away from your home because, as we all know, water runs downhill. It’s recommended that the top of your foundation should sit roughly 8 inches above the soil. Also, any plants around your home should be at least 2 feet from the foundation. The general rule is 1 inch of slope per foot of distance from your home for at least 6 feet.

Although you should take the preventive steps discussed, it is important to get to the root of the problem. It is likely that your yard is in need of re-grading, in addition to fixing the penetration issues in your foundation. North Twin Builders can provide you with solutions for your foundation and re-grading. For manicured lawns and extensive landscaping, we recommend also contacting Custom Landscaping of Eagle River or your preferred landscaper.

Contact North Twin Builders for all your home repairs this spring!

North Twin Builder’s Guide to Local Chambers in Northern WI

How Can a Local Chamber of Commerce Help You?

Maybe you are considering a vacation in the beautiful Northwood’s of Wisconsin or Upper Michigan. Contacting the local Chamber of Commerce is a great way to start your vacation plans. Chambers can provide information about local accommodations, great places to eat, and ideas for how to spend your time. You may even be able to request or download a visitor’s guide to keep all of the information right at your fingertips.

See more at:



Planning your trip to the Northwoods of Wisconsin or Upper MI this summer?

Planning your trip to the Northwoods this summer. Perhaps our home town of Phelps Wisconsin that borders the beautifulUpper Michigan will be your destination this year!


Remodeling Your Kitchen? Consider A Kitchen Island!

North Twin Builders can help you create a custom kitchen design that matches your unique tastes and  kitchen remodeling needs.

The main reasons homeowners decide to undertake a kitchen remodel project are to create more space, improve the usability and update the appearance. Incorporating an island is a great way to unite all of these reasons, while making your newly remodeled kitchen specially designed for you! Before settling on a style for your kitchen island, read these tips from North Twin Builders.

Consider Space And Storage…

Evaluate the size of your kitchen to determine if an island will work for you. An island should have a minimum of three feet of space around it as to not interfere with appliances or cupboard doors. If your kitchen is frequented by more than one cook at a time, this free space should be increased to at least five feet. If you are concerned about floor space, you might like a portable island on wheels that can be easily moved out of the way as needed.

Although a kitchen island may take away from overall floor space, the increase in storage room can be extraordinary. Utilize your island by including custom cupboards and storage space. Your island should reflect your needs so think about where your current kitchen is lacking in storage, as well as what items you use frequently or would like to draw attention to. Adding open shelves on the side can give you a great spot for storing your collection of cookbooks. Or if you are a wine-lover, build in a custom wine rack for easy access and creative display of your favorite vintages. The kitchen is often the hub of the home – a personalized island can help you reduce the clutter and better enjoy your kitchen.

Consider Usability And Function…

The possibilities are endless when it comes to how an island can increase the usability of your kitchen. Maybe you are just looking to add extra, or more informal, seating. Kitchen islands are great gathering spots for entertaining, as well as providing a space for the kids to hang out or do homework. Determine how much seating you would like and allow for counter overhang so you can push in stools or chairs.

If your inner chef is feeling suffocated, you can consider adding a range top to the island. Incorporate a butcher block to increase space for prep work, or maybe a secondary sink area. Make sure that your new island doesn’t interfere with the workability of your kitchen by placing it out of the direct path between the main sinks, refrigerator and stove. Whatever features you choose, including an island in your kitchen remodel project will add functionality to the area.

Consider Appearance And Style…

A kitchen island will naturally be the focal point of the room and allows you to tie in or add to the style of your kitchen. How you will use the island will dictate some of it’s design but there is room for creativity. Feel free to mix and match different colors, finishes or textures when choosing a design for your kitchen island. Select an open shelf design or decorative glass doors or both. Go with a less conventional shape to add dimension to the room. Don’t forget decorative lighting and attractive, comfortable seating. Whether your island neatly matches the rest of the room or is an eye-catching contrast item, it will definitely be the centerpiece of your newly remodeled kitchen!

Contact North Twin Builders Today For Your Kitchen Remodeling Consultation!


