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August 24, 2017
Dale's Corner: Aging-in-Place

Hello everyone, Dale here. As many of you know, the house I built and lived in for 34 years is for sale. My wife, Dianne, and I enjoyed our time there and we considered growing old(er) in the home. However, in the end we purchased a house that better suits our needs. A few aging-in-place design improvements we completed include:

  • Installed a lot of LED lighting with dimmers including reading lights above the bed.
  • Installed plate and cup storage drawers in the base cabinets for easier access.
  • Made a large main floor laundry room.
  • Installed easy to grab knobs on all cabinets.
  • Designed access to walkout back yard from the front with a low sloping walk path or we can use the steps as well.
  • Put bench in front foyer so I can sit down to put shoes on, etc.
  • Installed smooth easy to maintain quartz counters.
  • Added mudroom entry from garage for easy access to kitchen.

Whether you're looking to remodel your home, build a new home or buy - there are many aging-in-place elements you can incorporate or look for. 

Aging-in-Place Design Ideas


  • Main living on single story (including laundry & full bath)
  • Open floor plan
  • Wider & well lit hallways
  • Minimal or no step entries
  • Plenty of windows for natural light
  • Easy to operate windows
  • Flooring: hardwood, tile or short pile carpet & smooth transitions between fooring types
  • Wider than standard stairways with handrails on both sides


  • Wide walkways in between island
  • Lots of base cabinetry/storage (no step stool required)
  • Pull out or drawer cabinetry instead of shelves
  • Wall mounted oven
  • Microwave at lower height in lieu of over the range
  • Lever handle faucets
  • Varying countertop heights to accomodate different needs


  • Walk-in shower
  • Built-in bench in shower
  • Adjustable or handheld showerhead
  • Toilet higher than standard height with elongated bowl
  • Vanity height higher than standard
  • Lever handle faucets
  • Grab bars
  • Easy to clean surfaces


  • Task lighting in applicable areas
  • Auto-lighting
  • Adjustable/dimmer lighting
  • Rocker or touch light switches
  • Security system (especially for snow birds)


  • Zoned heating & cooling, so you can easily control temperature & reduce energy costs
  • Fresh air ventilation exchanges - minimize dust & improve indoor air quality
  • Easily accessible filters

All my fellow baby boomers or anyone planning for the future, it is usually possible to make most aging-in-place modifications. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding this topic. 

-Dale Gruber
Owner of Home Check Plus

May 4, 2016
Why Choose a Design-Build Remodeling Contractor

One of the aspects I enjoy most about my job is seeing a project go from concept to completion. The process is incredibly satisfying. The great thing about being a design-build contractor, is we get to experience this on a regular basis; both with residential and Dale Gruber Construction's commercial projects. We also get to work closely with our clients and guide them throughout the various construction phases.

What is Design-Build?

Being a design-build remodeling contractor simply means we can both design and build your remodel project. The design aspect can include a variety of different elements of project, such as:

  • Drawing plans
  • Creating layout
  • Determining architectural style
  • Selecting products & finishes
  • Developing solutions
  • Suggesting design elements

Benefits of working with a Design-Build Remodeler

One point of contact and one contract. Working with us means you're working with just one company from start to finish. 

Efficient. Our design-build projects are completed efficiently and in a shorter time frame. The process is streamlined and well thought out to keep the project progressing.

Smooth process. When one entity is responsible for any and all construction and design elements, it prevents conflicting recommendations from contractor and architect. We create a team for the project and work collaboratively; making it a smooth experience for the homeowner. 

Best value. As a design-build remodeler we deliver the best value by evaluating budget solutions early in the design process. As ideas are brought to the table, they can be analyzed and determine what is right for the job.

Communication. Communication is incredibly important for projects to be successful. A design-build contractor facilitates open communication and makes sure all team members stay on the same page. We also make it a priority to keep the homeowner informed from the initial visit to the completion.

Cost savings. Essentially all the points stated above lead to cost savings. Design-build projects are delivered faster, more cost-effective and with fewer change orders that lead to unforeseen costs and schedule delays. We focus on making sure our projects are completed on time and on (or under) budget. 

We'd love to help design and build your next home project! Give us a call at 320-529-4800 or click here to send an email.


