Subscribe to the Design/Builders Blog

The Design Builder's Blog

How to Choose the Appropriate Finish for Stained Woodwork

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Fri, Mar 17,2017 @ 05:00 AM

How to Choose the Appropriate Finish for Stained Woodwork

Wood finsihing options for contractors


Stain can be a beautiful addition to any wood product.  As a general contractor or a flooring contractor, you have undoubtedly had many customers ask which stain would be best for their flooring, cabinets or other wood surfaces. When choosing which finish to go with, it is essential to consider some pros and cons of the available options.  With this information you help your customers make a more informed decision.  It can also help you identify and schedule the right services necessary for the work you need to complete.

Finishes can provide a protective outer layer, while keeping the look of the natural grains throughout the wood planks and pieces. Each individual finish will vary in appearance and some work better with certain woods while others do not.

Some options can be used as both a stain as well as a finish depending on the material you are finishing. When explaining to your customers the various finishes available for the work at hand, be sure to detail some of the following so they better understand the products available and can make an informed decision when choosing a finish.



Wood finishing product comparisonOne of the most common choices to go with, varnish provides a protective glossy overcoat. It comes in stained colors or clear. You can choose from water based or oil based and a small quantity can go a long way. The best part about varnish is that you can use it on wood both inside and outside of the home. Varnish can be very flammable so it is best to keep it away from open flames.



Beeswax protects the outside of the wood and when buffed down can provide a shiny outer coating. It should however only be used on wood materials that will be inside the home. Beeswax is available in both an oil and water based mixture. This is an eco-friendlier option if looking for a coating that is non-toxic to the environment.


Linseed Oil

Linseed oil finish on wood-WR.jpg

When used on wood water will not penetrate through the linseed oil surface and it provides a smooth, slick outer shine that other choices might not give. It should only be used over unsealed wood.  It too is highly flammable, so it should always be kept away from open flames. Linseed oil can be used both inside and outside for multiple wood projects and can easily be applied by someone with experience working with wood products


Wood Preserver

Wood preservers are available in both oil and water based.  Preservatives provide a way to protect the wood against insects and other intruders. It provides a clear, glossy coat over the wood that hardens and protects. It is recommended for exterior use. Wood preserver comes in a clear coat or can come in stained color.  


Wood Finishing Tips

  • Contractor Wood finishing tipsStay away from safflower oil and carnauba oil, since both are not highly rated for finishing stained wood.
  • Check for VOC ingredients on the label to find out if the finish you choose is eco-friendly. This will be extremely important for your customers who are trying to, or already have, decided to go green with their home or business and want eco-friendly products only.
  • Read the product label to find out what types of wood the product should not be used on. Even with years of experience, it’s easy to get various products mixed up and make mistakes.
  • Follow the guidelines given by the manufacturer to achieve the best result on the wood you’re sealing.
  • Always stain and finish the wood in a well ventilated, open area. Allow for plenty of time for the fumes to dissipate after the work is finished.  
  • When applying finishes protect yourself and workers from breathing harmful vapors. Also, make sure the homeowner and pets will not be closed in with the fumes when you leave.


Tom MastersGuest Blogger:  Tom Masters has been working in the construction industry since he was a child. Lately he prefers the business end and writing about the trade. He is currently working with Contractors Today


Topics: Remodeler Education, Green Considerations, Guest Blogs, Paints and Painting

LED Lighting Guide for Contractors

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Mon, Dec 05,2016 @ 05:00 AM

LED Lighting Guide for Contractors

light behind the door-WR.jpg


A clear understanding of how LED lighting works can open immense possibilities for contractors to be able to evaluate and compare performance of luminaires. It will also enable providers to propose the right luminaires for clients based on knowledge of light installations and how they are predicted to perform.

Benefits of LED Lighting

LED Lighting info for remodeling contractorsLED or light-emitting diode has revolutionized light installations. This type of lighting requires less energy and loses less heat. The life of a LED bub is longer compared to the traditional ones. Life spans are quoted by companies from 50,000 to 100,00 hours or nearly 100 times longer than the traditional bulb.

