5 Ways to Prevent Big Problems

Springtime home Inspections

Winter isn’t just rough on us residents – extreme cold, rapidly changing temperatures, and moisture build-up can cause severe and costly damage to your home. Much like our beloved Domes, neglecting small issues will leave them to fester and become expensive disasters. Get in front of these disasters by doing your own inspection and fixing molehills before they become mountains. 


Check for missing, cracked, or shifting shingles. Have you heard of nail-pops? If you’re seeing a shingle that curves up like an eyebrow, the nail is pushing up the shingle and allowing water to penetrate the roof. Fix these now to keep the roof working as it should.




If your chimney is made of brick or stone, is the masonry solid? Are you seeing cracks, shifting, or loose pieces? Is there vegetation growing out of these cracks? These are all signs of water infiltration and an expensive future problem. Also keep an eye out for a white calcium-like deposit on the masonry joints. This is called ‘efflorescence’ and is a sign that the joints are absorbing water rather than repelling it.


Exterior wall

Exterior Walls

Look for trouble spots under eaves and near gutter downspouts. If any part of a gutter is failing, inspect nearby walls closely for water damage and replace gutters as soon as possible.  Check for openings, damage or knots that have popped out of wood siding, creating a haven for carpenter ants, woodpeckers and other critters that may nest in or burrow through.



This is a good thing to make a habit out of noticing. All buildings settle, so get to know the ins and outs of your foundation and notice when it changes or new cracks appear. Failing foundation affects the entire home, so call your builder right away to address these issues.





Check all caulk and weather stripping to ensure that you’re not “letting the penguins out.” Leakage around windows will admit warm summer air and let your AC- cooled indoor air escape If you experienced condensation inside the glass on double- or triple-glazed windows during the winter months, the weather seal has been compromised, and either the glass or the window will need to be replaced. This is also a good time to have your windows cleaned. Use a non-abrasive cleaner and don’t power wash, or you risk cracking the caulk and compromising the seals.



A few hours of work will save you hundreds if not thousands of ‘not-fun’ money in later repairs, so get out in that sunshine and get to know your home.

Frost on Windows

The Why, How, and What to Do About It.

Window Arens

We’ve had a lot of question this winter about failing windows. The temperature drops and clients call us in a panic when brand-new windows end up coated in frost – inside the house! The good news is that your windows are probably working just as they should, and there are things you can to to mitigate the frost. We’ll go over why this happens and when you should worry.

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Looking Up – Ceiling Options for 2016

The Fifth Wall – What Opportunities are You Missing?

Geometric Ceiling of St Annes Church, Edinburgh

Amazing Geometric Ceiling of St Annes Church in Edinburgh

Renovation rarely start because of the ceiling. At best, it’s the backdrop for a fabulous chandler, but when have you heard someone bragging excitedly about their ceiling? Ceiling options, new and old, and being brought back into the spotlight as the way to make a space truly fantastic. Read on for our suggestions, then go out and get some bragging rights of your own.

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What Is Black Stainless?

Black Stainless Steel – The Latest Question In Appliance Finishes

Appliance Finish Options Refined Renovations Black Stainless

 Since kitchens have become the gathering place for the home, what was once purely functional now must be beautiful as well. Not only are you choosing tile, flooring, countertops, and lighting, but you must consider how your appliance finish will tie it all together. Stainless is the crowd favorite – subtle, clean, and sharp, this brushed silver finish matches with any wood or paint choice. It reflects lights well and is clean and sanitary. GE’s Slate is a fairly recent newcomer and is exhibiting some staying power after four years, but this warm, matte, dark grey choice still lags behind stainless in terms of overall popularity. Miele’s Truffle Brown and Brilliant White are sleek and interesting options that look amazing in the right setting. But if none of these trip your trigger?

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Milwaukee Remodeler Awards

Good Food, Great People, Phenomenal Projects

Refined Renovation, Milwaukee NARI, NARI

Last week we attended the yearly Wisconsin Remodeler Awards hosted by Milwaukee NARI. (The largest and most active NARI branch in the country, by the way.) Every year, local Milwaukee remodelers can submit exceptional projects which are then judged by Minnesota NARI professionals.

