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Soft home sales boost remodeling work

Home Show exhibitors see demand for upgrades such as better energy efficiency

March 05, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Jack Ramsey looks over a contemporary gas fireplace Saturday at the 26th annual Home Show at Hagerstown Community College's Athletic Recreational Community Center. The fireplace has a bed of glass chips. It is displayed by Shawley's Gas.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — New home construction this year may very well remain stagnant, but some exhibitors at the 26th Home Show Saturday said they are seeing significant demand for energy-efficient remodeling.

The annual exposition presented by the Home Builders Association of Washington County continues today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hagerstown Community College's Athletic Recreational Community Center off Robinwood Drive.

Admission is $2 for adults and free for children 12 and under.

"It's all about the home," said Tim Fields, chairman of the Home Builders Association's Home Show Committee.

This year's show features more than 130 vendors, Fields said.

Tri-State Builders owner Titus R. Martin said his company has been busy with renovation projects to make homes more energy efficient with spray-foam insulation.

"We're definitely seeing a lot of interest ... and as of right now, it's still a very small segment of the insulation market in the U.S., but it's growing by leaps and bounds," Martin said.

"It's growing by about 14 percent per year."

About 70 percent of the Smithsburg general contractor's business has been retrofit projects, with the remaining being new construction, Martin said.

"Everybody is tired of their high energy bills," Martin said.

If a home is completely insulated with spray foam, Martin said the savings compared to traditional insulation can be up to 50 to 60 percent.

The average savings in the retrofit of an existing home is about 30 percent, Martin said.

Toni Mullen of Myersville, Md.-based Monument Foam Insulators said traditional fiberglass is cheaper, but the savings will not necessarily add up in the long term, given how utility costs have increased.

Mullen and other exhibitors reported seeing some new home construction activity, but still far from the levels notched in the boom of the last decade.

Fields, who owns a home power-washing business in addition to Royal House Construction Inc., predicted that the building industry may not be strong again for four years.   

"There's more people washing houses than building them," Fields said.

Amid a depressed real estate market, J&D Kitchen Distributors Inc. has seen "pent-up demand" recently from homeowners interested in remodeling projects, company CEO David Clugston said.

"The quality of leads (for new business) is better than last year," Clugston said.

Unable to sell their homes without taking a substantial loss, some homeowners have decided to add value to their property in advance of an uptick in the market through renovation, Clugston said.

A fast-growing sector in home improvement includes retrofits that cater to the "aging in place" concept, said Vickie Hrabal, an interior designer and cabinet designer for J&D Kitchen Distributors.

The company's exhibit for the Home Show features a kitchen faucet that can be turned on with the back of one's hand and roll-out trays in drawers.

Hrabal said she believes such amenities will continue to be popular as the Baby Boom generation ages.

Hagerstown resident Christy Newman said she and her husband, James, came to the Home Show Saturday to see what was "new and interesting."   

Her mother-in-law, Anne Newman, however, was looking at options for a fireplace, gutters and storage systems for an 80-year-old home she has been renovating.

"If they're going to help me with the projects they have to see it ahead of time," Anne Newman said smiling.

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