Category: Building

Choosing your window details

Window details are often overlooked when planning a building or remodeling project.  Most homeowners have a broad sense of what their windows may look like based on architectural drawings but they may not give much thought into the many options and details that are available and how those choices will effect the beauty & functionality of their home.

We recently had the privilege of visiting Marvin’s design showroom at their 7 Tide location in Boston. The showroom integrates life size displays and modern technology to create an immersive design experience for builders, architects & homeowners alike. While most don’t think of  windows as key design elements in our homes, Marvin is trying to change that perception. With seemingly endless combinations of options this hands on environment helps designers and homeowners get a true sense for the many options and how they affect both the aesthetics and function of your windows and ultimately your home.

Most of our clients are surprised to learn of the number of decisions that need to be made in relation to their window choices so we’d like to take the mystery out of the process and give you a quick list of the many options available. We’re using Marvin windows as our example here because they offer a high quality product with some of the largest variety of options available.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most common features you will need to decide on:

Window Style

Windows come in different styles or types -the style typically refers to the way the window operates. A home will typically have a combination of different types depending on the application & location of the window. Some of the available types and what they mean are as follows:

Fixed – the glass is stationary or non operational and does not open.

Single hung -fixed top sash and an operable lower sash that slides up and down.

Double hung – Both top and bottom sashes are operable and can slide up and down. Most also tilt in for easy cleaning.

Casement – Single operable sash that opens via a crank or a manual push out that opens the window on one side only -Marvin now offers a revolutionary “wash mode” that allows the casement window to revolve completely around and allow access to clean the exterior from the inside of your home.

Awning – Also a single operable sash that opens the window at the bottom only -providing more water shedding ability when the window is open.

Glider -a double sash window with one fixed and one operable sash that  glides/slides left to right.

Tilt Turn -a European style, dual function window that can swing in like a door or casement or open at the top like a hopper for generous air exchange

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Window Frame Type

Traditional -a traditional window frame is classic in design, the largest of the three frame options

 

 

Contemporary  -more streamlined cleaner lines, narrower frames -ideal for combining multiple units into stunning window wall configurations

 

Modern –  most streamlined of all options, smallest frame sizes for vast minimally obstructed views. This style is closest to a commercial look and well suited for ultra modern design aesthetics.

 

Glass & Glazing

A number of glass & glazing options are available; some, like the high wind glass and tempered glass may be required in some circumstances by your local building codes, so check with your builder to confirm your window glass is in compliance with local codes.

The glazing of your window will impact it’s energy efficiency. Marvin’s standard glazing is their “IG” or insulated glass, this is a double pane with argon gas between the panes and Low E2 coating, to act as an insulator and reduce heat exchange through the glass.

Different versions of insulated glass are available including tripane glazing and Low E1, Low E2 and Low E3 to meet the requirements of any climate region. Be sure to check with your local builder or supplier to confirm which is most appropriate for your climate zone and individual application.

Textured , and semi-transparent glass options are also available to be incorporated into any window configuration.

 

 

Divided Lites -Type

Divided lights refer to the style of grid that appears to “divide” the window pane. Taking your home style & any existing windows into consideration will help to make this choice. Different options offer various aesthetic & practical advantages.  Here is a list of some of the most common divided light styles:

Authentic Divided Light (ADL): individual panes of glass with true divided wood sections in between. This is a common option if historical authenticity is desired.

Simulated Divided Light (SDL):  Fixed Grid patterns are installed on both the exterior and interior of the window panes.

Simulated Divided Light with Spacer (SDLS): A spacer bar is added at the locations of the grid pattern to give the illusion of a true divided light.

Grilles Between the Glass (GBG): Grilles are placed in between the two glass panes, this option allows for easier maintenance and clean up of t he glass surface but not everyone likes the look.

Removable Grilles – Many Manufacturers also offer removable grilles that affix to the interior of the glass only and can be removed for cleaning or to change the appearance if desired.

