All-American ideal sets tone for new home in Newcastle

By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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When Patrick and Renee DuBois decided to use only American-made materials in the construction of their new home in Newcastle, they were prepared for added costs and research time. But it is turning out to be a lot easier than they ever imagined. So far, they’re finding that the price of American-made goods is not that much higher than those made elsewhere. The DuBoises factored in a 5 percent markup. But the price for U.S.-made materials, so far, is running closer to only 3 percent higher, they said. Contractors have been using supplies from different parts of the world for so long, many are skeptical about switching to U.S.-made, Patrick DuBois said this week. “Then they look and find they get the American-made items at the same price,” he said. “So, why are we not doing this the whole time? Why are we importing stuff we can get right here? A lot of the reason is that no one thinks to ask that question.” For instance, there was the concrete mix for the foundation. “They were going to get it off a ship from China that was docked in Stockton harbor,” he said. “Then we found Nevada Concrete in Reno makes it and it is actually the same price.” It was the same with rebar steel. “It was being offered from Japan, but we wanted an American source,” Patrick said. “We went to work and found steel in Seattle. It is the same price. … It’s really surprising to us how much is available.” Plans for their 3,500-square-foot home were “inspired by wine country living and just indoor/outdoor living,” Renee said. “It’s very much embracing the space we are in with Newcastle’s panoramic views and picturesque landscape. We wanted to make that part of the house — the line of living indoors and outdoors is blurred. It is very natural and very casual living.” Inspiration for creating a home totally U.S.-made came from an ABC News “Made in America” program, featuring builder Anders Lewendal. “According to Lewendal, nearly a quarter of a million jobs would be created by contractors simply by converting 5 percent of their materials to American-made,” Renee said in an e-mail. “And if Americans increased their American-made spending by 5 percent, nearly 3 million jobs would be created.” To get started, the couple started with Anders’ list of American-made materials. They’re localizing it and adding new products that they find. “In terms of research, we’ve been very fortunate,” Renee said. “Our builder, Jan Haldeman, has been such a huge supporter of our project and has really embraced the idea. He has been very resourceful in finding solutions to products that may typically have been imported, finding them locally and around the country.” The foundation for the home is going in this week and the DuBoises are hoping for a May completion date. They’re taking an unusual approach to construction — finding materials that will fit into the design rather than the other way around. “In most cases it hasn’t been as challenging as we thought,” she said. “We’re also finding alternative solutions — goods we can repurpose or vintage items.” One of those finds was a pair of vintage French panel glass doors. “They’re 100 years old and were taken out of a house in Saratoga, New York,” Renee said. “We had them re-paned. Then we found an old French mirror and old hardware — things like that — at a flea market.” When the DuBoises approached Rose Roofing in?Auburn with their American-made specifications, Janet Rose was happy to comply with a manufacturer’s product her company uses frequently. “We’re using Eagle Concrete roofing tiles,” she said. “One of their plants is out of Stockton and (their products are) all American made. The only thing I was worried about was the fasteners to put it down. But I was able to find a U.S. manufacturer, Mays Nails. For the DuBoises, tracking down the right materials is an ongoing process. Still, some of the items on the wish-list have been elusive. “I’m looking for a modern, oval, free-standing pedestal tub,” she said. “That one has been hard to find. We found other designs but the esthetics of the one we’re looking for is more modern. The closest one was in Canada.” And there a few things just aren’t made in America anymore. “A microwave has been the biggest challenge,” Patrick said. “They’re all made in Japan or China. We’ve found there are appliances made in the United States, but we don’t think there is a single microwave (manufactured) here.” Those items “are not a deal breaker,” he said. “But we want to be able to tell people truthfully. If there’s not a component that’s U.S. made, we’re calling it out.” The DuBoises are documenting the whole process in a blog — “We’ve had 1,800 hits to our site,” Renee said. “We already have followers — more than 60 who subscribe and receive email updates. … It has struck a passion in everyone we tell. We’re just the stewards at this point.” The response has been inspirational, Patrick added. “(We’ve received) so many emails from people saying they wait every week for the post. Several people also want to build a house and want to see how it goes with us and maybe they will do the same thing.” The blog site includes their list of American-made products. They welcome input from U.S. manufacturers and artisans — all of it subject to certification, which begins online. “A lot of companies that are certified American-made will have that symbol,” Renee said. “Others, we’ll call and talk to someone to make sure components within each product are U.S.-made, and if not, find some substitutions. We’ve found the (sub-contractors) have already done most of that. They’ve been absolutely amazing in making sure what they’re bringing to us is certified American-made. We just double check and make sure what we are telling everyone is the truth to the best of our knowledge.” Haldeman, owner of Haldeman Homes, has been a builder for 37 years and this is the first time a client has asked for everything to be American-made. “I’m sold on this stuff and will make sure in the future that I recommend it to my owners and that we use American-made products when we can,”?he said. The DuBoises declined to say how much they’ve budgeted for construction of the home, but said they will provide the difference in cost from the original bid once the project is completed. Patrick DuBois is sales manager for the pet food company Royal Canin. Renee Dubois is a home décor designer.