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Kirch Improvements

Okauchee Lake Project

One of the fastest-growing areas of Wisconsin is the City of Oconomowoc, sitting midway between Milwaukee and Madison. The city, named after the Potowatomi word for “where the waters meet,” is in the heart of Waukesha County’s Lake Country. One of the many lakes surrounding the area is Okauchee Lake, comprising 1,210 acres; and is fed by and drains into the Oconomowoc River.

Boating and being on the water is the way of life on Okauchee Lake, with many families using a boat to get around the houses to visit and socialize with friends; a place to connect. And when not on the water, the homes surrounding the area boast beautiful views. So, it’s no surprise that a deck is a must to enjoy the view.

For example, consider this home and its accompanying boathouse with expansive decks recently completed by Kirch Improvements. The original deck was comprised of old composite and wood posts with makeshift cable rails that weren’t sturdy or safe. “The original railing was 36-inches and may have had five or six cables running horizontally,” said John Kirch, owner of Kirch Improvements.

John worked with the customer to keep the existing curved radius design. “We replaced the old composite decking with new capped polymer decking and used RailFX 400 series with a capped polymer top rail,” said John. The white aluminum railing, a standard color from RailFX, compliments the contemporary white house design.

“Overall, it’s a simple design, with shorter rail sections to mimic the radius look,” added John. “We also added lights to the rails.” A nice added touch for those long summer nights while sitting outside or navigating from the boathouse to the main house and back.

We designed and installed RailFX to offer the homeowners the ultimate in clear views ~ John Kirch

A clean, contemporary, and modern rehab transformation

For more than 20 years, Dee Thompson spent her career as an executive IT project manager where she managed the complex systems of multi-billion-dollar institutions.  Midway into her career, she went to buy her first Chicago home and not only found the cost of entry high, but she also was not finding homes that were a perfect fit for her tastes.  “Everything needed to be updated,” said Dee. So, her realtor suggested that she buy a fixer-upper and put her project management skills to the test.

“It was nothing like IT,” said Dee, now the owner and chief construction office of Urbane Home. But she was determined to use her strong IT skills to bring organization and discipline to her construction challenge and developed a detailed project plan like she would do for all her IT clients with all the tasks, dependencies, durations, and resources included. “I made my fair share of mistakes because I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” she added. “I tweaked the plan based on new knowledge as I went along and over time, perfected the process to maximize efficiency.”

After a couple of years, she couldn’t ignore the “rehab bug.” She sought out in search for the worst property on the best block and renovated it with extreme detail.  Over the years, she kept improving, and what would have taken other contractors 12 to 14 months to renovate, she managed to streamline the process down to five to seven months. Then people began to ask if she would build for them. “I always said no, and I only do this for myself,” Dee added. 

When she was pregnant with her first child, a daughter, now eight years old, she thought to herself this was a perfect crossroads to reevaluate her career.  She got her real estate license and threw a bid out for a teardown. “If I got the house, I knew it would be a sign, and I can test this out,” she said. “If not, I loved my IT career and would stay the course.”

Racine Rehab

That was eight years ago. Dee formed an LLC, Urbane Home, and she would build one to two spec homes per year and sell. Taking extreme pride not to ignore the details, her homes would sell pre-construction or within 30 days on the market and often close to or above asking price.  Today, Dee has a team of four colleagues which includes designers, brokers, and a marketing coordinator. Dee is the chief construction officer and manages any engagements that are permit-related, from gut rehabs to new construction.

One of Dee’s recent projects involved one of her best friends, who had just gotten married.  Each of them had a Chicago home and she lost the dice roll and moved into her new husband’s place, in what she called the “bachelor pad”. The townhome, located in the prestigious area of the West Loop of Chicago, was purchased more than 20 years ago, and in today’s real estate market, it is impossible to reproduce the square footage for anything under $1.5 million.

