2011 COTY (Contractor of the Year) Award Winners

On Friday, November 18th the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry announced the recipients for the 2011 NARI MN COTY (Contractor of the Year) Awards. The awards recognize excellence in aesthetics, functionality, superior craftsmanship, use of innovative construction materials & techniques, overcoming difficult obstacles, and meeting client needs. There were 79 entries across 25 categories in this year’s competition. Receiving an award is a great accomplishment. The following are this year’s winners:

Residential Project Under $15,000
Winner: Closets for Life
Honorable Mention: DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen

Residential Kitchen $60,000 and Under
Winner: Posch Builders, LLC
Honorable Mention: w.b. builders

Residential Kitchen $60,001-$75,000
Winner: James Barton Design-Build, Inc.
Honorable Mention: DiGiacomo Homes & Renovation, Inc.

Residential Kitchen $75,001-$90,000
Winner: Structural Dimensions Inc.
Honorable Mention: J Carsten Homes

Residential Kitchen $90,001-$120,000
Winner: Bluestem Construction
Honorable Mention: DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen

Residential Kitchen Over $120,000
Winner: White Crane Construction
Honorable Mention: Streeter & Associates, Inc

Residential Bath $30,000 and Under
Winner: Metamorphosis Group, Inc.
Honorable Mention: J Carsten Homes

Residential Bath $30,001-$60,000
Winner: James Barton Design-Build, Inc.
Honorable Mention: Knight Construction Design, Inc.

Residential Bath Over $60,000
Honorable Mention: w.b. builders

Residential Interior $150,000 and Under
Winner: Finished Basement Company
Honorable Mention: Schrader & Companies

Residential Interior Over $150,000
Winner: Jones Design Build LLC
Honorable Mention: Streeter & Associates, Inc

Residential Interior Specialty
Winner: Structural Dimensions Inc.
Honorable Mention: Closets for Life

Commercial Interior, Exterior or Specialty
Winner: Pure Design Environments

Residential Addition $200,000 and Under
Winner: TreHus Architects+Interior Designers+Builders

Residential Addition Over $200,000
Winner: Awad + Koontz Architects Builders Inc.
Honorable Mention: TreHus Architects+Interior Designers+Builders

Residential Historical
Winner: Vujovich Design Build
Honorable Mention: DiGiacomo Homes & Renovation, Inc.

Residential Exterior
Winner: Sicora, Inc.
Honorable Mention: Southview Design

Residential Exterior Specialty
Winner: Mantis Design & Build, LLC
Honorable Mention: Knight Construction Design, Inc.

Entire House $250,000 and Under
Winner: College City Design/Build, Inc.
Honorable Mention: Building Arts Sustainable Architecture + Construction

Entire House $250,001-$500,000
Winner: Streeter & Associates, Inc
Honorable Mention: Sicora, Inc.

Entire House Over $500,000
Winner: Northway Construction Services
Honorable Mention: TreHus Architects+Interior Designers+Builders

Universal Design
Winner: Jones Design Build LLC

Associate of the Year
Winner: All, Inc.
Honorable Mention: Granite Tops, LLC

Best Newcomer
Winner: Metamorphosis Group, Inc.

Best of Show
Winner: Northway Construction Services

Good Luck-

Jason- J Carsten Homes


Induction Cooking

Gas, electric. Yep, heard of those. Induction? Heard of it, but what is it all about?

Induction cooking is faster and more energy efficient than traditional electric cooking. It allows instant control of cooking energy similar to gas burners. The surface of the cook top is only heated from contact with the vessel. There are no flames or red-hot electric heating elements as found in traditional cooking equipment.

How it Works: A coil of copper wire is placed underneath the cooking pot. An alternating electric current flows through the coil, which produces an oscillating magnetic field. This field induces an electric current in the pot. Current flowing in the metal pot produces resistive heating which heats the food. While the current is large, it is produced by a low voltage. So unlike other forms of cooking, heat is generated directly in the pot or pan as opposed to being generated in the stovetop by electrical coils or burning gas.



