The Proven Benefits of Fireplace Replacements



The traditional fireplace has become a symbol of comfort and warmth over the years. When people list the attributes of their ideal ‘dream’ home, a traditional open-air fireplace usually ranks pretty high on the list. Unfortunately, the traditional open-air fireplace is a notoriously inefficient heat source. In today’s modern homes, the traditional open-air fireplace has serious drawbacks in the area of safety and energy efficiency that simply can not be ignored. For this reason, fireplace replacements like high-efficiency fireplaces and wood burning stoves are recommended for their low operating costs and high energy efficiency.

The Problem With Traditional Fireplaces

The traditional open air fireplace was popular at a time when our heating, insulation and ventilation standards were not as high as they are today. By today’s standards, traditional fireplaces are extremely inefficient. Traditional fireplaces suffer from a serious design flaw which not only sends soot and smoke up the chimney but also a good portion of the heat energy that the fireplace generates.

Most traditional fireplaces, while looking nice, tend to have a variety of problems that could result in higher home heating costs. In most homes, traditional fireplaces develop a number of serious structural problems that simply can not be ignored, including:

loose, cracked bricks and missing mortar joints which could result in your home catching fire

a buildup of soot and creosote in the chimney that is an ever present fire hazard

missing or damaged chimney cap, allowing rain and snow to get inside your chimney causing moisture damage to your home

damaged or missing flue, meaning that smoke and soot could potentially back up into your home

If your home features a traditional open-air fireplace, you may need to upgrade your system before one of these problems leads to structural and safety concerns that could cost you a great deal in remodeling costs.

The Benefits of Fireplace Replacements

Fireplace replacement products like wood burning stoves and high-efficiency fireplaces offer you a number of safety and efficiency advantages that make them the ideal upgrade for the old fireplace in your home. Today’s wood burning stoves are more energy efficient than ever before, able to keep your home warm for up to 10 hours without having to refuel. With the right sized wood burning stove and dry fuel, you can expect to reduce your present home heating bill by up to 70%. Wood burning stoves can also be used during power outages, functioning as a heat source for cooking and heating water. Though wood burning stoves are more advanced than ever before, they still give your home the same rustic look.

High-efficiency fireplaces are another excellent way to upgrade your current fireplace while retaining the rustic look of a traditional fireplace. High-efficiency fireplaces are installed right in the place of your present fireplace. Because they fit in your current fireplace, they can be installed without costly remodeling. Like a wood burning stove, a high-efficiency fireplace will drastically reduce your home heating bills, offering reliable and safe home heating while preserving the rustic charm that you get from a traditional fireplace.

The Environmentally Friendly Alternative

Fireplace replacement products like high-efficiency fireplaces and wood burning stoves represent the perfect way to deal with the problem of a decaying open-air fireplace. Today’s fireplace replacement products are environmentally friendly alternatives to an open-air fireplace, meeting all current EPA emission standards. To learn more about the benefits of having a fireplace replacement product installed in your home contact a general contractor at Big Street Construction and schedule a consultation.


Money Savings Found in Energy Efficient Windows

Maybe you are renovating your current house or rental. Maybe you are just wanting to do some updating. Whatever your project, switching out old single pane windows with new energy efficient windows should be on the list.

When comparing energy efficient windows with traditional single pane windows, it could seem like the energy efficient options come at a higher price. However, over the long run, the savings you will accumulate with lower heating and cooling costs if you choose energy efficient windows will easily justify that initial price — and actually put money back in your pocket.

How? Switching from single-pane glass to energy efficient double, or even triple pane, windows will better protect you from outside temperatures. Energy efficient windows have a space that prevents outside air and temperatures from invading your home, making it easier to regulate your in-home temperature. This means no more turning the heat up to compensate for chilly drafts coming from a window. No more cranking the air conditioner up because hot summer heat is creeping in through the single pane. Choosing energy efficient windows also opens the door to further savings by providing the option and benefit of installing smaller heating and cooling units, further reducing costs to you.

Another cost benefit to choosing energy efficient windows can be found in maintenance expenses. Condensation buildup happens less with energy efficient windows than with the traditional single-pane window. This means you don’t have to spend your time and money on mold cleanup, water spot damage or buildup.

An added bonus to selecting energy efficient windows is the impact caused to the environment. Less energy used by not having to turn the heat up in low-temperature chilly months means you are producing less greenhouse gas emissions. We all want to have smaller carbon footprints. Energy efficient windows is one step in the right direction.