“We gutted the entire place and maximized the home to improve the overall flow and make everything new, new, new,” said Dee.

Within seven months, the 4,000-square-foot home was transformed into a clean, contemporary, and modern home that is like nothing in the market for the overall cost of investment. “We wanted the space to be timeless and not too edgy and we definitely achieved that,” said Dee.

The overall aesthetic that Urbane Home used in their design was silvered grey wood and black, grey and whites for clean polish. The tones are truly neutral with a bit of color in the right places and rich tones. To complete the contemporary look, Dee’s supplier, Standard Lumber Co., recommended a cable railing for the interior staircases that aligned with the client’s inspiration.

“It was visually what our client wanted,” said Dee. “It removed the heaviness of closed-in stairs and allowed an open sightline. We chose the RailFX aluminum railing in black finish with stainless steel cable infill installed throughout.”

“It was our carpenters’ first-time using cable railing, and the RailFX customer service team was not only incredibly responsive when we called but also went above and beyond to meet us onsite to walk through any product questions we had to ensure the best install,” said Dee.

I will definitely be using RailFX again. They are certainly a vendor that uses many of the same customer service and quality principles that are critical to our business." ~ Dee Thompson

Northern California Valley Views with RailFX

With a view across the Carmel Valley and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in Northern California, this early 1970s ranch-style home built on a slope — one-level design from the front and two-level design from the back — is perched high up in the hills in Carmel. The owners, Lynn and Stevan Berardo, moved from the Lake Tahoe area for warmer seasons.

“We are at a point in our life where we want to live away from the cold winters that Lake Tahoe is well-known for,” said Lynn Berardo.

California Valley Views with RailFX

Their house in Lake Tahoe also had beautiful views. “The view is important to us, and we refer to ourselves as view snobs.”

They debated starting over with the property, as they prefer a more contemporary home design, but in the end, they did an extensive renovation. The result, a contemporary home with butterfly-roof system that takes advantage of solar and rainwater collection. The interior is open and spacious with massive windows.

Chad Berardo, their son, an architectural designer, and owner of Blue Dot Designs in Gunnison, Colorado designed the remodel. “We feel fortunate that we get to live in a space a family member designed, and we benefited from his expertise in environmentally savvy design,” added Lynn. “It’s unique and special to us.”

It was important for the Berardo’s to maintain an unobstructed view of the valley. Chad’s idea was to bring the outdoors in, so there are a lot of windows and an extensive deck off the back that overlooks the valley. “Chad introduced us to cable railing to not interrupt our view and also provide safety, so you’re comfortable,” said Lynn. Beyond the views of the valley, the Berardo’s can see the Pacific Ocean from their deck.

Fussy about colors and finishes, the Berardo’s landed on coastal colors, like gray composite deck boards to resemble driftwood and RailFX aluminum cable railing system in a silver finish to blend in. “Chad designed the decking and railing and said that stainless steel was the perfect solution for our project,” Lynn said.  

RailFX’s stainless steel finish is low maintenance and well-suited for the salty ocean air along the coast and worked so well for the Berardo home. 

The Berardo’s have also installed RailFX cable railing for their interior staircase, continuing the contemporary design inside the home. “It’s solid but invisible,” said Lynn.

Low maintenance products are important to us, and we love the way that the cable railings just go away from your line of sight. ~ Lynn Berardo

The Berardo’s have also installed RailFX cable railing for their interior staircase, continuing the contemporary design inside the home. “It’s solid but invisible,” said Lynn.

Before and After: Making the case for cable railing

If you’re a residential construction business owner — as a team of one or many — marketing your business may be low on the list or something you farm out for someone else to do. Word of mouth and repeat business may keep your project pipeline steady. Or your marketing may be high on the list if you lack a robust project schedule. With so many marketing options to consider — updated website, social media posts, Google my business, Google reviews, advertising, blogs, etc. — there’s one basic marketing tactic your customers and prospective customers love to see: project photos. Not just the completed projects photos, but before and after shots that make even the smallest projects look significant in transformation.

