Category: Informative

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.

Should I Rent or Buy a Home in Alaska?

Is buying a home a better option? This question should focus on your family’s goals, vision, needs, and desires.  The “cost” of home owning is a much smaller part of the overall decision on whether to buy or rent; though it may be your first and main focus that leads you to not consider making the transition to home ownership.  There are plenty of great reasons why owning might be better than renting.  You have to decide the direction your family is going to make the best decision.  Are you going to be here for an extended period of time?  Would you like to have the flexibility to move often for work?  Is building equity, improving a property, increasing tax deductions something you are interested in earning for your family?  Do you like to learn new skills, or already have handy-man ability?  Is there a location, layout or style of property you envision for you home or business?  Are there options available aside from buying?  Listed are some of the benefits of owning a home, rather than renting.


  • Build your own equity at about the same cost
  • Federal income tax deductions on mortgage interest
  • More stable place to live with a sense of community
  • Lower utility bill with energy-saving features and construction
  • Option and decor that match your own personality
  • The luxury of your own backyard
  • Multiple floor plan choices
  • It’s your rules; you are the landlord


Do you feel like owning your own home is just out of reach?  The truth is, owning your own home is much more affordable and easier than you might think.  In Alaska, the cost of living is high enough where you can own for about the same monthly payment as renting.  You can own a brand-new home with the plan, homesite and customized finishing touches of your choice, for about the same as what you spend on rent.  Get a pre-qualified quote from a bank to figure out your target (estimated) mortgage payment then get a pre-approval from a bank when you see you are ready to start the process to owning.  


Okay, So Why Buy Now?

You’ve heard it before — timing is everything. And this might be truer now than it ever has been before. With interest rates still close to the lowest they’ve been in recent history coupled with plenty of mortgage options available to buyers with good credit, it makes smart financial sense to own a home. From neighborhoods and amenities to design, price and location, you can be choosy about the home you buy and still achieve the dream of becoming a homeowner at a price you can afford.


How Much is my Construction Project Going to Cost?

It is easy to dream about your next remodeling project, that addition adding an extra bathroom to increase the value of your home, or a brand new building construction. However, at the end of the day, the same question must always be asked: How much will the construction cost? Big Street Construction considers the quote one of the most important steps in the entire construction process.

How we Create a Quote:

First, at Big Street Construction we LISTEN fully and attentively to the client’s dreams, expectations, and vision for the project.  This is the first and most important step between the client and us. It is extremely beneficial to have the conversation at the location of the project to really understand what the client already has and envision what they are desiring.  There is no understating that we have to hear what they have to say and what they want in order to deliver a product that matches their dreams.

Second, we ASK a lot of questions.  Many clients do not start with a budget; they ask us “how much am I going to set aside or allot for this project”. These questions are where the pricing comes into play.  We go through all their ideas to help narrow down a budget.  Due to our experience, we can give realistic options based on what is available in our location and price ranges for all the different ideas discussed.

Next, we return to our office and start building the quote.  Some contractors just give you a paragraph of work to be done with a total price. We, however, outline each item in the project individually, we call this line item budgeting and each line item has a price quoted, which we call an allowance.  In the process of the work, there is flexibility in the allowances to move credits or overages based on any changes the client may make.  For example, if we built the allowance for a $1000 refrigerator and the client picked up one on sale, they would have a credit for the difference.  They could move the credit to the $500 range allowance and upgrade to the gas range they wanted. The Big Street difference is that initial evaluations, giving clients and idea of broad term cost are free of charge.  We invest a lot of time in this part of the process and offer this to the client without a requirement to purchase.  It is where our biggest competition lies with other companies.  This is where we hope to be hired as the best choice for general contracting in the Interior of Alaska.


Factors that Affect Construction Cost:

Subcontracting vs. Carpenter 

Some of the work that clients need to complete their project require the use of subcontractors.  We use the same subcontractors for all of our jobs.  The same electrician, plumber, heating technician, roofer, drywaller, etc. will be working on your project that we have used for several years.  Unlike other construction companies, we do not send our homes out to bid in order to work with the cheapest subcontractors.  We have developed an incredible team of subcontractors that enable us to consistently provide clients with the highest quality product possible.  Our Carpenter hours are line itemized by estimated hours for a specific task in the project (demo, tiling, etc) and price per hour.

Item Selection 

What the client ultimately selects will affect the estimated, quoted allowance.