If you want to gain the most in long-term cost effectiveness while also adding the bonuses of maximum comfort when it comes to temperature in your home, a smaller carbon foot-prints and lower maintenance, energy efficient windows are a great option.

Roof Runoff: How to Protect Your Home

When you have uncontrolled stormwater runoff from your roof, it’s not just a serious threat to your home’s structure, it also contributes to one of the greatest threats to water quality in most of the industrialized world. Because storm water runoff doesn’t soak into the ground where it falls, it ends up going directly into sewers and waterways, carrying with it sediments and chemicals that clog streams, reduce oxygen in the water, poison aquatic ecosystems and render water supplies undrinkable. Runoff also contributes to flooding, and because it doesn’t replenish groundwater supplies, it exacerbates water shortages.

Runoff also contributes to flooding, and because it doesn’t replenish groundwater supplies, it exacerbates water shortages.

Over time, uncontrolled roof runoff can cause structural damage to outside walls and the foundation of a home or a building. When water accumulates around the perimeter of the house, it eventually seeps in through foundation walls and/or cracks, making your basement, garage, crawl space and other lower levels wet or damp.


Troughs that collect and channel rain running off a roof, gutters play the most important role in protecting your home from roof runoff. With proper slopes, gutter systems carry stormwater to downspouts that deposit the water into the ground and well away from your siding, windows, doors, and foundation.

The most commonly used gutter – open gutters – should be regularly cleaned of leaves and debris in order to function properly. Open rain gutters can get clogged with leaves, acorns, pine needles, and other debris. In dry conditions clogged gutters are a fire hazard; and during heavy rains, clogged gutters and downspouts can cause rainwater to overflow, potentially causing substantial damage to your building, landscaping, and basement. Adding gutter guards can keep debris out, eliminate clogs and lengthen the life of your gutter system.


Uncontrolled water runoff from your roof can be alleviated with some easy measures. It’s better to stop the water before it seeps in and causes damage, rather than trying to find ways to handle water after it has seeped through the foundation.

1- Add gutters and downspouts if your home is lacking them and if roof runoff doesn’t drain freely away from the foundation.

2- Clean out gutters and downspouts; repair or replace leaking/damaged sections.

3- Prevent the accumulation of clog-causing debris in gutter systems with gutter guards.

4- Make sure gutter downspouts terminate onto splash blocks or run into a leader that extends away from the foundation.

5- Be certain that window wells are clean, drain quickly, and (if needed) have plastic covers to repel water. A recessed basement entryway should have a working drain and, if necessary, a cover.

6- Instead of allowing water to go directly into the sewer or to run into the street, direct your downspouts toward a vegetated area, such as your garden or lawn.

7- Consider installing rain barrels or cisterns to collect the water so you can save some rain for a sunny day.


Contact Big Street Construction for any information on how to handle roof runoff on your home 907-488-5773

If you’re in charge of running a construction project, then you obviously want the entire process to go as smoothly as possible. Whether you’re managing such a project for the first time, or you’ve been doing it for years, you can likely benefit from tips that can make the project go without a hitch. Here are some smart ways to run your next construction project so everything goes as smoothly as possible:


If you're in charge of running a construction project, then you obviously want the entire process to go as smoothly as possible. Whether you're managing such a project for the first time, or you've been doing it for years, you can likely benefit from tips that can make the project go without a hitch.

Staying on budget

If you don’t create a budget in advance and stick to it, then your stress levels are likely to increase significantly. In addition, by spending more than you’ve budgeted for, you can prevent future projects, delay the process as you wait for orders to be delivered, additional funds or research products to make up the difference in other areas, and these are only to name a couple of the potential problems. It’s not difficult to create a realistic budget but is a critical step in your smooth running project. If you’re not sure how to go about doing so, there are many tutorials available online.

Create a list of goals and stick to it

It may seem time-consuming and possibly even unnecessary, but if you take the time to create a list of goals to achieve throughout the project and you actually stick to it, this will help immensely. Your decisions are focused and prioritized. Just like you may make a to-do list each day, a list of goals can help you step-by-step through the entire process, dramatically increasing your chances of success as well as staying on budget. Without a list of goals to follow, you may quickly become overwhelmed, confused, lose focus, or simply fail to prioritize in the proper manner.  All of which can result in construction delays.

