Category: Tips & Advice

Kitchens: Form follows function

Design & Detail Spotlight

Kitchens: Form follows function

Louis Sullivan a 19th Century Chicago based Architect held the belief that “form follows function”, in essence saying that the shape and design of a building should be directly related to or even dictated by it’s intended function. This axiom has become a cornerstone of many design & architectural firms principles.

A kitchen designer often takes this same approach to designing your kitchen, creating a space that functions as well as it looks and is catered to the way the space will be used.  After all what good is a beautifully designed space if it doesn’t function well? From the overall layout,  inserts and unique cabinet modules to varying operation of cabinet doors and drawers, all of the so-called bells and whistles contribute to the increased functionality of a new kitchen.

Deep drawers instead of cabinet doors.

The full extension soft close drawers allow for easy access to all of its contents without having to open a door bend down and reach in.

Dual Islands

The old kitchen work triangle concept dictated that you should keep your fridge, sink and cooktop in close proximity to each other, but not everyone uses their kitchen the same way and with kitchens becoming larger and more of a social gathering spot homeowners are breaking the rules.  This client from our Plymouth Summer Retreat project opted for two islands, one with seating and storage (the gathering spot LEFT) and the other a more utilitarian application with the cooktop, prep sink beverage center and ice maker door (RIGHT). This keeps the prep and cooking mess away from the island seating area.

Fridge Drawers & Microwave Garages

This Fridge (below left) has a main upper door and two lower drawers that are individually temperature controlled, great for storing items you use often and want quick access to or to allow younger members of the family to be able to help themselves to healthy snacks.  Also pictured are some handy appliance garages, in this case to house the microwave but really these top closing “garages” could be used to hide any appliance you’d prefer not to look at on a daily basis. They keep them out of sight but still readily accessible when needed.

        

Food Storage & Paper Towel Dispensers

Storing your potatoes & onions and paper towels are not what most think of when creating their dream kitchen, in fact these details can often be overlooked. Good design however will factor in even the little things that can add to the overall functionality of the space. The client from our Lincoln Kitchen & Interior  project preferred not to have her counter cluttered with a paper towel dispenser and this handy dispensing drawer located just beside the sink solved the dilemma. You can even store additional rolls behind the main dispenser for easy change out to a new roll!

The metal mesh drawers & cabinet doors allow for storage of items like potatoes & onions that would benefit from some additional ventilation but the feature also adds a unique decorative element.

 

Want to incorporate some of these clever solutions into your next project? Contact us and we will pair you with one of our trusted Kitchen design partners to get started in planning your dream kitchen!

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.

 

 

Always Tripping?

Picture this;

you are a homeowner and just had the kitchen of your dreams installed and are so happy to begin using your new space, you plug back in your appliances, coffee maker, lamps etc. and settle in.  One day seemingly out of the blue, your electrical breaker trips, you find the breaker and turn it back on because you’re a pretty handy homeowner and “YOU GOT THIS”, then it happens again and again until  you decide it’s time to call a Pro.

If this scenario sounds all too familiar and you have a problem with persistently tripping breakers you are not alone, this is a common issue that we get calls about frequently. The main objective in calling a pro is to get to the bottom of the issue since it’s not always as easily identifiable for most homeowners. Unfortunately, getting to the bottom of the issue is  perhaps even more difficult (even for the Pros) since the updating of certain electrical codes.

The various code councils are always assessing and updating code standards to safeguard the health, safety, and general welfare of building occupants. Many of these code upgrades have to do with shock & fire prevention in an around the electrical wiring in your home.

Some of the more recent electrical code updates stipulate that specific types of electrical breakers be used in certain areas of the home to help prevent fires. Any measure to prevent fires and increase safety in a home is definitely a positive change, however some negative ramifications have come from some of these changes as well.

These newly required breaker types are called AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) or CAFI (combination arc fault interrupter) and are designed to sense arcs, many of which are normal in the operation of switches, motors and other electrical appliances. The breaker is supposed to turn the circuit off when it detects a dangerous arc caused by a frayed cord, or a loose connection or any other problematic item that could start a fire. Very good thing right? Well,  yes of course,  but the nature of these newer devices is that they are designed to be pretty sensitive at times leading to what is called “nuisance tripping” or tripping of a circuit for no apparent or identifiable reason. Of course there is always a reason, but identifying a valid safety concern and addressing the reason can be where issues arise.