The Quote Process Example:

My master bathroom needs to be remodeled.  It is just so outdated. I’ve lived in my home for over fifteen years; I want this room to be a place of retreat rather than something I just have to live with.  So I called up Big Street to come over and take a look to finally get this project completed!  They came over and I showed them the bathroom.  It is a large, square master bath with a standard, alcove bathtub and a separate, square shower stall next to it on the left side of the room. Opposite of those, on the right side of the room, there is a large vanity with a single sink, two medicine cabinets, and the toilet.  The floor is laminate, and the fixtures are all dated.  I told them I just want a space that is modernized.  I am fine with the layout, but would like a double-sink vanity and a larger shower.  They started with the tub and shower area, and they asked me questions about how I wanted to solve the larger shower dilemma.  They asked me if I wanted the tub or is it not needed because there is another tub in the main bathroom? If I wanted tile (which I did), do I want to splurge on a custom tile, one that I really love regardless of the cost or popularity, or go with a mid-grade tile that’s durable, not as personal in taste, but also less expensive? Did I want to move the toilet to the spot where the shower was and enclose it or just have a half wall?  Or, if I want that shower spot to become a built-in shelf rack.  

For the next hour or so we talked a lot about many different options, ideas, possibilities, and I tailored those down based off the price range that I thought would be possible for me to afford.  When I received my quote, instead of getting a single price, I had a price quoted for each individual thing we talked about.  This was super helpful because I ended up with a smaller budget after an unexpected dryer replacement.  I was able to see where I could make changes to the original plan to save money, like leaving the existing toilet since that doesn’t add anything to the room, but would save money.  Other contractor quotes had a single price listed for all the work we discussed; I didn’t know how much I would even save by dropping something in the quote.  

As a result, I hired Big Street Construction, and the work began. The timing was perfect, a home improvement store was having a sale, and I got all my fixtures and vanity at discounted prices.  Since Big Street gave a quoted allowance for each item individually, and I ended up under those amounts, I had the flexibility to use the difference to moving the toilet anyway!  This would have played out vastly different if I signed a contract elsewhere with a single quoted price for all the work.  I could not have been happier with the work and am in love with my new bathroom!


Minimalist modern homes: Enjoy Alaska’s beauty year-round

The awe and splendor that is Alaska is leading many homeowners towards the architectural innovations of minimalist or modern homes.   With a dedicated focus on simple forms and improved functionality, modern architecture creates maximum living spaces within the minimum of dimensions.  The use of larger glass panels combined with other smooth unornamented building materials often gives the illusion that the home is extensionally “grown” in its location rather than “built.”  These minimalist modern designs seemingly blend into the natural landscape, allowing its occupants to enjoy the impressive natural beauty that can only be found in Alaska.

Characteristics of Minimalist Modern Architecture

One of the leaders of the modern architecture movement is the famous Frank Lloyd Wright.  Wright firmly believed that the interior and exterior spaces of modern homes are essentially one collaborative design element.  The interior spaces should balance with the exterior design, and the natural elements of the surrounding landscape should be incorporated and used as a basis for the décor and aesthetics of the entire home.  Some of the key principle of modern architecture include:

  • Simple, elegant designs that complement the natural surroundings
  • Smooth surfaces without ornamentation or excessive detailing
  • Maximized functionality with a focus on open floor plans
  • Large glass panels overlooking spacious outdoor living spaces

For these reasons, many modern architects choose materials that blend with the exterior environment, like glass, concrete, wood, and steel.  Since Alaska is a wonderland of natural diversity, filled with winding rivers, majestic mountains, and inspiring forests, the guidelines for modern architecture in Alaska are somewhat less restrictive.  Depending on the unique views of your individual property, an impressive modern design can be constructed that complements your individual tastes as well as the natural surroundings.

The Rise in Popularity of Alaskan Modern Architecture

The always-changing levels of natural sunlight in Alaska make minimalist modern home designs ideal for so many reasons.  The wide open floor plans and expansive glass panels allow homeowners to enjoy the seemingly never-ending invasion of natural light that occurs during the summer months.  Entertaining in these modern spaces is almost magical as the interior designs of uncluttered spaces meld seamlessly into the Alaskan landscape beyond.  Through the use of electronic black-out shutters, the sunlight can be easily and completely eliminated during sleeping hours.

During the winter months when sunlight is at is most elusive, these same structural elements provide a feeling of being one with the Alaskan wilderness.  The starlit skies become a type of natural tapestry when viewed from inside the modern home and behind these larger panes of unobstructed glass.  Gaze upon the brilliance of Alaskan wildlife in all its glory and grandeur.

Consider including a number of awe-inspiring skylights in living areas and in the master suite.  The same electronic shutters can be included in these modern design elements as well.  Imagine watching the Great Northern Lights while being warm and toasty under a down comforter in front of a roaring fireplace.  With such a diverse and brilliant landscape like no other place on earth, the design options are limitless for minimalist modern home designs in Alaska.