July 15, 2015
Dale Gruber's Construction Career Story

We sat down with Dale Gruber, the owner of Home Check Plus and Dale Gruber Construction and asked him a few questions about his career in construction.

Why did you want to go into carpentry/construction?

I always liked making things with my hands. I made many toys, barns, and other items growing up as a kid. I helped my grandpa tear down homes and saved the wood to use on the farm buildings. I enjoyed building and repairing many buildings on the farm growing up, so I thought this is what I would like to do.

What's the 1st thing you remember building?

As a kid, maybe fourth grade, I built a model size barn 3’-0’,4’-0” x 3’-0” high It was complete with the horseshoe style hay barn, stanchions for the cows and all the other items that went into a barn back in the 60’s. The barn had a rope and pulley system to haul miniature hay bales into the barn by hooking a toy tractor onto the rope and pulling them up. This was modeled after the real system in barns back then. In high school I made a magazine rack and many other pieces of furniture in wood shop.

What's do you enjoy most about working in the industry? Being the President/Owner of HCP & DGC?

I really enjoy coming up with a design solution for the customer. Whether it is a remodeling job or a new project, I like seeing a project progress to completion. It is also nice to see my employees proud of what they have accomplished. As an owner, it is great helping employees grow in their knowledge year after year and like what they do.

Editor's note: I thought he would say getting to work with his daughter :)

What skills or qualities are important to have in this line of work?

I believe patience, honesty and having the ability to visualize ideas for customers are very valuable. I think it is also important to like working both indoors & outdoors, enjoy figuring things out mathematically & visually and have the desire to continue learn new ways of doing things.

If you could give some advice to someone considering a career in construction, what would it be?

My advice would be to take as many design drafting, shop, communication and math/accounting classes as you can in high school. It’s all relevant to construction whether you want to work for someone in construction or own your own business.

For those who are considering a job change or are wondering what to do after high school, consider going to a tech college like SCTCC for the Carpentry program or the Construction Technology program; depending on what type of construction field you would like to be in.  There is a wealth of knowledge available in these programs for the construction industry. They also give you an edge over someone that has not gone through the program.

May 13, 2015
How Long Will a Home Remodel Take?

We often are asked questions relating to the timing of remodel projects – when should I contact a contractor about my project? How long will it take to get a bid? When can you start my project? While it depends on the size and type of project, here’s a little timeline or breakdown of how the process usually works:

1. Site Visit – once you contact us, we determine a date/time when both parties are available. Time: 1-2 weeks

2. 2nd Site Visit – depending on the project, we may invite some of our subcontractors to visit the site. Time: 1-2 weeks

3. Estimate/Proposal – next we develop a scope of work, material list, contact vendors to get prices on material, contact subcontractors to get a quote, write up a detailed proposal. Time: 2-3 weeks

4. Review & Accept Proposal – if there are no changes, great! Any changes involve repeating step 3. Time: 1 week

5. Project Set-Up – Time: 2-5 weeks

Permits – when applicable, we submit for a permit through the city/township. 

Order Materials – once selections are made, we can order the materials. We don’t like to start a project until ALL materials have arrived as this minimizes the time your home is “under construction.” 

6. Start/Finish Project – our projects are carefully scheduled as we want the project and remodeling process to go as quick and smooth as possible. Availability of subcontractors, weather and any change orders can affect the timing. Time: 2+ weeks

As you can see, there are many steps and elements that are factored into a remodeling project. We hope this timeline is a helpful guide and explains the process so you know what to expect. Although every situation is different, we definitely recommend contacting a contractor early on in your remodeling planning.

We hope to get to work with you on your next home remodeling project. Have a wonderful spring!


January 15, 2015
Dale's Corner - What it means to be a licensed residential building contractor

For anyone who's done work with us before, you've probably seen a little "MN Lic. #BC171672" on our letterhead, business cards, etc. In case you're wondering, it is our builder's license number. Since not everyone is privy to the construction industry, I thought I'd explain a little more about what it means to be a licensed residential contractor in the State of Minnesota. 

A building contractor or remodeler license (RBC) is required for anyone who contracts directly with a homeowner to provide building construction services in more than one skill area. State licensing began in 1992, which is when I received my license. 

According to the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry, to get a license one must...

