All posts by Peter Thorpe

Distinctive Curb Appeal: A Case Study in Minneapolis Design & Exterior Renovations

Overview: Being in a new suburban development means there can be a lot of similarity in the house styles. This family wanted to give their home a face-lift to add some uniqueness to the neighborhood. In addition, they desired a front porch to sit and relax. AMEK Exteriors was invited to bid on this Minneapolis design & exterior renovation because the client had seen other projects being done in their neighborhood. In the end, we gave the home more balance, texture and color to create the enhanced curb appeal they were looking for.


Original Built Date: 1997

General Description: Rambler single-family home

Initial Analysis: The first consideration was diminishing the prominence of the garage and sliding the focus to the main entry. Because the couple intended to stay in the home for a long time, another strong factor was creating an enduring distinctive look using quality long-lasting, low-maintenance roofing and siding products and implementing solid construction techniques.

Design Plan: One of the primary design goals was to shift the main thrust and focus of the garage to the front door. To do this, we pulled out the roof line in the front to create an inviting front porch. Eliminating one of the gables and enlarging the remaining one balanced out the proportions to the garage gable. Selecting the stone first provided a base for all other color choices. Adding the earthy yellow color and columns added depth to the home’s appearance. In addition, the garage doors were upgraded with windows and a darker color to connect with the stonework and to provide additional contrast. Using James Hardie siding including shakes allowed for solid, durable cladding with the option to change the color if desired.

Challenges & Solutions: In order to build long-lasting columns, additional time and cost were involved to put in footings that went approximately 4 feet below grade and several feet above grade. The steps and porch floor were designed to make sure there was an overhang so water drains off the edge beyond where the stonework is. AZEK pieces known for their low maintenance were used for trim and also for the porch ceiling. Creating symmetry between the existing and new pieces was important, so the new peak over the front door had to be aligned properly to generate a unified look.

Additional Project Notes: This project was the start to a trusted relationship. AMEK has done several other projects for this client.

Notable Project Products: Buechel Fond du Lac stone, James Hardie siding, AZEK trim

Completion Date: 2010

AMEK Featured in Southwest Journal

The following article was published by Sarah McKenzie in the Southwest Journal  Home Guide on May 4, 2016.  See a case study on this project and also a design award it won!

When Anand Karimpuzha and his wife Anitha purchased their 1925-era home near Minnehaha Creek in the summer of 2014 they had to brace themselves for some major work ahead.

“Once we started looking at it, it became clear that we may be getting really, really over our heads very quickly,” he said.

The couple had signed on to work with Bloomington-based AMEK Custom Builders to do an exterior renovation of the house. They wanted to relocate from Woodbury to a neighborhood in the city near the Chain of Lakes.
Southwest Minneapolis - Before and After
When AMEK co-owner Paul Schmidt initially reviewed moisture test reports and inspected the home, he confirmed that house was rotting and had sustained serious water damage due to the improper installation of windows and vapor barrier when the home was renovated with a second-story addition in the 1980s.

Trapped water around the windows and moisture from poor ventilation systems created extensive damage.

“We found out that the structure of the home had sustained the worst damage I had ever seen in my career doing stucco renovation,” Schmidt said.

Still, he had faith in the potential of the project and the prime location, telling Anand and Anitha that if they trusted him, he could deliver an “award-winning” home. The couple has a daughter, Annika, and dog, Max.

He kept his word. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry recently awarded AMEK with the 2016 National Contractor of the Year (CotY) winner in the residential exterior renovation category for projects $100,000 to $200,000 for their remodeling work on the couple’s Fulton home.

“We created something that was exceptional,” he said. “[Before] the house was kind of confused because it had really weird, rounded lines.”

AMEK also worked with Minneapolis-based Randall Buffie Architect on the project.

The 3,800-square-foot home went from a being a stucco, waterlogged property with odd, rounded lines to a breathtaking, modern house with a mix of cedar and cement siding.

The renovations were primarily done in the fall of 2014. Due to winter’s arrival, final and painting and punch list items had to be completed the following spring and summer.

Schmidt said AMEK focuses on the details that can make or break projects.

“Five percent of the details cause 90 percent of the problems,” he said. “So we micro focus on the 5 percent of those details that cause high failure rate.”

In the case of this home, Schmidt repaired the walls, removed heavily rotted sections and made sure the new Marvin Integrity windows were properly installed and the new cladding would be durable. They used James Hardie cement siding painted with latex and the cedar wood accents to give the house the modern aesthetic Anand and Anitha were looking for.