Divided Lites -Pattern

Once you’ve selected the type of divided light, you will need to select the pattern. Your architect may have already included a window grid pattern in your design but you may want to review this detail with the architect & discuss their reasoning behind the choices.   Available patterns can vary from one manufacturer to the next. Generally most homeowners choose to maintain the same grid pattern on the entire home or at least per elevation. In some coastal locations however many choose to vary the pattern. For their street side windows they may choose a classic grid pattern because of the architectural interest but prefer unobstructed views on the water side of their home so prefer a cottage style grid pattern or none at all.

With Marvin Windows a homeowner is only limited by their imagination. Although some grid patterns are more standard in nature the possibilities are endless and custom grid patterns can be made upon request to fit almost any design that you or your design professionals can dream up. As with anything however, the more custom in nature an item is the higher the cost to produce.

Color & Finish Options

Marvin Windows offers an aluminum clad product with wood interior and wood/aluminum clad exterior. A number of finish options are available for the exterior & interior. From stained to painted & even custom color finishes.

Marvin 2018 Exterior Clad Color options

Hardware Type & Finish

Because window details are often decided early in a building or remodeling project deciding on details like the window hardware become quite an ordeal. Often our clients want to match all of the interior hardware finishes so deciding on window & door hardware color forces a commitment early in the process.

Different styles of hardware are available on specific products -reference your manufacturer’s catalog for a list of available hardware and finishes for the window types you have selected.

Screen Type & Finish

Even your window screens have options to consider and likely more than you ever thought possible.

Retractable Screen: The innovative Retractable Screen, available on the Ultimate Double Hung Next Generation
Window, is a factory-installed screen that easily retracts out of sight when not in use. The screen can be drawn to rest at one of two stop points. The resulting seal at either the sill or at the checkrail lets the breeze in while keeping insects out. The screen is released from its set position with a click of the latch on the pull bar. With lift assist action, the screen returns to its concealed position as smoothly as it was drawn. The retractable screen sets to the interior of the window.

Full or Half Screen:– Exterior screen with an aluminum surround. The full screen covers both the top and
bottom sash. The half screen only covers the bottom sash.

Two-Lite Storm Sash or Screen A wood frame containing non-removable glass. The storm sash can be removed during the summer and replaced with a wood framed screen. Available only for wood windows.

Storm & Screen Combinations – A combination unit is composed of two glass panels and one screen
panel that can be easily removed from the interior for cleaning. Available with a wood (bare or primed) or aluminum
surround, panels can be configured multiple ways to accommodate season or preference: glass above screen, screen
above glass or glass above glass. One of the panels slides behind the other for self storage when the screen is in use.

Energy Panel – Often confused with storm windows, an energy panel is technically a glazing option. It is a removable,
exterior glass panel finished on the edges by a surround. Energy panels cover the exposed glass surface of each sash and
offer added energy efficiency for wood windows with single glazing.

We hope this list has given you insight into some of the many options that will need to be decided on prior to ordering your windows for your next building or remodeling project. The majority of the information and photos contained in this post were taken from the 2018 Marvin Window & Door Catalog. If you are about to finalize your window choices we highly recommend a visit to Marvin’s Window & Door Design Center  at 7 Tide in Boston where a knowledgeable team of representatives are available to guide you through the many available options and how they will best fit into your next project!

Ready to think about windows for your next project?

Contact us and let’s get the conversation started!

 

 

 

Linear Drains & Curbless Showers

Linear Drain From our “Bay Shore Bathrooms” Project

What is a Linear Drain you ask? Well they go by many other names including trough drain, channel drain & slot drain all of which are correct and simply refer to the shape of the grate & drain body. Instead of a round or square drain grate in a central location  where all areas of the shower floor are pitched toward the drain;  a “linear” drain is linear in shape and the attached drain body is a trough that channels water to one central exit port using a slope in only one direction. Linear drains can be installed in various locations in a shower but the most common is at either an outside wall or at the shower entry point. Drains of this type have been used in commercial applications and overseas for decades but have emerged more prominently on the US residential market in the last decade or so.