In addition, it does not need a lot of maintenance and replacement making it cost-effective. To demonstrate, a typical LED lighting will produce over 100 lumens per watt (LPW). Lumen is the amount of light emitted from a source.  A 100W incandescent bulb will produce the same luminosity but will use up more energy compared to LED bulbs.

Not only is LED cost-effective, it has outstanding color quality and excellent efficiency. Color rendering index (CRI) is the term used to define the ability of light or lamp to replicate the colors of an object on a scale of 1 to 100 where 100 is the equivalent of sunlight.

LED lighting is also smaller and compact, an easy and quick job for contractors.


What to Look for When Purchasing LED Lighting

The most important specification when buying LED is lumen output. This means that when proposing lights for certain living spaces, you will consider the amount of light it produces (brightness) and ensure it is adequate for your customers' requirements. For example, you will need brighter lights in working spaces such as the kitchen and dimmer lights in the bedroom to induce sleep.

reading the paper-WR.jpgThen you will need to look at the LPW or lumens per watt. Put simply, this is the amount of lumens produced for every watt that is used. The higher the number, the better it is in order to match the CCT or the correlated temperature (measurement of coolness or warmth) measured in kelvins (K). It indicates whether a light is warm, neutral or cool white in appearance. Finally, you have to compare the CRI, with a higher rating a better choice, that is, greater than 80 is rated as good and greater than 90, very good.


Other Features to Consider

Safety certifications vary across different regions in the world such as UL, ETL, CSA, NOM and CE. Products must be rated for moisture conditions and intended use/application such as dry, damp or wet. You might see two codes: ingress protection (IP) and insulation contact (IC). IP ratings consist of two numbers: first one indicates protections against solids including dust (0-6 where 0 means not protected and 6 well-protected). IC ratings indicate protections against liquids (0-8 where 0 means not protected and 8 means that it can be submerged in liquids).

Overall, contractors have a large number of reasons for using LED light bulbs as opposed to rival bulb types. As mentioned above these range from flexibility of design and function, to lower energy costs and longevity. The LED bulb's market share is growing just as its purchase price decreases. This is giving contractors the perfect opportunity to create new, stunning and innovative designs, features, and displays that has not been possible until now. Using LEDs will give you the design edge you are looking for to stand out from the crowd.


Guest Blogger: Leigh Marcos worked in home design and lighting before becoming a mother of two and a freelance writer. A keen photographer, she enjoys taking her dogs for long walks through the countryside in the hope of getting that perfect shot.

Topics: Green Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Design Trends, Guest Blogs, Design Options

Assuring Quality on Your Remodeling Jobs Through Craftsmanship

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Tue, Jul 29,2014 @ 06:00 AM

Jayme Cook


Guest Blogger:  Jayme Cook loves DIY projects and previously worked in the home building and construction industry. Jayme studied writing in Wales, UK and is now an English instructor living in Phoenix, Arizona.


Where Craftsmanship Matters the Most: Assuring Quality on Your Remodeling Jobs

Craftsmanship for contractors



Author and computer software consultant Robert C. Martin once said, “How can we make sure we wind up behind the right door when the going gets tough? The answer is: Craftsmanship.” This statement rings true in many fields, but especially so for remodelers. Craftsmanship is what's behind our sense of awe and admiration when we look upon a job well done—it's one part knowledge and one part art, with a bunch of pride, planning and elbow grease bringing up the rear. Every job is important, but some require a higher level of craftsmanship than others. Here's where a master's touch really counts.


Green Roofs

A growing trend in residential design is green roofing. These rooftops integrate actual foliage into the roof structure in an attempt to keep interior rooms cool in warm weather and warm during the cold. Most professionals use modular systems composed of individual plastic trays pre-lined with plant life and a non-soil base lined along the rooftop. Growth occurs at a rapid pace, creating an organic canopy to shield the home from the elements. A large-scale installation of a green roof requires an expert—this isn't something you want to tackle if you've no experience under your belt.


Insulated Water Pipes

Defining craftsmanship for remodelersInsulated water pipes will boost a home's energy efficiency. This sustainable feature will add to the life expectancy of the pipe system as well moderate the water temperature throughout the residence. Foam tubes made of rubber or polyethylene encase the metal piping to offer better quality and use—just make sure an expert does the insulating.