Communicate properly with your contractor

The old saying “communication is the key to make any relationship successful” is very true, but not only when it comes to personal relationships. Just as it is imperative for couples to communicate well, it is also important that you communicate well with your contractors. Here are some key points to remember when communicating with your contractors:

  • Allow him or her to voice an opinion
  • Listen thoroughly
  • Treat him or her with respect
  • Be fair, honest and consistent

While some problems are unforeseeable and must be handled as they arise because realistically the time invested in “planning for everything” that could come up would waste a lot of your time. As long as you’re willing to do a bit of planning prior to launching your project, as well as give your contractor a clear vision/goal, any construction project that you oversee has a high probability of running smoothly.

Remodeling your kitchen is often an overwhelming project. There are many decisions to be made, from choosing countertop material to creating the ideal layout. The pressure is on to get it right since it’s a big investment and one of the most impactful things you can do to increase the resale value of your home.

To alleviate some stress and help you get started, here are five things to consider when planning your kitchen remodel.

  1. Think about the work triangle first. This is an interior design approach that places emphasis on the distance and ease of stepping between the cooktop, the sink and the refrigerator – the three key areas used in a kitchen. Often times, a kitchen feels cramped or non-functional because there is no work triangle, the triangle is too big, or the triangle cuts through an island or peninsula. For work triangle examples, check out the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA).
  2. How much do you want to spend? Establishing a budget prior to starting your kitchen remodel will help guide you in the selection of materials. It will make decisions such as whether to go with granite or laminate countertops fairly simple.
  3. How will you use your new kitchen? This question seems like a no-brainer, but for some people, the kitchen is used as more of a gathering place than a place for cooking and eating. For others, the kitchen is used for cooking and baking. These use will help determine your ideal layout and influence the materials you will select.

If you like to entertain, it makes sense to design an open-concept kitchen with casual seating options around an island or peninsula so that guests or family members can converse and spend time there. If you are a serious cook or pastry chef, you may integrate a butcher block counter top, or install a marble slab somewhere in the space for rolling pastry dough.

  1. What is the style or era of your home? Many of the decisions made around remodeling your kitchen will be based on the desired function of the space, but don’t forget about the overall look and feel. Do you live in a mid-century modern masterpiece, or is your home reminiscent of a country cottage? The style of the rest of your interior may influence the look of your kitchen.
  2. What is your design inspiration? On the flip side, perhaps you love the look of a sleek modern kitchen with concrete and stainless steel, but your home is a 1920’s bungalow. The designs you love and want to emulate should inspire your remodel. Bring your ideas to the table by ripping out pages from a magazine or creating a Houzz board. The looks you love can, and should, inspire your remodel. We are here to help bring your vision to life in a way that melds with your existing home’s materials or style.


Choosing Eco-friendly Foundations

Choosing the right, eco-friendly foundation for your upcoming building project here in the Fairbanks area is crucial to its longevity. Fortunately, there are a number of options for cold climate new home construction that can perform well despite the local weather and geological challenges, where we see everything from ground tremors to challenging levels of moisture to frequent freezing conditions.

Sorting through high-performance, Alaska-friendly foundation options for your home can be daunting–we are here to help. First, let’s look at the role your foundation must play in supporting your house: it must bear the building’s weight (vertical load); anchor the house against tremors or wind (horizontal load); protect the structure from soil moisture, and avoid movement from expansive soil or frost heaving. Your foundation must be protected from the elements and properly constructed to support your home (and fight heat loss) for the coming decades. To help you make an informed choice about your foundation, refer to our expert outline of some of your best environmentally sound foundation alternatives.

Insulated Concrete Foundations

ICFs or insulated concrete forms are typically made of rebar surrounded by a foam layer around the outside. This configuration uses light but rigid foam “bricks” which are designed to connect and interlock. They help to form the poured in concrete while it cures and also become part of the structure, acting as an insulating material. This is a strong, enduring solution that avoids the possibility of rot. The ICF design helps decrease heat loss (to increase home comfort and lower energy bills) while limiting concrete usage for additional savings.

Frost-Protected Shallow FoundationsChoose the right eco-friendly foundation. Geothermal heating can be a great option!

In the Fairbanks area, foundation footings and walls must be more than 40” below grade, which can be costly. A frost-protected shallow foundation, or FPSF, is an option if your area is permafrost-free. The foundation has been used in colder parts of Europe for half a century and it enables much shorter foundation footings to save money, energy, and natural resources. Insulation under footings is used for frost prevention and to limit heat loss from the structure.