We’ve noticed that requests for linear drains are on the rise and they have been incorporated into many of our recent projects.  Curbless showers are also gaining in popularity whether it be for better access as a homeowner ages in place or to fit a more modern and streamlined aesthetic. These two features are often combined although it is possible to have one without the other; you can opt for the look of a linear drain but still want the peace of mind that a shower curb brings in terms of containing water in the showering area.  There are also alternative “curbless” or “level entry” drain systems that employ a standard center drain but are installed recessed into a subfloor to be able to eliminate the curb. Depending on the reasons for wanting either a linear drain or curbless shower entry a number of factors need to be considered to determine if they’re right for your home & project.

Many homeowners main objective in selecting a linear drain is to achieve a “look”. They perhaps saw one featured in a home design magazine or website and fell in love with the sleek modern feel. Some though, have more practical objectives like handicap accessibility or reducing tripping hazards. Whatever the end goal; there are pros and cons to consider.

 

Pros

  • Option for Curbless Shower entry

    Although linear drains don’t need to be installed in a level entry application, they do allow for this. Do note however that not all linear drains are recommended to be installed at a level entry point, check with your drain supplier & manufacturer for recommended applications of your specific drain.

 

  • Option for multiple drain exit ports
    Linear drains also allow for additional drain ports within the same drain body. Some states require additional drains by code if the gallon per minute rate of water flowing from multiple fixtures exceeds a predetermined amount. When a shower has multiple heads & body sprays etc. a second drain outlet is usually required. Having two standard drains is typically undesirable but the trough design of a linear drain allows for multiple exit points to be installed in line with the same main trunk, creating the look of only one linear style drain.
  • Nicer on the feet
    Because linear drains are typically installed at the edge of the shower floor it allows for a clear footpath at the showering area and makes it so the person doesn’t have to continually step on the drain underfoot.

 

  • Design Flexibility
    In a standard shower the floor tile is usually required to be smaller to be able to contour to a floor that pitches in multiple directions toward a central drain. With a linear drain the floor need only pitch in one direction, this allows for a larger format tile to be installed on the shower floor if desired. In some cases even continuing the main bathroom floor right into the shower if installed without a curb. No longer limited by the shower slope you can choose a tile floor of any size and shape meaning the design possibilities are endless! A variety of drain grates are also available on the market today in multiple patterns and finishes to suit any style.
Linear Drain from our “Lincoln Kitchen & Interior” Project

Cons

  • Higher Cost
    While a standard drain is pretty nominal in cost, a linear drain or any level entry drain system can multiply that cost significantly in some cases reaching in to the thousands when all material & labor costs are factored in. The product itself is more expensive and typically the installation, prep work & coordination is bit higher as well.

 

  • Installation Limitations
    Because of the size and requirements to install a linear drain you may be limited on where it can be installed. When working within an existing structure for a renovation the sub floor material, depth of the joists and path for running a drain line all factor into the feasibility of such drains. This style of  drain in general is much more difficult to incorporate into an existing structure as a retrofit. Even in a new construction the placement and planning will require much forethought, sometimes well before the engineering and framing phases commence. 

 

  • Longer lead times & added planning time
    Because of all of the additional planning involved and the custom nature of some linear drains or level entry drain systems the coordination time is longer and products are often custom ordered with longer lead times to arrive in. Be sure to notify your building professionals far enough in advance so all details can be worked out and products ordered in time for the rough plumbing phase of your project.

 

  • Reduced Water Retention
    when installing a curbless or level entry drain of any type there is an increased risk of water escaping the showering area. Simply put, water doesn’t always flow where you want it, splashing is inevitable and drains sometimes get clogged. A shower with a curb would at least retain any backup but a curbless shower would not,  causing water to migrate to other areas of the bathroom.

Whatever your reason for considering a curbless or linear drain there’s much to research & discuss before pulling the trigger. Every project is different and although one bathroom in a home may be a good candidate for a linear drain , another in the same home may not, so speak with your qualified building or remodeling professional well in advance to discuss your options and allow ample time to plan for a proper installation.

 

 

A Barn Raising

Barns are an intrinsic part of classic New England architecture and although they come in many forms, the majority of the ones that survived the colonial era into today were likely some form of timber frame construction. It’s estimated that timber frame construction has been utilized worldwide since approximately 200 B.C. and there’s no question about why it is still being used today. The method uses large scale beams that are shaped and connected with interlocking joinery & wooden pegs creating an immense amount of strength and durability while still allowing for a measure of flexibility.  The result is a structure that can withstand whatever the New England weather patterns can dish out and when properly maintained, can last for generations.