  • Flame-less cooking– In situations in which a hotplate would typically be dangerous or illegal, an induction plate is ideal, as it creates no heat itself.
  • High Efficiency- an induction element has heating performance comparable to a typical consumer-type gas element, even though the gas burner would have a much higher power input.
  • Easy to Clean- the cooking surface is flat and smooth, even though it may have several heating zones. Since the cooking surface is not directly heated, spilled food does not burn on the surface.
  • Control- Since heat is being generated by an induced electric current, the unit can detect whether cookware is present (or whether its contents have boiled dry) by monitoring how much power is being absorbed. That allows such functions as keeping a pot at minimal boil or automatically turning an element off when cookware is removed from it.




  • Compatible Cookware
    • Glass and ceramics are unusable, as are solid copper or solid aluminum cookware.
    • Cookware must have a flat bottom since the magnetic field drops rapidly with distance from the surface.
    • Generally, if a magnet sticks to the bottom, it will work on an induction cooker

  • Price. Although a Viking induction range can top out at $6,000, some models now cost a little over $1,500. LG recently introduced a cooktop hybrid with two induction and two electric elements for $800.
  • Not everyone is sold. Controlling it and understanding which setting will provide the right amount of heat is difficult. Also, once the pan is removed from the heat, the heat goes away. That makes techniques like stir-frying difficult as well.

Good Luck

Jason, J Carsten Homes

Know your limitations- Part 2: Being your own General Contractor.

A customer called me the other day needing  someone who can fix the broken floor joists in a early 1910’s house. He asked for a framer. I went to look at his house and see about a solution.

Here’s what I saw was needed:

  • Asbestos abatement company to remove the asbestos from the water pipes.
  • Plumber to remove the pipes that ran through the 2×8 floor joists and then reintstall the pipes
  • Electrician to remove electrical lines and reinstall them
  • Framer to sister in additional joists on either side of damaged joists

That’s 4 subcontractors when the customer thought he only thought he needed one.

When I build a new home, I may use up to 45 different subcontractors to get the job done. That’s a lot of companies. I’ve worked with each one of them. I know how they work, how long it will take, and how they handle issues after installation. It has taken me years to come up with the list of subcontractors I use today.

While I know the list of contractors is valuable (especially to me), it’s only part of being a general contractor. A general contractor also:

  • Pulls necessary permits
  • Sets up other items needed for subcontractors to do their job
    • Preps site for work to begin
    • Dumpster
    • Portable toilet- (Do you want us using your clean bathroom?)
    • Site access- especially in a remodel
    • Security- to prevent theft and control access to the site
    • Is on site to handle questions and communicate and coordinate between subcontractors
    • Sets the schedule and ensures that subcontractors complete jobs as specified
    • Is on site for all inspections
    • Warranties the work of all the subcontractors
    • Ensures that subcontractors are appropriately licensed and have the required liability insurance and workman’s comp insurance.
    • Pay the subcontractors and get the necessary mechanic lien releases
    • Ensures daily clean up and coordinates communication and changes with homeowner

Obviously, being a general contractor is a full time job for me. A homeowner can be their own general contractor. But keep in mind a project is more than just a list of contractors- there is a lot of time and experience that goes into making a successful project.

Good Luck

Jason- J Carsten Homes

Know your limitations- Part 1: Hiring a professional versus DIY

I don’t change my oil.

I didn’t create my website.

I don’t sow my own clothes.

I don’t farm all the food I eat.

I don’t do a lot of things for two reasons:

1) I realize that I currently don’t have the talent to do something;

2) It may take a long time to learn how to do something properly and I feel my time is better spent doing something I am good at.

As a construction professional, I do a fair amount of work for the projects I have. But electrical, plumbing, and heating professionals all have separate licenses which means they have training that I don’t have. I hire them to do their respective work. I can hang drywall, paint, make cabinets, and install tile, but I choose to hire professionals for these jobs as well. They have the tools and skill sets to get the job done faster and better than I could do it.

Don’t get me wrong. ANYONE can learn to do ANYTHING with enough time and determination. But my point here is to know your limitations and realize that spending more money to have a profession do the work may be better than you spending all your time learning and still getting mixed results.

Good Luck

Jason- J Carsten Homes