Before and after decking and railing projects

Consider a deck or railing transformation that may seem compulsory. Yet today there are so many material options to choose from, including the variety of colors, composite decking, to a variety of infill options for railings.

We’ve compiled several recent case studies that showcase a before and after makeover and rationale for choosing the products.

Ohio log home receives an update

After more than 20 years, Jill Wright’s log home’s deck transformed from a heavy log look with wood posts and wood railings blocking the beautiful view to more balance using different materials. When Jill sat on her porch, all she saw was logs. She installed a combination of posts, keeping the original wood posts in the front of the home, and RailFX black aluminum posts with the 1/8-inch cable infill. The finished project includes a wood top rail. Jill combined a traditional style with a modern approach to her railing project in an area that tends to use more traditional materials — honey oak, aluminum, and vinyl.


Wraparound deck with panoramic views

This wraparound deck and railing with panoramic views of the property needed replacing. Linda Evans’ client chose to replace it using composite decking in a vintage hue and added cable railings. Evans initially tried to talk the Greens out of using cable railing but soon lost the battle, and it proved to be the right call. Evans and her crew replaced the old wood railings on the second-story deck, including adding a stairway for accessibility. RailFX Aluminum Cable Railing System bronze posts, top rail, mounts, and 1/8-inch cable railing was installed.  To finish off the railing project, Evans used a RailFX cable railing custom gate in bronze. The client now enjoys the views of their 28-acres overlooking the valley where they raise their sheep, dogs and practice their green thumbs.


A complete decking project

Take this project from Berg Construction, where the original deck consisted of multi-levels. Shane Berg and his team demolished the whole thing and started over by making it one level. But they didn’t stop there. The composite decking material features contrasting colors — the body of the deck boards is gray with a picture frame board using a golden hue and a composite fascia to complete the project. From the fascia to the lighting and railing, a knowledge of the materials and how they perform helps your customers choose the proper decking material. They finished the deck with a RailFX aluminum cable railing system with bronze posts. 

In addition, Shane and his crew added a retaining wall with new landscaping to match the upgraded deck and railings along with Douglas Fir posts and beams and high-gauge, structurally rated connectors.


Photos are your signature of a job well done and one of the best marketing tactics that are low in cost and easy to execute. You can use your smartphone to take pictures or hire a local photographer specializing in real estate, home building, and architectural photography.

Golf Course Adds Cable Railing to Maximize its Picturesque Views

In northern Wisconsin sits the city of Tomahawk — population just under 4,000 — and the Inshalla Country Club, a picturesque 18-hole public golf course. Locally owned for more than 57 years, the club has undergone upgrades throughout the year and features a driving range, putting and chipping greens, a pro shop, and banquet and dining rooms for entertaining. 

In 2017, the club was purchased, by two Tomahawk natives, Jason Kahle and his uncle, Bill Mark. “It’s always been a locally owned family business, and it was something Bill and I wanted to do,” said Jason, co-owner. Since then, they’ve made some upgrades, including gutting the restrooms in their first year as new owners and within the last year, they rebuilt the bar and pro shop areas. 

Jason was in the building industry for more than 15 years as a designer for Tomahawk Log and Country Homes and worked for a steel fabricator on the commercial side of the business. Therefore, choosing the right building products that would hold up to the wear and tear of a couple of hundred people a day was an important consideration. 

Low maintenance — sectioned and easily replaceable — and easy-to-maintain products were essential. “We looked for products that required minimum maintenance and could withstand the 95-degree heat and the 40-below climate swings,” said Jason. “In the winter, we put salt on the surfaces, so the decking material had to stand up to it.”

They took the clubhouse out of the early 1990s and into the present, replacing the heavy feel of maroon-colored walls, oak wood, and green carpeting. They used vinyl planks for the flooring replacement, which allows for easy panel replacement when needed.