 

The process of erecting these long lasting structures has a history of its own as well as many long standing traditions that go along with it. In Colonial times a good old fashioned barn raising was typically a community event. The old adage that “it takes a village” can also apply to constructing a massive structure in an era before crane’s and power tools;  an entire community would literally have to come together to make it happen.

Fast forward to today and although we have the assistance of cranes and power tools, some of the social traditions that were adopted centuries ago are still running strong today. Our latest Custom Home Project in Plymouth Ma. is one that in both design and tradition is paying homage to times past.  The main home was designed to look and feel like it had been built centuries ago with classic New England styling & finishes and high quality beam work that will be a lovely compliment to the newly raised timber frame barn on the property. The Barn design calls for hundreds of wooden beams and pieces that were pre-engineered off site using modern technology & tools. The erecting of the barn however took on more of an old fashioned approach.

    

On Monday December 3, 2018 several members of the Thorson Team along with the homeowner and even several of their friends were present to assist and witness the raising of the barn. Although a large crane helped with the heavy lifting and positioning of the beams in their place, many hands were still needed to make final adjustments and connections as well as to feed the hard working helpers (for which the homeowner graciously stepped up to the plate).  The foundation and flooring were prepared in advance and ready to accept the main structure. Posts & beams assembled in sections on the ground were then carefully lifted to their final positions. While the structure was successfully being erected the social aspects of a traditional barn raising also ensued. Food was shared by all thanks to a gracious offering by the homeowner and a small evergreen tree was nailed to the highest peak. (yes you heard us correctly…)

 

The ritual of nailing a bough or small tree to the highest peak goes back hundreds of years and served two purposes. One was to  pay homage to all the trees that went into the construction of the structure and to the many hands that built it. The other symbolizes the establishment of the Barn’s roots, which will nourish a long and prosperous life, one that will no doubt last for generations.  This time of year though, one could also argue that the small tree is nod to Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree that gave importance to the simpler aspects of life, and the meaning behind them rather than their fancy facade.

An old fashioned barn raising is for sure a reflection of simpler times past. The beauty is really in its simplicity. The warm wooden beams will provide solid structure and are just as beautiful and awe inspiring standing on their own as they will be after they’ve received their final facade.

We have always had an immense amount of respect & admiration for classic architecture and building techniques and are proud to be a part of projects like this one that create quality lasting structures that will no doubt be enjoyed for generations to come!

 

 

   

 

The bulkhead dilemma

Let’s face it, there’s nothing fancy or attractive about a basement bulkhead. It is a necessary evil in most homes in order to be able to access the basement from the home’s exterior. For years the available options for bulkheads were limited and many standard metal options can often rust, eventually leak and create that gut wrenching, nails on a chalkboard type of sound when opening or closing. (I bet you can hear the sound in your head right now…sorry about that)

With all that bad press behind them why hasn’t someone come up with a better way to access a basement?  The fact is that each home is different and each situation unique so there is never a one size fits all solution. We’re tackling this dilemma and going over your options for a basement access solution that is right for you and your home.

If you’re replacing an existing bulkhead and looking for more attractive options you can start with the basics.

Powder Coated

An upgrade from a standard primed steel bulkhead is the powder coated variety. They’re still pretty standard so the price isn’t going to jump too much but the factory finish means it will likely last much longer.

Powder coating is a type of coating that is applied as a free-flowing, dry powder, typically applied electrostatically and is then cured under heat to allow it to flow and form a “skin” over the metal.

The result is a superior finish that is more durable and tougher than conventional paint. Powder coated finishes are typically more resistant to chipping, scratching and fading but are only available in a short list of colors. Typically white, sandstone or beige, some variation of grey and a brick color. So if you’re looking to match your custom painted exterior this may not be for you.

Polyethylene Bulkhead

What is Polyethylene you ask? In short, it’s plastic. Plastic has gotten a bad reputation these days because it doesn’t break down and can remain in a landfill for hundreds if not thousands of years.  Bad – if it’s on a disposable product like a water bottle, but a very good thing if it is used on products that call for longevity. Bilco, one of the most widely used manufacturers of bulkheads has  a polyethylene bulkhead that boasts little to no maintenance and a standard design that mimics the look of a wood door which is inherently more attractive.

