Category: Informative

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.

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.


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

Geothermal Heating, an Alternative to Burning

Many local residents have found geothermal heating to be a practical choice for their new home construction. That’s because geothermal heat can keep your home more comfortable than other home heating options, while also saving you money long term on energy bills. Our local area experienced Fairbanks North Star Borough’s first ever burn ban recently, making another great argument on behalf of geothermal heating. It’s certainly a big improvement on wood stoves, which are part of the ban in these low air quality weather conditions. Today, we’ll share some information to help you understand geothermal power and why we often include geothermal heating systems in our new home construction projects.

Demystifying Geothermal Heatinggeothermal heating is a sustainable and eco-friendly heating option.

Geothermal power harnesses the consistent temperature found just below the surface of the Earth. Just below ground, it is warmer than outdoor air temperature in winter. The heat energy is accessed by installing small pipes or tubes in a series of loops into the ground, enabling heat transfer between the ground and your house. Since heat is moved, but not generated, no fuel is required.

A geothermal heating system consists of vertical or horizontal underground pipe loops, usually polypropylene and an indoor heat pump. To provide heating, water is circulated through the pipes, absorbing heat from the ground and transferring it to the heat pump. The pump removes heat from the water and distributes it (as warm air) to heat your home. The water is re-circulated, collecting heat from the ground again.

Geothermal Energy Advantages in New Fairbanks Construction

Compared to other home heating sources, geothermal offers benefits like:

  • Low operating costs: Geothermal systems can provide 4 units of heat energy for each unit of electricity used, due to moving heat instead of making it. You could save up to 70% on your energy bill. Electricity needed to run the geothermal heat pump is about half the cost of heating oil.
  • Quiet: The indoor part of a geothermal system, the heat pump, is quieter than a refrigerator.
  • Clean air: Geothermal systems are environmentally friendly. No carbon dioxide/greenhouse gasses are emitted as when burning fossil fuels. Only a small amount of electricity is needed for the geothermal heat pump, which is a great savings over electrical heating systems and it doesn’t tax the electrical grid.
  • Safety: No combustion occurs, so there is no possibility of carbon-monoxide poisoning.
  • Delayed replacement: Geothermal systems typically last for 15+ years. The ground loop is generally guaranteed for 50 years. A gas furnace may last 10 years or less, with regular maintenance.
  • Great Return on Investment: Especially in new home construction, energy bill savings soon exceed the cost of materials and geothermal installation.

Big Street Construction got its start a dozen years ago here in North Pole. We’re proud to say that our family owned company has helped hundreds of local homeowners enjoy a new custom home with economical, comfortable and environmentally sound geothermal heating. When you need expert advice on building your new home in Fairbanks or North Pole, including free detailed estimates of time and cost, count on the residential construction professionals at Big Street. Check out our blog as a general information resource or contact us at Big Street Construction to discuss your new home project today.

How do I obtain house plans?

Designing and building a new home in the majestic state of Alaska does not have to be a monumental challenge.  In fact, the entire process can run very smoothly with a little patience and careful planning.  However, knowing where you can obtain house plans in Alaska and how much house plans usually cost are two of the most important considerations.  By choosing the proper design and build construction firm, many people can have their perfect dream home constructed to their exact specifications for about the same price as a previously owned home.

Do you know how much house plans usually cost?

Our design process is what sets us apart from other builders.  We are a design and build contractor so you do not have to hire a professional architect to get your custom built, dream space.  Hiring a professional architect to generate the house plans will escalate the price tag considerably.  As with most custom-built items, the total cost for a set of blueprints will depend on several Big Street draws their own house plans to help you cut the cost of construction.factors.  A professional architect costs could range from $5,000 to $15,000 for a set of house plans.  Meanwhile, you will still have to hire a general contractor to build the new residence.  If the contractor has questions about the architect’s blueprints, getting an answer can sometimes take several days or even weeks.  It is these types of miscommunications that result in construction delays and escalating construction costs. Why not have one experienced and reliable company do everything from start to finish for a single, affordable, fee?  With Big Street Construction, the cost of the house plan is included in the overall contract price.  We give free consultations with a rough plan to individuals ready to start the design-build process.  From the very start, our design process is crucial to getting your finished product to match your vision because this is where we begin forming the relationship which enables us to create accurate budget and allowances in accordance with what your are wanting to see when the work is done.  

Do you know where you can obtain house plans in Alaska?

Big Street Construction has a team of experienced and professional designers to guide new homeowners through every step of the design and construction process.  From choosing the perfect plot of land to selecting the proper floor finishes, we make sure that your creative vision is efficiently translated into blueprint form and at a fractionBig Street Construction has they're own architect to draw up House Plans. of the cost.  We are able to create 3D and 2D renderings, construction drawings, and virtual tours in order for you to visualize the home before it is built.  And since we are the ones drawing the house plans, the transition to the construction process is smooth.  You save even more money by essentially eliminating unnecessary construction delays.

Through state-of-the-art computer-aided drafting technology, we can quickly customize the house according to standard building practices.  Throughout the design process, we are also happy to answer any questions concerning the future constructional operations of the new home.  This collaborative effort helps you as the new homeowner to better understand the entire process from beginning to end and to obtain the dream home that you truly have in mind.   

Do you know how to estimate your construction schedule?

Once the construction of the new home is underway, many homeowners are often left in the dark as to the level of progress that is being made on their newly constructed home.  With Big Street Construction, all of our future homeowners have unlimited online access to the itemized construction schedule, detailing individual tasks along with expected completion dates.  This allows you to better estimate move-in dates, furniture deliveries, and other associated responsibilities for transitioning into the new home.


How do I choose a good construction company?

Building a new home is a huge decision. It also requires a great financial commitment. At times you may be tempted to choose the cheapest bid for your project, however, we urge you to look at more than the cost of construction. Not only are you choosing how you will spend your money, but who you will be working with. Make sure to factor the company and builder’s themselves into your decision.

The saying “you get what you pay for” holds very true in new construction. Big Street Construction is not just selling you a home. We are selling you the experience of building your home from the conception to the completion.

The difference with working with Big Street Construction versus any other Builder is the fact that we basically build your home on paper first. Our designing, scheduling, detailing, and estimating process is completely transparent and more comprehensive and detailed than any of our competition. You will know exactly what we are going to build for you and what it is going to cost you.

To choose a good construction company, you must pay attention to the bids your receive. Receiving bids from several different Builders is confusing and consuming. Unfortunately, most Builders have devised creative ways of pricing their homes and deceptive ways of providing bids. Comparing our estimates with our competition’s estimates is simply comparing apples to oranges.

Our estimates differ from our completion in the following ways:

  1. Big Street Construction has NO hidden fees. Our competition will most likely provide you an incomplete and non-detailed estimate of your home that may not include such things as carpeting, painting, countertops, siding, and cost of drafting plans or even any of the associated construction costs a Builder might have to pay in order to build your home. They hide extra costs in their lack of detail in their estimates only to surprise you with change orders in the middle of the construction of your home.
  1. Big Street Construction is detailed. Our competition will most likely use cheaper materials to build your home and will allocate less money towards your allowances for making selections. We will identify solid wood trim throughout your home in our estimate while our competition will simply identify “trim” at best and use cheap particle board trim for example.

Our primary concern is that you know exactly what we are going to build, how we are going to build it, how long it is going to take to build, and exactly how much it is going to cost. We are not just selling you a home but an experience. We have worked very hard to establish ourselves as a General Contractor with integrity and an impeccable reputation within our community by being transparent, honest, and trustworthy with all of our clients.