Energy-Efficient Windows

High quality, energy-efficient windows are essential in designing a masterfully crafted home. Many contractors provide windows that help keep heat inside of the home during the winter season and keep indoor temperatures cool during the summer months. Alternatively, poor quality windows can result in as much as a 30 percent loss of energy for consumers. Not all windows are created equal—while many can help reduce some of the energy loss, only high-quality selections installed with skilled precision and the proper equipment can fully protect against heat and cooling leakage. Contractors take note. Check out the windows section on the Champion Home Exterior webpage. This company displays its window offerings clearly and also provides helpful information on the left side of the site. Setting up your offerings in a style like this makes it easy for consumers to navigate your webpage and deliver the craftsmanship they are looking for from a contractor.


Solar Panels

More and more homeowners are requesting installation of solar panels to save money and energy. Photovoltaic panels harness the power of the sun and deliver it straight to the home on which they are installed. Solar power adds value to the property and usually comes with tax incentives, but it should only be installed by those with experience. There are lots of DIY kits out there, but we don't personally know of any that produced craftsman-like results.

how remodelers can be craftsmen


When it comes to remodeling jobs, there is no replacement for quality craftsmanship. From the foundation up, work of integrity guarantees high-caliber results. With the right planning, the expertise of professionals and personal commitment, your work will reflect nothing but the best.




Topics: Green Considerations, Differentiating your Business, Design Trends, Guest Blogs, Craftsmanship

Understanding and Selling the Many Shades of Green

Posted by Shawn McCadden on Fri, Feb 01,2013 @ 12:02 PM

Green Building and Green Products: Understanding and Selling the Many Shades of Green

Selling green remodeling


Contractors and building materials dealers (LBM dealers) have found it challenging figuring out how to tap into the green building opportunity.  Some say the problem is caused by “green washing”.  Without a single and accepted definition of what green building is and what products are or are not green, it’s no wonder they are challenged.  Whether you’re an LBM Dealer, a product distributer, a professional designer or a contractor, it might not really make much difference what you consider to be green.  Before you get all upset at that statement and or with me, please hear me out.


Here’s my rationale

I’m not saying you can’t have your own definition.  What I am saying is if you want to sell green, you better make sure you know how your target customer defines and decides what is green if you want to sell green to them. 

Selling Green ProductsSounds easy right?  Not really. 

Unfortunately, if you ask 10 people what green is, you’ll get at least 10 different answers!  So, how should contractors and LBM dealers (and even their staff) respond to homeowners who ask for green products when these same customers might not even know what they’re looking for?  Solution; You need to know the questions to ask before you risk providing any answers! 


“What is green and what is not is up to the person with the money!”

On February 8, 2013 I’ll be presenting a seminar at the NRLA LBM EXPO in Boston titled Understanding and Selling the Many Shades of Green”One of my goals at this seminar is to help LBM dealers take advantage of the green building and renovation market that is expected to grow significantly as the economy improves.  Another goal is to help them so they can help their contractor customers sell and use more green products. 

Green Remodeling


In addition to discussing how different consumers define green and why, I plan to help them decided which products to sell and how to sell them.  To do so I will be offering and discussing the list of criteria below.  Contractors trying to decide what to sell should also find the list very helpful.  The key to success will be matching some or all of the criteria below to the green motivations of the home owner with the money.



Seven Criteria for Choosing Green Products to Sell

#1: Is the material effective in your conditions/climate?

Green Products for LBM DealersHeat, cold, moisture, insects…

#2: Is the material healthy and safe?

For workers, consumers and the planet

#3: Is the material durable and easily maintained?

Saves time, money, replacement, and disposal costs

#4: Is the material available in your area and can contractors work with it?

Saves time and money

#5: Is the material used efficiently?

Locally sourced, transportation considerations, processing considerations

Efficient use of resources, recycled and/or recyclable

#6: Is the material cost effective?

Now and in the future: maintenance, replacement, comfort, health effects/costs

#7: Is the material aesthetically satisfying to the consumer?

That’s important too!


Topics: LBM Related Topics, Green Considerations, Success Strategies, Sales Considerations, Design Trends, Marketing Considerations