Ice Dams in Northern Wisconsin: Part 3

In parts 1 and 2 of this blog, North Twin Builders discusses the causes and short-term solutions for ice dams.  When your homes heat escapes through the roof, it melts the standing snow and forms an ice dam that has the potential to do serious harm. Most of the short-term solutions are focused on the external factors of ice dams, like snow and ice. Why not focus your attention on the one factor that you can control – your home. Instead of wasting your time and money, North Twin Builders recommends getting to the root of the problem and going for the long-term solution. There are two ways you could do this –

Long-Term Solution #1 – Build your home right in the first place!

This could be seen as prevention instead of a solution. However, it deserves discussion. Too many new homes are built just to code, and are not designed to withstand Northern Wisconsin’s climate. By applying building science techniques, an experienced home builder can prevent ice dam problems from occurring in the first place. There’s no better solution than eliminating the possibility of a problem!

If your home is not properly air sealed, you will be plagued with ice dams every year! Good insulation and proper ventilation are also important, but if heat isn’t leaking out of your home, your insulation won’t be put to the test. Also, a well-sealed home will increase your level of comfort and decrease your heating bills.

The whys for having your home built right are endless. You may be concerned about the original expense of building – you may pay slightly more initially but you are going to save money EVERY YEAR with an air sealed home! Your home is a long-term investment so it’s important to see the long-term, big picture. Why not prevent future expenses and hassles?

Long-Term Solution #2 – Hire a professional contractor to fix the problem!

Don’t waste time and money trying out the Band-Aid techniques laid out in Part 2 of this blog. Most don’t work well, you risk more damage to your home and broken bones, and they don’t FIX THE PROBLEM! No matter which Band-Aid, it will have to be reapplied throughout the whole season, and then you will be faced with the same dangerous ice dams next year. Why bother?

As soon as you realize you have an ice dam issue, call a licensed ‘truly professional’ roofing contractor to eliminate the internal factors. An experienced professional can get rid of the problem once and for all, without causing any disruption to your life. After removing the roof sheathing and present insulation, a good contractor will spray foam onto the interior surface to prevent air leakage. Your home’s heat will no longer be warming your roof and melting the snow. A cold roof means no ice dams!

Beware of contractors that look to solve your problem by simply adding insulation or ventilation. Although poorly installed insulation and lack of proper ventilation are often an issue, controlling air leakage should be the first priority. Even the insulations with the highest R-values don’t work as well as the outside temperatures drop.

The whys for fixing the root of the problem are similar to the reasons to build your home right in the first place. You are no longer faced with a reoccurring ice dam threatening your home. The temperature inside will be more comfortable, and your furnace won’t have to work as hard to maintain the heat. You will notice a significant drop in your heating bills immediately. A properly air sealed home can reduce propane usage by a full 500 gallon tank a year! With the price of propane hitting a high of over $6.00 per gallon this year, this could mean almost $1500 in savings for heat in just one year. That puts the expensive of hiring a roofing contractor, the only reasonably why not, into perspective!

Skip the Band-Aids – Get rid of ice dams permanently!

Don’t take our word for it, check out these great resources about ice dams!

Contact North Twin Builders Today To Completely Solve Your Ice Dam Problem!



Ice Dams in Northern Wisconsin: Part 2

In part 1 of this blog, North Twin Builders explains how to recognize ice dams and the dangers they present to your home. Part 2 examines some possible short-term solutions to get rid of ice dams. Although some of these solutions may work, it is important to understand that ice dams are a long-term problem and it is more cost-effective to eliminate the threat permanently than to keep applying Band-Aids. Here are some examples -

Band-Aid #1 Shoveling snow off roof:

WHY: In theory, if you have no snow on your roof, ice dams won’t form and therefore, no problem.

WHY NOT: If you live in Northern Wisconsin or Upper Michigan, you are already busy shoveling your walkway, driveway, mailbox, etc. after each new snowfall. Besides being very time-consuming, any options that require you to climb up on a slippery roof should be considered hazardous to your health. You don’t want to break a bone at the height of snowmobile season!

IMPROVEMENT: Purchase a roof rake, which allows you to knock the snow off your roof from the ground. Even a little snow lead to an ice dam so clearing snow, like all of the temporary fixes, is not an actual solution.

