After a two-year hiatus, the Highland and Macalester-Groveland district councils are bringing back their popular Home Improvement Fair this month with a new name, look and focus.

The newly titled Home Improvement Workshop Day will be held from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at Cretin-Derham Hall, 550 S. Albert St. The day will feature 14 informational workshops, with many of the 55-minute presentations centering on environmental themes, such as solar energy, native gardens and electric vehicles.

Paul Schmidt restoration window
Paul Schmidt will talk about restoring old windows during a workshop at 10 a.m. Photo by Brad Stauffer

The fair was created in 1993 as a way to gather experts on a wide variety of home improvement topics under one roof, making it easier for homeowners to find answers to their remodeling questions. The fair included seminars on key home improvement issues and a trade show featuring local contractors, home specialists and retailers. In its inaugural run, the fair attracted a crowd of around 1,500.

This spring’s event has dropped the traditional “fair” portion of the event. Kathy Carruth, executive director of the Highland District Council, said the fair attracted as many as 55-80 vendors. However, it proved costly to hold, requiring equipment rental and volunteers for set up and take down.

“Most people mainly came for the workshops and walked through the fair, so we thought, ‘Let’s make a change and see how it goes,’” Carruth said. “There will be seven or eight organizations ‘tabling’ in the hallway and the workshops, and that’s it.”

Workshops and “tablers”

“Most people mainly came for the workshops and walked through the fair, so we thought, ‘Let’s make a change and see how it goes,’” Carruth said. “There will be seven or eight organizations ‘tabling’ in the hallway and the workshops, and that’s it.”

The tables will be manned by city transportation and public works employees, Saint Paul Regional Water Services, Highland Heritage Project, Saint Paul Tool Library, Little Free Library, and the two sponsoring district councils. 


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The councils conducted surveys to determine what kinds of presentations residents wanted to see. The results showed strong interest in sustainability, Carruth said.

HI Fair
Ginny Pease passed around an item during a workshop entitled “Age in Place: How to Stay in Your Home Longer” during the Highland & Macalester-Groveland Home Improvement Fair in 2018. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Rebuilding an audience

Alyssa Mitchell, Macalester-Groveland’s program and communications coordinator, said she hoped the new workshop format would help rebuild an audience for the event. The presentations, she said, will offer attendees “something that can’t readily be read on the Internet” and will connect them with local resources.

The desire for more sustainability seminars did not surprise Mitchell. Even before the survey, she said residents had expressed interest in having presentations related to that topic. She reached out to people connected with nonprofit groups to develop a list of potential presenters, such as Fresh Energy and the Citizens Utility Board.

Carruth recruited the city and a developer to speak about accessory dwellings after neighbors said they wanted to learn more about them. The workshops will also include businesses that have presented for years on such topics as steel roofs, kitchen remodels, window repairs and aging in place.

Here is a description of the workshops being offered:

9-9:55 a.m.

  • Maintaining Your Stucco, 9 a.m., Room 101. Smith Cole Stucco and Stone will offer advice on caring for your stucco home.
  • Aging in Place, 9 a.m., Room 102. Refining Homes will address how remodeling can help older homeowners stay in their houses longer and more comfortably.
  • Metal Roofing, 9 a.m., Room 105. Austad Construction Co. representatives will discuss the advantages of metal roofs.

10-10:55 a.m.

  • The Inflation Reduction Act and You, 10 a.m., Room 105. Fresh Energy will explain what the Inflation Reduction Act does and how homeowners can take advantage of tax credits and rebates.
  • Growing a Native Garden, 10 a.m., Room 106. Ramsey County Master Gardeners Sharon Hardy and Laurel Watt will share tips on how to start a native perennial garden, including where to buy plants and how to maintain them.
  • Solar Basics, 10 a.m., Room 107. All Energy Solar will provide a status update on solar in Minnesota, how the technology works, how batteries can serve as backup power and the incentive available.
  • Old Windows: Restore or Replace? 10 a.m., Room 108. Paul Schmidt of Restoration Window Systems will address repairing and replacing old windows to improve their energy efficiency.

11-11:55 a.m.

  • Home Electrification: Converting from Gas to Electric, 11 a.m., Room 101. Transition Town will discuss how homeowners can convert from natural gas heat to electric heating from air source heat pumps.
  • Composting 101, 11 a.m., Room 102. City of Saint Paul Recycling & Solid Waste Services personnel will take the class through the fundamentals of composting, such as what food can be composted. Highland Park’s new organics drop-off site at 800 S. Snelling Ave. is already the busiest one in the city.
  • Plan, Design and Remodel Your Kitchen, 11 a.m., Room 105. Castle Building & Remodeling. Learn step-by-step plans for remodeling a kitchen, starting with an idea, then a design and finally construction.

Noon-12:55 p.m.

  • Accessory Dwelling Units in Saint Paul, noon, Room 105. The city of Saint Paul and YardHomes will give an overview of regulations involved in creating accessory dwellings and what opportunities arise when adding one to a home.
  • Original Window Repair and Restoration, noon, Room 106. Hayes Window Restoration will cover basic window maintenance for do-it-yourselfers, such as repairing sash cords, fixing glass, and working with original weatherstripping.
  • EV Charging Solutions, noon, Room 107. Ray of Light Electric will offer tips on energy efficiency and electric vehicle charging.
  • Energy Bill 101, noon, Room 108. Sponsored by the Citizens Utility Board, which advocates on behalf of consumers, the workshop will look at energy bills to detect usage patterns and identify money-saving opportunities.

For more information on this year’s Home Improvement Workshop Day, visit

— Frank Jossi


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