In January I was able to travel to the International Builders Show or IBS as professionals in the building industry call it. Put on by the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) IBS draws building industry professionals from all over North America. The show was co-located with the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), the International Window Coverings Expo, and the International Surface Event, as well as the Las Vegas Market. It totals up to 125,000 housing industry professionals and this year was attended by more than 55,000 attendees from all over North America visiting with roughly 1200 exhibitors. Attendees walk almost a half million square feet of showroom floor in search of the latest and greatest building products from foundation systems to the roof, and from fasteners to fixtures. Classes are also offered throughout the three days at IBS on everything from how-to’s, trends, technology, and the business of building and remodeling.

At the show I was in search of some new items and technologies to bring into my business, new ways to better my business, and new items to bring to the homeowner. I attended seven hours of classes, toured the “New American Home,” and enjoyed show kick-off and with keynote speaker, ESPN analyst/former head football coach John Gruden. And finally I attended the closing concert by one of the oldest and greatest three man rock and roll bands of all time, ZZ Top!

The showroom floor was overwhelming to say the least. My feet were sore (and I run marathons) from trying to visit the exhibits I had on my list. What is the latest and greatest thing to put in your home you might ask? Well let’s look at it in a different light. The new trends and material finishes are pretty amazing especially in the show where there are whole functional kitchens and operating fixtures all throughout the show. In fact, end of day parties are held in some booths, serving fresh baked cookies from these kitchens. All these items are a little much so let us look at these items with a cost vs. value objective, applying a class I took with material finishes. Otherwise known as, bang for your buck. The biggest bang for your buck or value to the homeowner is a new front door. A new front door can change the aesthetics of a home and also help in energy efficiency, getting an owner almost 100% in cost re-coup. Next on the list is adding stone veneer to the exterior of a home. Update the siding with simply doing a section of stone veneer and a homeowner will re-gain most the project value in the sale of your home. Exterior upgrades like siding, dormers, entries, and decks, as long as they are thoughtfully done, all add to the value of your home. On the interior, kitchens and baths get good value vs. cost accolades and having an updated kitchen or bath always lifts the spirits of a homeowner and the value of a home. And new products for the exterior and interior of your home you might ask? Well there are too many products to list, all of which are more durable, easier to install, and add value to your home, which leads me to the next item.

Making selections and the project easier on the homeowner was one of the goals I had while attending the show. I attended classes on the subject, visited with software exhibitors, and met with fellow homebuilders and remodelers. As I mentioned above there are too many product to list and as a homeowner it can be overwhelming. This fixture or that fixture, this countertop or that countertop the options are endless. Making the selection process easier for the homeowner will make a project more enjoyable. Options for hardwood flooring can entail at least six different choices. The first selection option in hardwood flooring would be engineered wood or hardwood, then it opens into color, width, nailed, glued, floating, and all the selections have sub-selections and so on until a flooring is found. Material selections can be mind-boggling and as a builder I would rather be on the jobsite, but I have also learned that person-construction preparation is priceless for both the builder and the homeowner. As a builder/remodeler I also learned that as the options are almost endless, selection options should not be. That doesn’t mean that a homeowner doesn’t have options or choices, it just means that a builder needs to have a process that is easy for a homeowner to make all the selections that go into picking a materials for a home build or a remodel. The goal is to make having a house built or remodeled enjoyable, as well as, a final outcome that can be enjoyed for decades to come.

At the International Builders Show I also toured three different homes, one built permanently in a sub-division east of Las Vegas, also known as the New American Home, and two other homes temporarily built in the outdoor area of the show. These homes featured all the latest and greatest technology that goes into a home. Home automation consisting of heating, lights, and doors. These items were not around 5 years ago. These homes are not energy suckers either, in fact they are almost off the grid, generating heat and power from air, earth, and solar. They use materials built into the home that clean formaldehyde and other toxins from the air. They are using low VOCs paints and finishes to help in indoor air quality. The use of foams, weatherization products, and heating systems are efficient, easy to use, and make these structures very comfortable to live in. Homes need to work as a system, not just a bunch of building products thrown together to make a home. A system that works for the homeowner, is durable, is comfortable, and is fun to live in.

Attending these trade shows is beneficial for me as builder/remodeler. They give me a chance to network with other builders big and small throughout the country to see what is working for them and share some of my successes with them. I can attend classes specific to what I want to learn from similar trade professionals that have experiences in the building industry that are priceless. I can research materials and talk with vendors about materials to incorporate and building systems that are functional, money saving, and durable for my clients. I can honestly say that my three days spent at IBS felt as if I’d earned another 10 years of experience in the building industry. Every business should strive to be better through education and continuous improvement and as a local Juneau business I want to provide the best experience for my clients.

Greg Stopher has over 16 years of experience in the construction field and earned a degree in Construction Technologies from the University of Alaska – Southeast. His company, Stopher Construction, LLC, is a general contracting company specializing in remodeling, custom finishes, additions and new home construction projects. He can be reached at 907-321-2350.