Band-Aid #2 Throw salt on the roof:

WHY: Salt melts ice, right? With no ice, the chance of water damage goes down.

WHY NOT: First of all, it’s practically impossible to stand on the ground and successfully toss salt up two stories in the air and trust it to land where you want. So, again, this option presents the possibility of you breaking your leg, which is never desired. Secondly, the quantity of salt it would require to effect the ice can cause damage to your roofing shingles or roofing nails.

IMPROVEMENT: Calcium chloride deicer presents less of a risk to your actual roof, but can still stain shingles and cause corrosion on your gutters or siding. And you would need a lot!

Band-Aid #3: Break the ice off by hand:

WHY: You might consider using a handy tool to chop up ice and hack it off. Get rid of the ice, get rid of the dangers of ice dams. And for free, all the better!

WHY NOT: The first two steps should have made it clear that homeowner + icy roof = possible broken bones. If not done carefully, hacking at ice with a hammer, chisel or ice pick could easily damage your roof as well as your body.


Band-Aid #4: Install heating cables:

WHY: Heating cables placed around the edge of your roof will keep ice ridges from forming. Water will be able to flow freely off of the roof instead of being pushed into house underneath.

WHY NOT: This is not a cheap option. After the initial expense of purchasing, your electric bill will take a hit. Also, ice dams can form above the heat cables and around them and create even more risk to your gutters and home exterior.

IMPROVEMENT: First do your research and then leave the installation up to professionals. Heating cables are only effective if installed properly.

Band-Aid #5: Hire a professional to use steam:

WHY: Well, at least you are not risking that broken leg. A professional will use steam to melt the ice, which poses less of a threat to your roof.

WHY NOT: Maybe if you live somewhere that freezing temperatures occur only once during the winter, this would be a good idea. However, in Northern Wisconsin, this professional would have to pretty much move in to keep up with the ice and snow that seems to magically reappear overnight.

IMPROVEMENT: Instead of calling a professional to melt the ice, call an experienced roofer like North Twin Builders!

Fix the Underlying Problems Causing Ice Dams

The only real solution for ice dams is to look at the culprit causing them – your home! All of the Band-Aids are only temporary, if they work at all. Each presents the potential to cause more damage to your home. And a broken leg. Read Part 3 of this blog to learn how and why a long-term solution is the only one.

Keep following North Twin Builders Blog for the answer to ice dams!



Ice Dams in Northern Wisconsin: Learn about the causes and danger of ice dams – Part 1

As we come to the end of this record-breaking winter here in Vilas County, North Twin Builders reminds homeowners to watch out for ice dams. It is important to know how to recognize ice dams, be cautious when trying to deal with them, and seek a long-term solution.

Most homeowner first notice icicles hanging from the edge of their roof or gutters. However, it’s common to not be able to see ice dams developing from the ground as they tend to form around chimneys and skylights, and climbing on the roof in the winter for an inspection can be very risky. Understanding what causes ice dams and how to prevent them are a homeowner’s best tool against this danger.

Why Does My Home Have Ice Dams?

Ice dams are caused by a combination of building flaws in your home, cold weather and the natural insulation properties of all that snow Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Michigan are blessed with. The heat from your home creates a stack affect, pushing warm air up through the ceiling and attic, where it collects and creates pressure in the peaks of your roof. If your home isn’t air sealed, your insulation is put to the test. A lack of proper insulation and ventilation allows this heat to drift out through your attic and roof.

This escaping heat then melts the standing snow and causes a stream of water to run down the roof. As the water reaches the overhang or gutters, where the inside temperature of your home has less affect, the water freezes. As new snow falls and melts, the runoff water is blocked by the formed ice ridges, and is pushed back up and potentially through the roof. If you hadn’t been thinking about those hanging icicles, you will be when you notice water spots on your ceiling!

Why Should I Be Concerned About Ice Dams?

Water damage to the inside of your home is not the only problem ice dams can cause. The ice can loosen shingles or cause gutters to tear off, leaving you with plenty of maintenance chores come spring. If you try to get rid of ice dams yourself, you may accidentally cause even more harm. As hanging icicles break off, they can damage property below and should be considered a threat to people passing underneath. It’s important to recognize these icicles for what they are – a threat to your home’s safety!