They added new siding, new decking, and railing off the clubhouse this past fall and winter. They demolished the existing concrete deck and vertical 2 x 2 wood railing and replaced it with Armadillo Composite Decking and finished it with RailFX aluminum cable railings in black. A hitting mat was built into the deck for guests to use during events, and in keeping with the “seeing the view through the railings,” they built a 10-foot gate — two 5-foot gate openings — made with RailFX.  

The cable railing system by RailFX, hitting Jason’s minimum maintenance requirements, was installed in February. “RailFX was very user-friendly with easy-to-follow directions,” said Jason. 

Our customers would complain that they couldn’t see the view when they were sitting on the original deck, so we looked for something easy to install and didn’t block the view when sitting out on the deck.” ~ Jason

Case Study: Corbett Lunsford on Modern Cable Railing Systems

Project: Atlanta Homestead for Home Diagnosis T.V.

Forever Home Update: Interior Stairway Cable Railing Installation

RailFX update on the Forever Home Case Study from November 25th: Corbett is making the finishing touches to his Atlanta forever home and recently installed RailFX cable railing systems on the interior stairway. Corbett said the real difference for the internal cable run is the amount of use they will experience with three small children running up and down the stairs.

He opted for fascia-mounted posts on the stairway, which was a different attachment process than he experienced on the outside’s surface-mounted posts. Since the interior stairway is four feet wide, code dictated he install ADA compliant railings on each side. Corbett used RailFX’s ADA graspable handrail and RFX 400 top rail option in silver. He used pecan wood from Grace’s family’s backyard for the top rail for an upscale finishing touch. View the RailFX Stair Cable Railing Installation video from Home Diagnosis TV below for more details.

Now that the installation is complete and we’re living in the house, I love it,” said Corbett. “It feels very solid, and I love knowing that if it gets dirty, scratched, or anything, the fix is very easy."

Project Value vs. Cost

For more than 30 years, Remodeling magazine has issued a cost vs. value report that measures the average cost for remodeling projects and the value they retain when a home sells. This report highlights both interior and exterior renovation projects, including additions and replacements of decking, siding, roofing, kitchens, baths, and more. It is an excellent industry-standard tool to help contractors assist their customers in making essential decisions on home remodeling projects.

 

A hot housing market coupled with a strong remodeling market means homeowners will continue making improvements and upgrades to their homes for the foreseeable future. Guiding a homeowner through a remodel project can be tedious, particularly when it comes to product selection. While cost may be the first thing that sways a product decision, there are several other cost considerations.

 Indirect costs

Cost will always play a significant, if not most important, role in any project. Aside from the exchange of currency, there are other indirect costs to consider:

  • Callbacks: today, remodelers and builders choose products they know and trust to reduce and even eliminate callbacks. Callbacks don’t always add to the homeowners’ cost but can take away from a contractors’ bottom line.
  • Maintenance: consider choosing products that require as little maintenance as possible in the overall cost. Virtually “low maintenance” may be of great value to a homeowner, and the cost — whether it is affordable or pushing the upper limits — is justified.
  • Replacement: homeowners want assurance they will not have to replace a product on a bigger ticket like siding or decking materials anytime soon. Warranties will play a significant role in guaranteeing their product choices will last.

“I liked the simple design, pre-drilled holes, and it was easy to install.” Jeremy Bower, Big Foot Decking & Services

 Leading with value: 4 valuable components to consider

Maximizing a homeowners’ investment is critical — no matter the cost — while delivering quality products and the final project. Yet, instead of starting with costs, consider leading with the value it brings to the home and future resale or long-term viability.

