The pandemic has initiated unprecedented interest in home remodeling projects ranging in scope from replacing a front door to executing a whole-house makeover. “Since people have been home for the past year, they’ve really gotten to ‘live’ in their homes,” says Choice Home Remodeling’s co-founder, Wayne Chapin. “Through being home, they are discovering how outdated their kitchens and baths are. They’re also realizing they need dedicated spaces for home offices and classrooms.” Wayne’s partner, Jeff Zeiset, adds, “Creating and improving outdoor-living spaces is also at the top of homeowners’ must-do lists.”
Those pent-up frustrations were unleashed on all facets of the home building industry last spring and the torrent has continued – unabated – into the early months of 2021. “With the spring rush coming, I don’t see it slowing up,” Wayne observes. Homeowners have simply grown tired of having their dining rooms and kitchens do double and triple duty as home offices and virtual classrooms. They’ve also discovered that too much togetherness can be detrimental to productivity and peace of mind. The pandemic has also prompted homeowners to go full-out Marie Kondo and organize closets and garages and purge their homes of items that are no longer wanted or needed.
Subsequently, homeowners have spent the last year searching for ways to create spaces that can accommodate their new “at-home” lifestyles. Wish lists include adding everything from offices, gyms/yoga rooms and hobby areas to classrooms, playrooms, in-law/young-adult suites and “escape” rooms to their homes.
To achieve such goals, some are looking upward to attic space that could be put to better use than storage. Others are looking downward to basements that could fulfill a myriad of purposes. Another ploy is expanding the square footage with an addition.
Last but not least, they are looking for ways to stay organized and are seeking kitchen designs that provide plenty of storage space. In bedrooms, closet organizing systems are in demand. As for baths, they’ve become the ultimate “escape,” as the spa-inspired spaces feature large glass-enclosed showers, soaking tubs and other self-care amenities.
“People do have grand ideas,” says Jeremy Horst, one of Choice Home Remodeling’s sales reps. He attributes dreaming big to internet access, social media and the plethora of home-related shows that air on television. Many of the HGTV personalities (as well as Chip and Joanna Gaines of the soon-to-launch Magnolia Network) now have their own glossy magazines. “That’s where education comes into play, especially for larger projects – oftentimes, homeowners just have no idea what their ideas will cost. We have to take their vision and help them build within their budget,” Jeremy explains.
“It got kind of crazy last spring,” Wayne attests. “We were shut down for six weeks – everything came to a standstill. We were extremely worried,” he admits. “When we did resume operations, we tried to be as cautious as possible and had our staff start off by working in the office on a part-time basis.”
Then, the unexpected happened. “We were inundated with calls and leads,” he recalls. “We went from worrying if we’d survive to worrying how we were going to get all the work done that was coming our way. People were using their tax refunds, stimulus money and their vacation dollars to do home projects. We went from having an 8-week backlog of work to where we are now at 16 weeks.”
Jeff adds that the supply chain, which has been impacted by Covid, is the linchpin in keeping projects on track. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to work around it and stay ahead of it,” he says.
You Can See for Miles and Miles
One recently completed project – the sunroom featured here – was actually a glint in its owners’ eyes long before the pandemic arrived. Several years ago, Steve and Kathy Ravegum downsized from a large Victorian home in Ephrata to a ranch-style house east of New Holland. The rear of the house offered commanding views of farmland, the town of New Holland, and beyond that, as far as the eye can see on a clear day.
However, if they wanted to take in the panoramic views, their only options included a bay window in the kitchen and a rear deck. “It’s just beautiful at dusk,” Steve says of the pink-tinged sky and the lights that begin to flicker across the valley, in New Holland and the countryside beyond as night falls.
Two years ago, they contacted Choice Windows, Doors & More (now Choice Home Remodeling) with the idea of possibly adding a garage and a sunroom on the side of the house. Last summer they revisited the project with their rep, Jeremy Horst, and decided to nix the garage and go with a sunroom at the back of the house that would add to their living space and allow them to fully take advantage of the spectacular views. The project got underway just after Thanksgiving and was completed in early January.
Choice Home Remodeling is an exclusive dealer for LivingSpace, an Ohio-based company that sought to improve the image of sunrooms when it came on the scene in the late ‘90s. At the time, sunrooms were typically made from aluminum components that were thermally inefficient. They were hot in the summer and cold in the winter. In reality, such rooms could only be enjoyed year-round in temperate climates. Because of their thermal inefficiency, early sunrooms could not fully open into other spaces of a home. Instead, they had to be separated by a door of some sort.
LivingSpace set out to create a product that truly performs as a beautiful and functional addition to a home. The vinyl and fiberglass building components are fully customizable in regards to room size, ceiling style and color choices. The construction components also comply with insulation standards for new home construction and boast a 5-Star energy rating. Furthermore, with full customization, construction allows for rooflines to match or complement those of the existing structure. The company’s signature Amilock technology, which keeps the fastening system completely hidden, allows for the maximum use of glass. “Eighty percent glass is the definition of a sunroom,” says Jeremy.
In this case, the Ravegums chose a design that includes a cathedral ceiling, with glass stretching from floor to ceiling. A wide alcove that is outfitted with French doors was created to allow for an open-concept area consisting of the kitchen, a dining area and the sunroom. A mini split-system HVAC will keep the room comfortable year-round (plus, some of the windows slide open).