The door has a weather tight head gasket and the ability to change out side panels for venting or allowing natural light into your basement entry.   It can withstand a 200 lb load capacity and has “motion dampers” that assist in a softer door closure. A 5 year manufacturer’s warranty is also available.  One of the downfalls is color options are limited to the stock “driftwood” color as the door cannot be painted a custom color.

Fiberglass Bulkhead

 

Another newer player on the bulkhead market is the fiberglass “Clam door” Emerging on the scene about 10 years ago, the Clam Door Company has taken their inspiration from nature (namely the clam) and their weatherproofing from the marine & sailing industry. Made in Rhode Island and employing a full watertight gasket on the entire perimeter, this one piece door does seem to have the weather proofing and pest deterrent properties that other bulkhead doors don’t.  If you own or have ever been on a boat this door may remind you more of a boat hatch than a bulkhead. The Fiberglass material comes in standard colors or can be customized for an additional cost. The Fiberglass materials also boasts it’s strength with a 700lb capacity in the center of the door and a hydraulic lift bar holds the door in an open position while in use.

The price point is a bit higher than a standard bulkhead but the weatherproofing benefits and streamlined design may make that extra cost worth it for most homeowners.

Hidden Bulkhead

Photo courtesy of LuciGold

If even the nicest bulkhead just isn’t nice enough for your taste some opt to cover them up. Custom options are available to integrate a Bulkhead “hatch” into a deck or patio. This creates a trap door of sorts that will be sure to impress your friends but may put a bit more stress on your wallet.

The one pictured here is integrated into a deck so when closed just appears to blend in with the decking and in many cases would not even be noticeable to someone who didn’t know it was there.

Like anything else,  when you begin to get into a fully custom option such as this the cost inevitably rises so be prepared for the price tag that comes along with it.

 

Open Stairwell

In some cases it may be possible to eliminate the bulkhead altogether. If you are building new or adding on an addition and want to plan ahead to eliminate the bulkhead  and create an open stairwell there are a few things  to consider.

Protection from the elements is one of the major things you’ll have to plan ahead for.  Without the protection of the bulkhead water can now get down into the stairwell. You will have to install a weather tight door at the entry point in to the basement foundation and ensure proper drainage at the base to prevent water & ice buildup. With an open stairwell you will also have to construct railings to prevent falls.

The open stairwell pictured above from one of our Brewer Master Suite addition project called for capping the foundation walls with slate to create a more finished look and constructing the stairs and rail from mahogany.  This basement access was definitely a step up  from your typical bulkhead.

Walkout Basements

Perhaps the most luxurious of all basement entries and a real departure from a standard bulkhead is the walk-out. Ultimately a walkout basement is one that has a point of entry/exit, direct from the foundation wall to the exterior grade. A portion of the basement is typically excavated out or resides on a slope leaving the majority of the basement walls exposed and above ground.  Some walk-out basements also have windows allowing for added natural light in the lower level of a home. If you don’t already have a walk out basement it may be possible to create one but you’ll definitely need to enlist the help of the professionals.

This example from one of our Highland Whole House Remodel uses a combination of elevation changes and custom retaining walls and stairwells to create a walkout basement that did not formerly exist. Metal railings were custom fabricated along with custom stone veneer and installation of a double french door to allow for added natural light in the basement.

Clearly a more elaborate basement entry of this sort is in the highest price point of all that we have discussed but the effect and beauty may be well worth the cost for some homeowners.

 

Accent lighting

Design & Detail Spotlight

Accent Lighting

Lighting or lack thereof can really make or break a space.  Many people think of lighting in terms of what is appropriate for performing specific tasks but strategically placed accent lighting can create drama & increase the impact of a specific design element.