1. Take and pass licensing exam.

  • There is no prerequisite experience or educational requirement to take exam. 
  • Exam fee is $50.
  • The exam consists of 110 multiple choice questions. It is divided into two sections - 1. construction related matters amd 2. business & law issues relating to running a construction business in Minnesota.
  • Applicants are given four hours to complete the exam.
  • A score of 70% or higher is required to pass.

2. Submit a fully completed application packet including:

  • License application forms.
  • Current Secretay of State filing (if applicable).
  • Current liability insurance certificate with proper coverage. Workers compensation is required if you have employees. 
  • Payment of appropriate fee. The fee depends on gross receipts. Part of the license fee is a Recovery Fund Fee. The Contractor Recovery Fund compensates owners or lessees of residential property in Minnesota who have suffered an actual and direct out-of-pocket loss due to a licensed contractor's fraudulent, deceptive or dishonest practices, conversion of funds or failure of performance.

RBC licenses are on a two-year cycle. A total of 14 hours of approved continuing education is also required every two years. 

The goal of licensing is to ensure a higher level of professionalism and consumer protection. Homeowners who do not hire a licensed contractor have no protection.

Personally, being a licensed residential building contractor means I am committed to doing things the right way -- we will provide quality workmanship that is according to code & written industry standards and I will operate my business legally & ethically...so we can display our license number proudly. 



October 28, 2014
Hammer Time!

One might think a hammer is a hammer, right? Actually, there are different hammers for different applications. The wide variety of hammer designs lets you find one that's right for your project. Here are three of the most common types of hammers:

Finish Hammer

Hammers_2.JPG - Usually around13 oz.
- Short handle, less than 16 inches long
- Curved claw for easy nail removal
- For finish nails

Curved or Straight Claw Hammer

Hammers_8.JPG - Usually around 16 oz 
- For driving and removing nails
- Performing general carpentry
- Curved claw provides leverage when removing nails
- Straight clasw designed for ripping out boards

Framing Hammer

Hammers_5.JPG - Between 22-28 oz
- For driving and removing large nails
- Performing heavy carpentry work
- Added weight and longer handle give added power to the hammer.

The handle of a hammer can be wood, steel or fiberglass. The benefit of steel or fiberglass is that they are stronger and have better balance. The cost of hammers can vary significantly. Generally speaking, the price reflects the quality of how the hammer is made and how it will perform. If you plan to use the hammer a lot, I recommend investing in a good quality hammer. 

The other day, we had a friendly little hammering competition between Home Check Plus and Dale Gruber Construction. CLICK HERE to watch the video and see who won! 


June 30, 2014
Dale's Corner - DIY Deck

Have you always dreamed of building your own deck? While building a deck is a fairly large and complicated construction project, it is possible to do-it-yourself. You will need several tools including (hammer, tape measure, level, cordless drill & saw) and a desire to invest a little sweat equity. Here are my tips and recomendations for those interested in building a deck onto their home.

  1. Check with City or County ordinances for set-back requirements.
  2. Based on your design, determine the size of footings and the size of joists to carry the weight so the deck doesn't settle.
  3. Install proper flashing where deck attaches to the house, to prevent the deck from rotting the wall.
  4. Use correct fastener spacing when attaching framing members and decking as per building code.
  5. Stairs if needed must be installed according to the building code for safety of the user.
  6. Hand rails & railings should be installed at proper locations & heights for safety.

Once your deck is complete, sit back and enjoy the rest of the summer!



April 14, 2014
General Contractor Liability

Thinking about acting as your own general contractor for your remodel or new home project? If so, it is important you have adequate liability insurance protection. Reason being:  if a subcontractor you hire is injured on the job, you could be held responsible for their injuries. 

When you act as your own contractor, you basically become an employer and the subcontractors you hire are your employees. If they are injured during the course of construction, you have the same responsibilities as any other employer has to their employees. In most cases you are required to carry workers' compensation insurance to provide benefits to injured workers.

I recommend being selective with subcontractors -- do your research. Ask their references about quality of work and make sure they acted in a safe and professional manner on the job. Your subcontractors should be both licensed and insured. Choosing subcontractors with their own liability and workers compensation insurance, reduces your potential liability and provides you with an additional safeguard. I also recommend having them list you as an additional insured, which might help reduce your exposure. 