Fly Ash Fortified Concrete Foundations

Fly ash, a “side-effect” of production at coal-fueled power stations, will normally end up in a landfill. Instead of disposing of the material, the fly ash can be used to replace up to half of the Portland cement that goes into the concrete mixture. This creates stronger, less porous concrete, which protects the supporting fortified rebar from corrosion. Fly ash also uses less water in the mix, which is a sustainable, eco-friendly practice and saves you money.

Adjustable Foundation

The CCHRC (Cold Climate Housing Research Center) has pioneered a truly adjustable foundation to deal with variable permafrost depth. In this design, a 2X4 sits atop a spread footer. If settling occurs as the frost melts, hydraulic jacks are used to push the footer into the earth, creating a space where foam can be sprayed in to fill the space. The system uses embedded soil sensors which alert the occupants to ground temperature changes, so they can respond by using a heat pump to remove ground heat. This option may be out of the range of most homeowners but the innovative idea is an inspiring one.

When properly chosen for your specific property and soil, and expertly built, these foundations can provide a comfortable, enduring construction with the lowest heating and cooling costs possible for Alaskans.

Eco-friendly Construction in Alaska

Eco-friendly construction or environmentally friendly construction isn’t just a fad, it’s a way of life. Local residents, Eco-friendly Construction is a priority for Big Street in the beautiful landscape of Fairbanks, care deeply about the natural world and also need to avoid high heating bills with smart, green construction practices. To build an attractive and comfortable home that makes the most of the local climate, residents should partner with a local builder experienced in ecologically sound residential construction. In addition to the other advantages, an  eco-friendly home can bring a higher resale value in the future. Eco-building trends that can be used to lower carbon footprints without sacrificing comfort, include:


  • Going small or choosing an open configuration: Small homes are a trend that gets a lot of press these days, and can certainly be energy efficient. If you need more space, consider an open layout with interior space divided with non-bearing walls, which lend themselves to simpler redesign if you want to change your space in the future.
  • Foundations and slabs: These must be expertly designed, with proper drainage and well-insulated to stand up to everything from permafrost, wind and moisture to earthquakes. An eco-friendly foundation reduces heating and cooling costs, which reduces your carbon footprint.
  • Strategic design and placement of windows: Proper window placement for getting the most natural sunlight during the winter and intelligent use of blinds to block out the midnight sun in the summer are important, but so is the type of window and glass used. Double pane windows should have an R-value of at least 4 for a working (openable) window and R5 for a picture window. Use triple pane windows with gas fill to avoid heat loss, condensation, and ice buildup. This type of eco-friendly window helps reduce your heating and cooling bill as well. It also helps your home become more energy efficient. Another eco-friendly window solution is reflective, low-E coating, which can increase the insulating power as if you have added a pane. Coatings also cut glare and provide UV protection for indoor décor and furnishings.
  • Tight building envelope with proper ventilation: There may be up to a hundred degrees difference between your home’s comfortable indoor temp and the below-freezing weather outdoors. As a result, we have learned and developed practices to tightly seal buildings.  All new homes built in the state must (by code) have dedicated mechanical ventilation. The economic benefit of a mechanical ventilation system is the increased energy efficiency it creates. With this system you can control the air quality and temperature that goes in and out of the home.


As an experienced, local, cold-climate builder, Big Street Construction can help create a new home that fulfills your design and space requirements, conforms to local building codes, exceeds high-performance standards for energy efficiency and leaves the smallest possible carbon footprint.


Top 15 Projects, Blogs, and Impacts of 2015

Are you all ready for Big Street’s “Top 15 in 2015”?! You’ll have to check

back every day for the rest of the year because we are releasing 3 separate

Top 5 lists. You probably didn’t have to wait to find out what your Christmas

gifts were, right? So hopefully, curiosity will get the best of you! Without

further ado…

Our Top 5 Most Viewed Blogs:

1. How Much Does Construction Cost in Alaska

2. How to Obtain House Plans

3. How to Winterize Your Home

4. What to Look For in a Vacant Lot

5. Renting v. Buying

Top 5 Projects on a Budget

This was a tough topic. It’s very helpful if you are on a tight budget but want to make some updates to your home. A good place to start if you’ve been thinking of making some needed upgrades. These categories were built on actual work we’ve performed this year. But with that said, the projects can vary greatly on size, quantity, finished selected. For your very own estimate, please give us a call at 907-488-5773.