From our projects…

The custom mahogany floating shelves pictured here from our Jerusalem Kitchen & Interior were outfitted with recessed LED lights that illuminate and highlight the glassware & decorative accessories but they are very low profile allowing the shelves and their contents to be the star.
The directional recessed lighting in the custom bookshelf photo from one of our latest basement renovations (bottom left) really brings a sense of drama to the bookshelf architecture. The  backlit bathroom vanity mirror (bottom center) creates a soft ambient glow and makes the mirror appear to float off of the wall.
Accent lighting can also be it’s own design element creating visual interest and even focal points within a room, as is the case with the crystal chandelier(bottom right).

Planning is key…

Be sure to make lighting a part of your planning process. If working with an architect or designer, have them draw up an electrical or lighting plan that outlines the specific locations and different types of lighting fixtures you want in your finished space. Planning for lighting in advance will help you to consider the overall design and how light impacts each area.

Arched Doorways

Design & Detail Spotlight

Arched Doorways

   

Arches have been used in classic architecture for Centuries. Dating back to Roman times arches were used as a means to span large distances and create structural integrity that was hard to achieve before the use of modern steel & engineered lumber were available.

Today arches are still used but typically more for decorative purposes. The Elliptical arched doorway has become a popular choice in many of the projects we complete. This classic detail can add depth & drama to an entryway as shown above or be a decorative transitional element between two spaces.

The execution of the detail is not quite as simple as you might think however. Most building materials don’t naturally bend to conform to a curved or arched shape. With a little know how, some precise math and a whole lot of glue & clamps the Thorson Team is able to create this beautiful & timeless finish detail at many of our projects.

Want to incorporate an arched detail into your next project?

Contact us to start planning!

 

Skylights & Sun Tunnels

Skylights are a great way to bring natural light into an otherwise dark space. The latest technology in skylights has them fully automated with touch screen remote controls and water sensors that can automatically close the unit if rain is detected.
 
The unit in the photo (left) brings much needed natural light into this bathroom with no windows and also affords additional ventilation in an area where it is needed most.
 
In the case where there is a space restriction or limited budget sun tunnels are another viable option. They work by channeling the sunlight down a much smaller cylindrical tube into the finished space. In our COTY Award winning Bath remodel we used 3 sun tunnels that were finished to mimic the look of full skylights but allowed us to work around obstructions in the attic space giving the illusion of a full size skylight from the finished space.
 

Pocket Doors

Design & Detail Spotlight

 

The Pocket Door

By nature the pocket door is meant to be out of sight but it’s practicality will never be forgotten.  This door style has been used for centuries and it’s benefits are still as useful today as they were 100 years ago. 
 
Pocket doors are framed to slide into a “pocket” in the wall when not in use. Unlike a normal door they require zero clearance around them for operation which makes them ideal for small and tight spaces. 
 
The doors pictured to the left are from our featured Hingham Addition project and were used in two areas where space was at a premium; the pantry and a small office just off of a main hallway. Both areas would have sacrificed a lot of space by using a traditional door and both are spaces that require closing off for either sound control or to conceal messy kitchen prep. When opened the doors are completely out of sight. In the case of the office,  glass doors were used to provide sound dampening while still allowing light into the space.
The Pantry door was one that although they opted for the look of a french door, frosted glass was used to have the option to close off the space visually. If entertaining they can keep messy prep contained in the pantry by just closing the door. But really when you have a pantry as nice as this one you may want the door open more often than closed!  
 
The sometimes overlooked pocket door was the perfect solution to both of these space & design dilemmas, and thankfully they look pretty nice too! 
 

For more information on pocket doors or to incorporate this design detail into your next project contact us online or call our office to speak with one of our representatives. 

LG Art Cool heating and a/c

Product Spotlight

LG Art Cool Gallery Mini split A/C


Ductless mini-split heating & air conditioning units are an efficient and effective way to get heating and cooling in a space that may have limited accessibility for traditional heating and cooling options. New innovations from LG have made the wall mounted unit required for the system more stylish and able to blend with any decor.

Designed to look like a photo frame this streamlined unit can be customized with personal photos or artwork. The vents are located on the sides of the unit and deliver remotely controlled hot or cool air on demand. This award winning design takes one of the few negatives about the ductless mini split system out of the equation by replacing the clunky rectangular wall unit with this lower profile photo frame design.

Learn More about the LG Art Cool Line of comfort hvac solutions