Enjoy your spring! 


January 28, 2014
Winter Home Maintenance Tips!

This winter is giving your home a real performance test. Bitter cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time and then a sudden warmer day can cause a dramatic change to your home’s environment. As a result, you may notice a few things around your home -- some are just natural, nothing to be concerned about, while others should be checked out by a professional.

Not To Worry:     

  • Popping noises in attic   
  • Some condensation or frost on windows  
  • Exterior doors rubbing on the threshold
  • Condensation on skylights    
  • Slight lifting of ceilings at center of home  
  • Some ice build up on roof eaves  
  • Snow covering on roof vents   
  • Lifting of concrete sidewalks & driveways  
  • Lifting of asphalt driveways    
  • Minor squeaks in the floor or stairs   
  • Hinges squeaking on doors and cabinets 
  • Unable to open sliding patio door    

Call Home Check Plus:

  • Dripping skylights
  • Stained ceilings near outer walls
  • Doors or windows not latching properly
  • Large ice dams with water dripping inside
  • Air blowing through windows
  • Cracks in ceiling or walls
  • Smell of sewer in home
  • Sags in ceilings or overhangs
  • Laundry dryer not drying properly
  • Furnace running more than usual
  • Bath fans making a lot of noise
  • Egress window well is full of snow

For more winter home maintenance tips, click here! As always, we are here to help -- if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us

Stay warm!


December 3, 2013
Winter Remodeling Projects

Just as Santa's Workshop is busing working all year long, so too are we! A common misconception is that once the ground freezes, all projects need to be put off until spring time. Winter is actually an ideal time to complete various home improvement and remodeling projects. Some common winter projects are:

  • Kitchen Remodel
  • Bathroom Remodel
  • Basement Finishing
  • Garage Finishing
  • Flooring
  • New Windows
  • Paint Interior of Home
  • Improve Insulation
  • Re-face Cabinets

Give us a call at 320-529-4800 to help with your winter home remodeling project. And let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Happy Holidays!


October 3, 2013
The House that Dale Built


It was the middle of March, 1983 when we started the process of building our home. The house we were living in was for sale, interest rates were 18% for homes and a 20% down payment was required. I had been working for a local contractor, but was laid off for about two months. My wife, Dianne, was due any day with our second child.  At the same time, I decided to partner with a friend and start our own construction business, G.W. Builders. 


Act I

I spoke with the bank over the phone and they gave me the go ahead to get the building process started and that we will work out the financing somehow.  Being it was an early spring and the frost was almost totally out, we were able to break ground and start excavating around March 20th.  I put the footing forms in and everything was set to pour the concrete on March 25th. Well, that plan changed as I took my wife to the hospital on the eve of March 24th because the baby was ready to be born. In the early morning of March 25th I used the hospital phone (no cell phones back then) to cancel the concrete. Later on that day, our lovely daughter, Rachel, was born. So I suppose you could say she was born to be in construction? As they say, the show must go on; the footings were poured the next day -- had to make sure the project stayed on schedule.


Act II

The building continued throughout the spring as time allowed. We had customer projects to do as well, so they were top priority. Many evenings were spent at the house with my wife, our oldest daughter, Medora, and little Rachel sitting outside in the stroller, watching and probably covered with a bit of sawdust and dirt from the construction. Medora was almost three years old by then and always trying to help, if that is what it is called. No OSHA inspectors around?



One weekend around mid June, I received a call from one of the neighbors who informed me that our entire development was under water! I was working on another project, but I got in my truck and drove over to the site of our new home. The water was so deep in the area; I couldn’t get within four blocks of our house. Fire department trucks were pumping the water and people were paddling through the streets in canoes. Thankfully the house was all enclosed as I just poured the basement floor the day before.  I got a pump and pumped out the water and the basement walls dried out. At this point nothing was finished, so no damage. What a way to initiate a new home! 


Act IV

As the summer went on, we kept working on the home as time permitted. The bank continued to loan us money as needed to pay for the material and subcontractors. In August, we finally sold our house, so that was a relief. We moved into our new home in the middle of September; even though it was not finished on the outside and not completely finished on the inside. The bank actually approved that move. Oh by the way, at the same time this was all going on, the construction partnership dissolved. Which, worked out okay as I started my own business, Dale Gruber Construction.