The windows were enlarged, bringing more light into the house.

“It’s wonderful,” Karimpuzha said of his family’s home.

He called the renovation project an “adventure” and credited Schmidt with being a partner invested in the project’s success.

“We clicked the first day we talked to each other,” he said.

As for advice, Karimpuzha urged people to “research, research and research” before embarking on a major remodel and prepare for spending more than budgeted and dealing with unknowns, such as the major water damage they faced.

He said installing new windows was worth the investment.

“We didn’t want the problems that plagued the house to come back again,” he said.

Schmidt also has tips for people to consider before moving ahead with a major renovation project: establish a budget; have an idea of what you want; do your homework; be honest; like and trust your contractor; and have a realistic expectation.

Making a budget is key before you start interviewing contractors and architects.

“I understand you’ll feel like you’re showing your hand at a poker table, but if you can’t articulate what you’re willing to spend on the project you’ll have a design that’s $100K over what you’re expecting or something too simple and you don’t get what you want,” Schmidt said. “The last thing you need is to be disappointed with the outcome of the design, or, even worse, the project.”

Patience is also important.

“Too many times we see the TV shows and you see the beginning of the project, and the last part of a one-hour show you see the final project. What you don’t see are the months of planning before hand. … Ask your contractor to give you a timeline of the project and add 20 percent more time, just to have your own expectations,” he said.

Brothers Matt and Andrew Schmidt founded AMEK in 1996 and later their brother Paul and father Mark joined the company. In addition to custom exterior renovations, the contractor builds custom homes in a variety of styles and does a range of remodeling projects.

Paul Schmidt said the company is excited about the national recognition for its work on the Fulton home.

“As a family company, it is a great honor for us to receive industry recognition as one of the top remodeling contractors in the country,” Schmidt said. “We are humbled being able to work with such wonderful homeowners across the Twin Cities who share their unique visions and allow us to turn their dreams into reality.”

Minneapolis Exterior Design: Minnehaha Parkway Case Study

Overview: For this 1925 south Minneapolis stucco home, a poorly integrated second-story addition done in 1980 resulted in major deterioration and mold inside the walls. Primary contributors were trapped water from seepage around windows and trapped moisture from poor ventilation systems.

Moisture testing indicated the damage was extensive and throughout the structure. Our remedial construction services worked with our client to establish the areas which would require careful repairs to ensure the home’s structural integrity. After the removal and repair of rotted sections, new sheathing and windows were installed followed by new insulation and exterior cladding.



An important part of project for the new homeowners was redesigning the appearance to blend into the neighborhood. Rounded corners were transformed into modern straight lines, windows were enlarged to create more balance and were framed in black to add depth, and cedar wood was included to give warmth and texture. Appreciating the draw of an established neighborhood and the home’s floor plan, the family can now also enjoy living in a healthy and beautiful home along Minnehaha Creek.

Original Built Date: 1925

General Description: Two-story stucco single-family home

Initial Analysis: Construction defect caused by a second-story addition that was put on in the 1980s. Water seeped in around windows and other connection points trapping moisture within the walls causing extensive rot. Additional damage occurred from an unbalanced ventilation system to manage building humidity.

Scope: Following moisture tests, we determined the extent of damage, proposed our construction remediation process and provided an estimate of cost to see if potential homeowner wanted to purchase home and proceed with project.

Remediation Plan: Removed stucco, eliminated rotted areas, reconstructed damaged portions, reinsulated, installed new windows, reclad with James Hardie and cedar siding, and integrated windows and siding correctly to prevent future water intrusion.

Challenges & Solutions: Generating a sound plan to negotiate the sale of the house to adjust for the required remediation work. Once work began, we discovered the extent of deterioration was more substantial than the original testing indicated.  We were able to rebuild structural wall components to reestablish home’s integrity.In the end, we formulated a fresh modern design that enhanced the facade in an established wooded neighborhood.

Additional Project Notes: Our project scope included enlarged windows which were selected with black framing to create dimension and balance plus add more interior light. The main doorway was enhanced using color, natural wood and lighting to avoid previous confusion of what door guests should go to enter the home. The rounded radials were removed and rebuilt to continue the new angular design. The chimney was re-framed to match the straight lines used throughout the project.

Notable Project Partners: Randall Buffie Architect

Completion Date: July 2015

NARI National – 2016 Contractor of the Year (CotY) Award
NARI Regional – 2016 Contractor of the Year (CotY) Award
NARI-MN – 2015 Contractor of the Year (CotY) Award