 

We’ve listed 4 valuable components to consider when choosing products for your project:

  1. Durability: one of the most critical characteristics of building materials is durability. How it is engineered and manufactured are key ingredients to a well-designed product that stands the test of time, weather, and use.
  2. Longevity: properly installed products will usually endure a long service life if installed as instructed by the manufacturer and used as they are intended with ongoing care and maintenance. In fact, a survey by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) found that 74% of home buyers would spend more on key features and finishes that last longer.
  3. Sustainability: most homeowners today are choosing materials that are durable, long-lasting, and sustainable. The same NAHB survey cited above indicates that homeowners are likely to invest in sustainable (green) products because of the annual cost savings, which bodes well for remodelers and builders.
  4. Aesthetics: it’s likely that most homeowners — as well as remodelers and builders — choose a product based on the look and feel first, followed by cost and value. With so many options to consider today, whether it’s siding and decking or finishing touches like paint and railings, aesthetics are a key component in product consideration.

Before you start a new project with a homeowner, begin the conversation on what the homeowner’s goals are, including resale or enhancement for personal enjoyment. In addition to your craftsmanship the products you choose together will help them understand the overall value, then talk costs.

 

“RailFX layout sent to us, noting the components for each section of the deck, made it simple.” John Kirch, Kirch Improvements

RailFX Cable Railing: Built to Last

Cable railing systems are increasingly a popular choice for both indoor and outdoor uses. Cable railing systems work with the most common post materials — wood, steel, aluminum, and composite sleeves — and are lightweight and easy to install.

 

When it comes to strength and durability, steel, mainly stainless steel, is one of the strongest materials available. While cable railings can be one of the most expensive railing materials, they are virtually maintenance-free and corrosion and rust-resistant, even ideal for ocean environments, making them an excellent choice for long-term value. 

 

RailFX products and systems are fabricated with the highest-grade materials available on the market. In addition to being corrosion and rust-resistant, our products are finished with a wet coat applied with technology that meets AAMA 2605 standards. 

"We've never seen railings and posts that are as solid as theirs, they're engineered so well, made from quality materials, and they have great customer service." Shane Berg, Berg Construction.

Lake Homes Feature Expansive Decking Areas

Just 40 miles north of Seattle sits Lake Shoecraft and its sister lake, Lake Goodwin. Both lakes are separated by a channel, known by locals, for fishing, including perch, bass, and rainbow trout. The area is surrounded by lakefront homes enclosed by forest land and a place to get away from it all. 

It’s not uncommon for homes facing the lake to feature expansive decking and outdoor living areas, even in the Pacific Northwest’s unpredictable weather. Berg Construction, a fourth-generation contractor specializing in home remodels, spent the summer of 2020 working on this home facing Lake Shoecraft, building a new deck including adding new landscaping and retaining wall.

“The original deck consisted of multi-levels, and we demolished the whole thing, started over to make it one level,” said Shane Berg, owner of Berg Construction. “The result is much more impressive.”

A new retaining wall, approximately 56-feet long, was installed with new landscaping to match the upgraded deck and railings. Berg Construction worked with a concrete partner to pour pads for the hot tub and the upper deck posts. The posts and beams were replaced from free of heart Douglas Fir for sturdiness and to hold the upper deck. High-gauge, structurally rated Ozco connectors were used and displayed as an architectural design feature.

 

 

The composite decking material features contrasting colors — the body of the deck boards is in gray with a picture frame board using a golden hue and a composite fascia to complete the project. “With higher-end decks like this one, we like to recommend RailFX cable railings to our customers,” said Shane. For this project, he used a RailFX aluminum cable railing system with bronze posts.

Berg’s carpenters enjoy installing RailFX because it’s easier to work with and built to last. “We’ve never seen railings and posts that are as solid as theirs, they’re engineered so well, made from quality materials, and they have great customer service,” added Shane.

Some of the hidden additions Berg and his crew included on this project include infrared heaters mounted in the soffits and lighting throughout; solid upgrades homeowners are adding to not only extend their outdoor living areas, but also extend their outdoor season.