Act V

So now we were officially moved into our new home, I was going full speed ahead with my construction business, my wife was running her daycare out of our new home and life was good! Except for the high interest rates. We continued to pay the bank and the interest payment each month and all was OK. Then, in the spring of 1984, we took out a 15 year mortgage with an interest rate of 13% and we thought it was a good deal? A lot better than 18%! As years went on, we built an addition, remodeled several times, refinanced several times and after 30 years I can say it is fully paid for! While we are constantly updating and remodeling, we are still in our first home we built together in 1983. 


-Dale, Plawright  



June 25, 2013
Tool Time - Saw Buying Guide

When working on home improvement projects, a saw is one tool that could be useful to have. Before you make a purchase, there are some things you should know. First and foremost, as with all power tools, it is important to wear safety glasses and to make sure the guard and safety parts are working properly. Second, when working with a saw - you want to have a sharp blade. Using a dull blade splinters the wood & also makes the motor to work harder.

There are many different types of saws -- hand saws, power saws, air operated saws and the list goes on. Here's a breakdown of a few common saws, including some tips & suggestions.

Portable Electric Circle Saw


This type of saw is often called a Skill Saw, but that is actually a brand of saw. Circle saws are typically used for cutting framing material and general carpentry work. They are easy to use and durable. When buying a circle saw, I suggest holding it in your hand to see how it feels - the saw should balance when holding with one hand and not tilt forward or backward. You'll also want to make sure it has at least a 10 amp motor. Two of our favorite electric circle saw brands are: Makita & Porter Cable.


Portable Miter Saw

This type of saw is primarily used for cutting interior & exterior trim. There are many sizes of miter saws, but a good all around size is a 10” model -- this size will allow you to cut most trim products & also a variety of other materials. Two optional features include: Sliding Arm (for cutting wider material) & Compound Saw (for cutting angles - mainly used by professionals). We recommend Dewalt, Hitachi or Bosch brands -- they cost a little more than some brands, but are well worth the investment! 


Table Saw


A table saw takes up a little more space, but if you have the room, it is quite useful. This saw allows you to cut large sheets and rip long boards with a nice straight edge. A table saw comes in handy when making cabinets or bookshelves. I'd recommend getting a table saw that can rip 24" wide panels and has a 10 amp motor. Also, the fold-up stand with wheels, making the saw portable, is a nice optional feature. Two of our favorite brands are Dewalt and MasterForce.

Good luck and happy cutting (material only...not fingers)!!


May 16, 2013
The Remodeling Unknowns

If you've ever watched any show on HGTV, DIY Network or the like, you're familiar with the story -- homeowners embark on a remodeling project and along the way come across something that they didn't expect...AHHH!  The shock, horror, frustration, drama sure makes for good tv, right?  Here's the deal...when remodeling your home, whether it is a kitchen, bathroom or other project, you MAY encounter something you did not plan for.  Unfortunately, we don't have superhero powers to see inside walls or under flooring material. Sure would be nice if we did! Experienced remodeling contractors can usually make some good predictions, but there will always be unknowns.  A few common discoveries include:

  • Rotted wood
  • Plumbing pipes not up to code
  • Mold

Your contractor should inform you about the items in questions AND your contractor should state how they will be handled.  The key is to plan for remodeling unknowns -- both financially and mentally.  You will then be prepared to make decisions and successfully continue the project through completion.

Here's to taking all of life's unknowns in stride!

-Dale Gruber

March 20, 2013
Home Check Plus Turns 16!

Sweet 16! Yes, Home Check Plus turned 16 this year! Home remodeling has always been in my blood and the past 16 years have been great!  It is very rewarding to take a project from the design phase, through construction and completing it with the final cleaning and walk through. Being we are a full-service remodeler, every day is unique and different. One day we might be replacing windows and the next day demo-ing a kitchen to be remodeled. I am blessed with very dedicated employees, so “thank you” to them. And of course we couldn’t do what we love to do without our wonderful customers. Turning 16 is pretty sweet!

Wishing everyone a happy Spring!

-Dale Gruber, Owner of Home Check Plus

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