If your attention is first caught by a drip in your ceiling, chances are you already have internal problems developing. If left unattended, you could be faced with serious structural harm that will cost you tons of time and money. It’s important to be pro-active when it comes to ice dams to prevent these wide-spread damages.

Why, If Only…

In an ideal situation, you were thinking about ice dams before the year’s snow began falling and took precautions to prevent them, thanks to your handy home maintenance checklist. Or, even better yet, your home was built so well that you don’t have to think about ice dams at all! However, if you are reading this, chances are neither of these statements fit your current situation.

In the second part of this blog, North Twin Builders will discuss some of the methods you may consider for solving your ice dam problem in the short-term. However, long-term action is absolutely necessary. Learn how to fix this problem and the underlying issues that cause ice dams permanently!

Check back on our blog next week for ice dam

solutions from North Twin Builders!



Phelps School District: Making Phelps Wisconsin A Great Place To Build A Home

If you are considering building a home for your family in Northern Wisconsin, our small town of Phelps Wisconsin is a great choice! In addition to a friendly community, beautiful scenery, and great local events, Phelps also boasts of a wonderful school district. The Phelps School District is made even better by the amazing support it receives from the local community, dedicated to helping it’s youth receive a good education.

Involved Teachers at Phelps School

Phelps students are definitely receiving a good education! Phelps School District boasts of an average student/teacher ratio of 6:1, allowing each student to get the individual attention they need. Smaller class sizes also allow for better communication with parents who want to stay involved in their child’s education. More one-on-one time ensures that students who are struggling won’t be left behind. The teachers take a pro-active, personal approach so that each student succeeds to the best of their abilities.

School Technology in Phelps, Wisconsin

The Phelps School prides itself on the integration of technology throughout the school. Every 4K through 5th grader is provided with iPods and iPads to use in class and take home on weekends or for projects. 6th through 12th graders, as well as all teachers, receive a personal laptop to complete assignments, keep up-to-date on grades and schedules, and maintain communication between the teachers and students.

Every teacher maintains a classroom website, where students can easily check in for information about assignments and due dates. The school also uses the Infinite Campus system, which allows both students and parents to log in and check assignment deadlines, view grades, and receive notifications of student absences or tardies. This is a great tool for parents to keep track of how well their child is doing in school!

Success at Phelps School

The Phelps School has received multiple recognitions of its excellence! US News and World Report has awarded the school a Bronze Award for top high schools in the nation for multiple years. Phelps has also received the No Child Left Behind Act Blue Ribbons Schools Award, as well as the New Wisconsin Promise School of Recognition Award for creating a learning environment that allows all children to succeed.

Students that attend the Phelps School prove their success with above state average test scores as well as a high graduation rate of over 90%. With an abundance of sports and extracurricular activities, students are give the opportunity to express their individuality. A first-time visitor can see creativity being expressed in the artwork displayed throughout the school, as well as a hands-on approach to learning both in and outside of classrooms. The Phelps School District’s mission says it best: “Create an environment of opportunity for our youth through excellence in education”.

Phelps, Wisconsin – A Great Place to Raise a Family

Considering building a home for your family in Phelps or the surrounding area?

Contact North Twin Builders today to plan your quality custom home!


Design Builders: Making a Plan from the Ground Up

A while back we talked about the design-build system’s main advantage, the personal element. While that is a huge bonus, it is far from the only thing that makes a design-build system superior to other forms of construction. Every part of a project – planning to execution, money and time – is more efficient than with the architect-contractor method.

design builder is an expert in both architecture and on-site construction. This one simple fact makes a world of difference. Just because an idea works well on paper doesn’t mean it will work well in execution. Conversely, when you focus solely on construction, it is easy to lose site of the ‘larger picture’ of the project as a whole. Having expertise in both fields allows the design builder to put together a plan in detail right from the start, rather than having to go through multiple revisions.

This difference goes right to the bottom line of the project. Less revisions and changes to the design means less time taken to build a project and, in the end, a lower cost. When a plan is put together with a detailed knowledge of the crew building it, the designer can play to their individual strengths. This keeps the construction moving along smoothly, which again will lower the cost and time taken for a project.