Top 5 Projects I Can Get on a Budget

Budget up to $5K:

1. Kitchen – countertops; or new flooring for kitchen/dining room






2. Bath – powder room to midsize bathroom upgrade





3. Garage – hang drywall, tape, prime & paint

4. Attic – insulation

5. Driveway – install C-1 gravel, regrade driveway, compact and smooth

Budget from $5 to $10K:

1. Small Kitchen – cabinets & countertop upgrade

2. Master Bath – remodel/plumbing new shower location, install surround and upgrade floor

3. Windows – installation of vinyl triple-pane low-E argon filled windows (approximately 6)







4. Exterior – install 22′ by 6′ covered walkway roof; or paint exterior; or build new deck

5. Home – energy upgrades such as weather-seal and insulate or lighting


Top 5 BIG Impacts of a Small Business.

1.We have had the privilege to serve 173 customers this year, for an average of about new customer every other day! We finished a handful of large commercial jobs totaling over $1.4 million. These businesses are enabled to expand operations, serve more customers and new infrastructures are established to bring economic growth and strengthen our community. Furthermore, as a business within the heart of the interior, we took on a contract with the Yukon-Koyukuk School District performing over 300 hours and $85K in repairs at remote locations.
2. Our services involve coordinating skilled carpenters, subcontractors, and securing supplies from a number of different stores and locations to complete a construction project for our clients. We do not send our projects out for bid in order to work with the cheapest subcontractors and maximize our profits. Rather, we choose to use the same plumber, electrician, heating technicians, roofer, etc. because the trusting relationship has been built, the expectations and standards have been set, and the client’s project succeeds as a result. Equally, the subcontractors accept our work! Our relationship with these core business supports their local operation, in turn further supporting our community and the working class within it. Additionally, many of our jobs comprise of restoration projects. Though our clients utilize different insurance and mortgage companies, our leadership’s 25 years of combined experience working within this field facilitates this unfamiliar process to the client.

3. Our building practices are another way we strengthen the community. We have a desire to create energy-efficient spaces, totaling up to 50% energy-cost savings due to our unique building practices that cut heating costs, and use less water and energy. These practices include spray foam insulation, LED or DFL lighting, triple pane low-emissivity windows, and cross-linked polyethylene piped plumbing. Additionally, clients have the opportunity to express themselves through custom design from remote home management upgrades allowing remote control locking doors, adjusting temperatures, turning on lights or other appliances to state-of-the-art computer design programming to transform dreams into 3D and 2D floor plans. In order to stay at the forefront on the cutting edge of techniques and technologies, our leadership team invests time to attend the International Builder’s Show. Ultimately providing our clients with the best possible information to assist them in decisions that are going to last for decades.

4. We try to go above and beyond to provide the very best we can to our clients including giving access to a secure online program that allows them to remain in control of their project by viewing current schedules and construction documents, approving change orders, and viewing and sharing progress photos. Additionally, we provide free estimates, accurately quoting what our customers are envisioning built to help eliminate surprises. Finally, we offer extended warranties to the minimum 1-year Workmanship warranty required for all new homes built in the state of Alaska, including a 2-year Mechanical Systems Warranty and 5-year Structural Warranty. This written warranty is in compliance with National Association of Home Builders guidelines.

5. Annually, our team participates in the Community Clean-Up Day and beautifies the community we all call home. Brian has teamed up with 100+ Professionals pledging to give quarterly to a qualified non-profit. Big Street Construction, Inc. makes various donations, over $3K in 2015, to the youth of this town knowing full well how important they are to our future as well as to several of the city’s charitable organizations including the pregnancy center and suicide awareness. Furthermore, Big Street joined up with the CareNet Pregnancy Center’s team to serve others who find themselves in a crisis and needing help. Brian took the initiative to coordinate a team of construction professionals to donate time, material, and labor to install a new roof for the center. The center provides critical services, such as pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, parenting and abstinence education classes, at no charge to their clients, operating totally on the donations of generous members of our community. Due to the major renovation and impact on the daily operations, the center opted to schedule the project for the spring of 2016.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you enjoyed our Top 5 BIG Impacts of a Small Business list. This was just a glimpse inside ONE local small business. There are countless within our community. Your support of them matters and impacts the community we call home! Hope you have a great 2016!

2016 has now arrived. Here is a financial outlook for the new year. Attached you will find details on the economy, various asset classes, and guidance prepared by the research team at LPL Financial. We hope these details will help as you plan your finances and any home projects for this new year.

2016 Financial Outlook