 

Case Study: Luke Dials of Hammer Down Labor

Project: Oregon Ocean Residential Home

Project Summary: RailFX Cable Railing for Decks

A jack of all trade’s remodeler willing to take on just about any project, Luke Dials, Hammer Down Labor owner, is a remodeling contractor in the greater-Portland, Oregon area. He is meticulous in his research when it comes to using products, installation, and services.

His remodeling projects have included:

  • A garage addition
  • Extending a new room off the side of a home
  • Interior fireplace addition in the home

One of his recent remodeling projects included a whole house facelift, including the deck, railing, and stairs. The home sold within two hours of being on the market. A true testament to his work ethic and meticulousness.

When one of your projects is for your grandfather’s home of more than 40 years with sweeping views of the Oregon Ocean, product choice is just as important.

“We started building out the upstairs, extending the home with an open concept for unobstructed sunset views over the Pacific Ocean,” said Luke. “The focus is adding more viewing areas throughout the home.”

The home sits on a modest hill in the Nelscott Reef district of Lincoln City, about 90 miles west of Portland. Home to sandy beaches and relying heavily on tourism, the area and Nelscott Reef are known to famed professional surfers worldwide. With 25 to 50-foot ocean swells, the site is home to the Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic. The event occurs anytime between October 1st through March 31st, with a three-day “contest is on” warning notice guaranteeing optimal swells. The purse is $10,000.

Luke’s grandfather researched the type of deck and railing ultimately deciding on cable railing with an eye toward the ocean view. They considered glass infill however being on the beach — with glass fogging up and the constant salt air — it was not ideal for their needs. “We didn’t want a railing solution that would interfere with the view. Cable railing was more neutral in terms of blending in well with the color of the area, cloud coverage gray, and of course offering an unobstructed view,” added Luke.

Once they decided to use cable railings to complete the exterior deck, they found RailFX through their local dealer, Parr Lumber. The installation was complex because of the uneven surface of the wood deck. “Some of the wood deck boards are curved, due to natural shrinking and swelling, and getting the posts level throughout the deck was one of the more challenging parts of the install,” said Luke.

Luke’s grandfather is a woodworker and because the stair rake and angle were different, they added a custom-built wooden railing to make it ADA compliant, which completed the project.

We think you’ll agree the views are impressive with or without the sun, even winning the RailFX 2020 Photo Contest.

Case Study: Jill Wright of Contractors Building Supply

Project: Marietta, Ohio Residential Home

Project Summary: RailFX Cable Railing for Decks

In the southeast corner of rural Ohio sits Marietta, the oldest city in the state, also known as a riverboat town, just shy of the West Virginia border. Since 1997, family-owned Contractors Building Supply has been serving contractors and builders in the mid-Ohio valley. Their goal has been to give customers outstanding old school service with the highest quality products and competitive pricing.

Jill Wright, owner of Contractors Building Supply, built a log home more than 20 years ago out in the country. Each of the logs are hand peeled logs and fits right in for the area. Some were starting to rot, so it was time to give her home a facelift.

“I sat on my porch one day, and all I saw was logs,” said Wright. The look was heavy, and it was time to provide more balance. She began to explore options for cable railing for decks.

In early 2020, Wright was at FenceTECH and spoke to the staff at RailFX.

As I did more research, I kept going back to their product. ~ Jill Wright

Cable railing for decks is pretty unique in the mid-Ohio valley area; there’s typically a lot of aluminum and vinyl used.

“This area tends to be more traditional; honey oak is big, and it’s hard to break out of the cycle. There’s not a lot of demand for the modern look.”

Today, Wright is happy to sit on her deck and take in the view of the pond and the deer and relax. She’s hoping more of the trade will use cable railings to upgrade any home. Cable railings offer customers a seamless look by opening up an area without taking away from the design aesthetics of a home from traditional to farm to contemporary and modern designs.

RailFX Cable Railing for Decks
RailFX Cable Railing for Decks