This year, we were honored to accept one silver and two gold awards for our three submitted projects. It was a great night full of great conversation and astounding projects. We are eternally lucky to be surrounded by so much talent, and we can’t wait to see what happens next year! Here are the projects for 2015. What do you think?

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Cabinet Options

What’s Best for Your Renovation?

Cabinet Options, bare wood, unfinished cabinets, Refined Renovations

Cabinets at our shop await assembly. This is an entire kitchen!

This past weekend saw us at the Wisconsin Expo center talking to visitors about how they would like to improve their home. A lot of the conversations centered on cabinets and whether it’s better to refinish existing units or replace the whole kit and caboodle. For a full kitchen renovation, cabinets will likely be the single largest investment. It can be difficult for consumers to stomach the cost upfront without knowing all they gain from a full replacement. Good cabinets will last twenty to fifty years and you will use them daily, so there is something to ensuring quality and longevity.  Cabinets set the tone for a kitchen, so it’s no wonder we were asked about everything from simply replacing the hardware to refacing to full removal and replacement. Here are your options.

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How to Have the Best Remodel Project on the Block

Traits of a Great Remodel

Every year, the Milwaukee chapter of NARI organizes and hosts the Wisconsin Remodeler Awards. For months beforehand, local remodelers are surveying their best projects for inclusion. Selected projects are judged on how well they met their client’s needs, and on our ability to demonstrate functionality, aesthetics, craftsmanship, and innovation.

Wisconsin Remodeler Awards Invitation, remodel project

We were excited to submit three projects this year, each (we hope) a good indication of our company and the spaces we create for our clients. The framework for the submissions follows closely what we focus on when creating spaces, different factors that all combine for a successful project and space.

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What Are We Talking About When We Talk About Design?

Design Crop

We’ve walked you through the design phase of our process before, but we still get the question a lot-

“We know what we want, why do we need design?”

We think this comes from a misunderstanding of how professionals use the word “design.” When homeowners think about design, they usually think it means a third party coming in and judging their current window treatments or dictating where exactly to put that couch for optimal feng shui. While decoration assistance is certainly a service we can provide, design is our process of discovery, research, and planning that allows us to know exactly what a project will entail before any ground is broken.

      Design starts with a contract and a conversation. If you’ve decided to move forward with Refined Renovation’s design services, you’ll sign a design agreement. This allows us the freedom to research your needs, wants, and current home to determine how best to proceed. We sit down and delve deeply into how you use the space you have now and how you need it to function after the renovation. We listen to your needs and wants and start to form a rough plan based on what you want and your available working budget.

During this first visit, we will take a lot of pictures. These come in handy during the many subsequent meetings between our architect and your project lead. We’ll bring in our architect to recreate your current home plan before starting on the new plan. Even if you’ve got an existing blueprint, homes settle. To avoid surprises, it helps to have an up-to-date measurement of your existing space. During the weeks before your first design presentation, your lead and your architect meet many times. This time is spent taking your dreams and translating them into realistic possibilities that respect your home, budget, and timeline.

You’ll have progress meetings. Your architect and lead will present a few different rough designs, and your input will dictate which of these moves forward. More meetings of your team will happen behind the scenes as they refine your design, discuss potential pitfalls and solutions, and consider new and exciting ideas. You’ll have more meetings to ensure that everything being thought of is something you want in your home, and you should always feel free to send over anything you want added or changed. Once the general layout is decided, a walk-through meeting will take place with various trades checking out the plan and the site. They’ll present proposals to our team, and the scope of your project takes shape.

The design phase is mostly behind-the-scenes and ultimately, and this leads clients to believe it’s an unnecessary part of the whole project. But a project without design is like a road trip without a map – it might turn out okay and it’ll certainly be an adventure, but flying by the seat of your pants is much more likely to land you in the middle of expensive and time consuming problems. Building requires plans, and the better the plan, the better the project.

While we are working on your designs, you can stay busy too! Making selections like appliance, paint colors, door hardware, and plumbing fixtures all contribute to the final total and save time once construction is underway. The ultimate goal of the design retainer is to allow us to put enough effort into our designs to create a construction-ready plan document and an accurate plan cost. You’ll receive a fully finished plan and cost of job, complete with color renderings so you know exactly what you’re getting and what it’ll take to move forward with construction.

Design Phase