At North Twin Builders we have the expertise to get your project off the ground and keep it moving. Our knowledge of the trades, coupled with a desire to keep the client involved in every phase of the project, keeps our customers happy and our projects in demand.

Thank you for following along on our blog.

John Volkmann



Ten Ways FOCUS ON ENERGY Can Help You Save Money in Wisconsin

North Twin Builders is proud to partner with Focus On Energy 

to help our clients become more energy-efficient!

Focus On Energy has been working with Wisconsin residents since 2001, achieving international recognition for its efforts. The program has worked with over 2.7 million households in the state, helping homes and businesses save $730 million dollars! The following is a list of programs and ways that Focus On Energy can help your household become more energy-efficient.

1) Home Performance With Energy Star Program

- Schedule a home energy assessment to determine how much energy your home is using. Following the recommendations given, you can add value to your home, reduce your energy bills by up to 20%, and improve the comfort of your home. The best part – this program takes household income into consideration, making energy-efficiency attainable for everyone!

2) Express Energy Efficiency Program

- Focus On Energy will do a walk through your home and explain ways to reduce your energy use, as well as installing free products, such as energy-efficient light bulbs or shower heads. This 45 minute appointment will help you save money right away!

3) Lighting And Appliance Program

- Did you know that Energy Star washers can use 35% less water and 20% less energy than older models? Or that your lights make up 20% of your electric bill? This program can help you find and take advantage of savings on Energy Star products.

4) Appliance Recycling Program 

- Don’t know what to do with that old fridge you recently replaced with an energy-efficient model? If it’s still running, call Focus On Energy and you could receive a $40 reward, along with the reassurance that your appliance will be recycled responsibly. If you haven’t replaced your old model yet, check out the Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator on the Focus on Energy website.

5) Attic Air Sealing And Insulation Cash-Back Rewards Program

- Improperly insulated attics can allow heat to escape your home. Hire a Home Performance with Energy Star Trade Ally to insulate and seal this trouble area and you could be reimbursed 75% of the cost. And we promise that you will notice the difference in your home’s air temperature and thus heating bill!

6) Residential Rewards and Enhanced Rewards Program

- Combining energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning units with #5 above can save you up to 20% on your utility bills. An Energy Star furnace alone can save you as much as $400 on your electric bill in a year. As if these aren’t enough reasons to upgrade, Focus On Energy offers cash-back rewards for buying energy-efficient models!

7) Geothermal Heat Pumps Program

- If you are considering renewable energy options, this program is for you! Check the equipment specifications and you may be eligible for a $650 cash-back reward.

8) Solar Electric Systems Program

- Solar electric systems use sunlight to generate electricity, and can significantly reduce your energy usage and costs. This program rewards homeowners for their steps towards energy-efficiency with a cash-back as high as $2400.

9) Focus On Energy New Homes Programs

- By hiring a builder that partners with Focus On Energy (North Twin Builders!), you ensure that your new home will be at least 10% more efficient than building codes require. With attention to energy-efficiency throughout the design and building process, your contractor can help you increase the indoor quality of air, improve comfort, and save you money in the future on utility bills. To ensure that your home meets the efficiency requirements, a building performance consultant will conduct two separate site visits to inspect your home and perform tests. Your home will receive a Focus On Energy New Home certification, which can increase your homes long-term value and future sale potential.

And Last But Not Least…  Focus On Energy Business Incentives

- Many people in Vilas County own small businesses or rental buildings with multiple units. Focus On Energy has programs to assist businesses of all size, including energy assessments and custom options.

Contact Focus On Energy Today To Learn More

Visit the Focus On Energy website or call 1-800-762-7077

With our alliance to Focus On Energy, North Twin Builders is able to better provide our clients with  informed options when remodeling or building a new home. This, in turn, gives our clients the chance to save money on future utility bills while making their home more comfortable and lessening their environmental footprint. The bottom line – you see the Focus On Energy logo on our website because we are dedicated to helping our clients become as energy-efficient as possible!

Make The Commitment to Energy Efficiency Today - Contact North Twin Builders!


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