The new sunroom sparked other projects. The homeowners chose to have the luxury vinyl tile (LVT) they selected for the sunroom carry through the kitchen and into other first-floor areas. Outdoors, Choice Home Remodeling revamped the deck. A staircase that provides access to the deck and sunroom from the backyard was also built. In addition, soffits and gutters were repaired.
Jeremy points to sunrooms as being yet another element of outdoor-living areas. “They’re perfect for people who like to be outside without being outside,” he says. Recognizing that preference, LivingSpace has introduced a new system that converts porches, patios and decks into 3-season rooms. Jeremy adds that sunrooms have found a new audience in plant lovers who are looking for sun-filled nurturing spaces for their prized exotics and houseplants.
Conducting Business, Pandemic Style
As 2020 dawned, Choice Windows, Doors & More was preparing to celebrate a banner year. It had been 25 years since Wayne and Jeff joined forces to start the company. The two became acquainted through the large construction company Wayne had worked for since graduating from high school. Jeff was one of the company’s subcontractors.
When the company announced it was eliminating some of its divisions, Wayne and Jeff saw an opportunity to launch a business whose focus would be on windows and doors. It was a leap of faith as Wayne had progressed from carpenter apprentice to a sales position over the course of 18 years and Jeff had worked as a framer for 10 years. Nevertheless, their entrepreneurial spirits prevailed and in 1995, they opened Choice Windows & Doors in a small building on the west side of New Holland.
“We grew rapidly,” says Wayne, referring to the present location (a former lumberyard on the east side of New Holland to which they relocated 15 years ago), workforce (now at 50, which includes sales reps, designers, office personnel and a construction team), the showroom (which was recently remodeled and includes a small LivingSpace sunroom), and the wide range of services it now offers (prompting the addition of “More” to the company name). “The only thing we haven’t done is build a house,” Jeremy says. “We could probably do that if we wanted to,” Jeff replies.
Wayne and Jeff take pride in the caliber of employees that work for Choice Home Remodeling. “Because of what remodeling entails – working in someone’s home – our employees must be high-quality and high-integrity people,” Wayne notes. He and Jeff do have one looming concern. “Our number-one concern for the future is manpower. The younger generation is not showing an interest in the trades and the older generation – the really skilled craftsmen – are aging out and retiring,” Wayne explains. “It’s going to be a real problem in the near future. Even finding trainees is difficult.”
In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Choice Windows, Doors & More had planned a party and community celebration. “We had the tents ordered and were working on the catering,” says Rosa Zimmerman, the company’s office manager. The pandemic caused the plans to be canceled. “I guess we’ll wait for the 30th to celebrate,” says Wayne.
The company also decided to do a little “remodeling” of its own and rebranded its name to Choice Home Remodeling in order to better convey its abilities and the products and services it offers. “Kitchens and baths have become such a big part of our business that we felt we were doing that division a disservice by lumping it in with ‘More,’” Wayne explains.
Despite tweaking the company’s name, Choice remains the definitive word. “We have products to fit every niche,” Jeremy explains. “For example, we have access to six or seven lines of windows” that meet a variety of price points. “Even when we give someone a proposal, we include choices that we can make available,” Wayne adds.
For more information, visit choicehomeremodeling.com or call 717-354-2003. The showroom is located at 550 E. Main Street in New Holland.
Kitchen Design: What’s Trending
Is a kitchen remodel in your future? Choice Home Remodeling’s senior designer, Courtney Bird, shares what’s trending for 2021.
Painted Cabinetry: White continues to reign supreme in popularity, along with shades of gray. Coming on strong are blues and greens. “White is a classic and gray is not going away – it’s come to be regarded as the new neutral,” she says. Depending on the shade and/or intensity of the color, blue or green can bring tranquility, richness or sophistication to a kitchen.
Simplicity: Cabinet doors with clean, simple lines are in vogue.
Quartz: It’s not only beautiful but it’s low-maintenance.
Tile: Unusual patterns and bold colors are being used to make a statement in kitchens. Backsplashes that extend to the ceiling are providing the wow factor.
Modern Farmhouse: It’s not going anywhere soon!
Storage: The anti-clutter movement is making pantries, appliance garages and an expanse of cabinetry must-haves for the kitchen.
Organization: Cabinets are no longer dark holes. They are outfitted with pull-out shelves and peg-style organizers that keep them neat and tidy. Ditto for drawers.
The Sounds of Silence: Soft-close cabinets and drawers eliminate noise and the chance of little ones getting their fingers pinched.
Function: Designs that allow for a family to comfortably cook together and gather around the island for a meal, a conversation or maybe game night are in demand in 2021. Hopefully, that island will be able to do double-duty as a buffet once it’s safe to entertain again.
Smart Appliances: The technology is so mind-boggling that it might lead to dinner being on the table as you arrive home from work.
Statement Faucets: Matte black and champagne bronze finishes are two gorgeous options.
Charging Stations: Kitchen-centric desks that served as a home’s command center are so ‘90s! They’ve been replaced by unobtrusive charging stations for phones, iPads, etc.