At times, older products with motors will cause the AFCI breaker to trip. This is because the brushes wear down on these older motors, which causes the arc pattern to become irregular and not as rhythmic as when the motor was new. This causes AFCI to detect this as an arc and trip the circuit for safety.

Do note that AFCI breakers differ from GFCI breakers that are designed to trip when the load becomes unbalanced between the hot and neutral wires, also known as an electrical “leak”. GFCI breakers are to protect people from getting shocked versus AFCI which are to prevent electrical fires. Both AFCI and GFCI breakers perform the duties of a standard circuit breaker which is to protect the wiring from short circuits and overload conditions.

Note that combination AFCI and GFCI breakers are also used and do all of the functions described above. These breakers are commonly used on dishwashers, disposals, kitchen circuits and other kitchen appliances near the sink.

Ok,  enough talk about the technicalities right? Let’s get back to the issue at hand, identifying the cause and knowing when to call in the professionals.

What to Do

Step 1
Identify the Circuit causing the issue.
 At the breaker panel identify the circuit that has tripped. The switch will be in the neutral position (between on and off).
 If the circuit is an AFCI breaker it will be labeled as such and will have a “test” button and sometimes light indicators. Below is an example of what AFCI breakers look like:

Step 2
Isolate the potential cause.
 Unplug all fixtures/appliances plugged in to the circuit.
 Turn the circuit switch back into the “on” position
 Plug in each appliance or fixture back into an outlet on this circuit one at a time and turn on or run each for a time to see if any of them are causing the trip to occur.

Most common items that trigger AFCI Tripping:
1. Vacuums, , typically being plugged in or unplugged when turned on
2. Any older motorized appliance or tool
3. Fluorescent lights
4. Surge protectors/power strips
5. Older appliances or fixtures
6. Any appliance or fixture with a worn plug or wiring (sometimes caused when furniture is pushed against plugs)
7. HAM Radios
8. Loose light bulbs, worn receptacles, plugs not fully plugged into the receptacle.

Step 3
If any of the devices trigger a trip, unplug the item and test it on another circuit that is also AFCI protected. If this same device trips a different AFCI circuit breaker, it’s the result of incompatibility between the electronic device and the AFCI breaker, or possibly a major problem with the device. You can try relocating the device to a non –AFCI protected circuit or if the device is older or plug/wiring is worn you may want to consider replacing the fixture to reduce fire hazard risk & reduce chances of future nuisance tripping.

If the trip is not duplicated in another AFCI circuit, contact your electrician for further investigation.

 

 

 

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.

 

Planning your Remodel

When a prospective client calls our office they  have two main questions that often become the determining factor in whether we can work together or not; When can you start? and how much will it cost? Although these two questions are important and valid, they often can only be answered after we ask a few questions of our own;

How far along in the planning process are you?
Do you have a clearly defined scope of work?
Have you checked your local town  laws and regulations regarding ability to perform the work?
Are architectural plans prepared and contain enough information to provide an accurate cost estimate?
Have you thought about the materials and finishes your project will include?

Many homeowners are very focused on cost and timing and forget the many details that need to be considered before they even begin to obtain pricing for a project.

The reality is that the planning portion should be the longest phase of the entire building or renovation project. The planning phase is a multi-step process that should not be rushed.  So before you take the leap and call a contractor to ask the two ever important questions (how much? & how long?) take a moment and review the 5 steps to planning any building or remodeling project below and arm yourself with the information you need to have a successful and well planned project!

Step 1

Determine your objective & budget

Keeping in mind why you are remodeling start to determine the scope of the project. Will you add on to the home or work within the existing footprint? Are you planning significant structural changes to the home or just looking to update finishes and fixtures?  These questions will help you determine the right professionals to contact first.

Having clear budgetary goals will help  when determining scope also, obviously the more involved a project is, the more it will cost so your budget may to a degree drive the scope of the project.  Many homeowners don’t know what a project in their area would cost so have a hard time with this step. They may try to get a bid for the project as a first step,  but we advise against this because this early in the process it is almost impossible to project an accurate budget number.

Instead, we point prospective clients to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report to get a general sense of where their budget should be. The report lists cost ranges for 35 of the most popular renovations and the data is separated by region so the numbers are more accurate than a national average or regional study. An alternative would be to ask a trusted friend or relative who has remodeled recently or at least in the last 1-3 years.  Armed with a general idea of what your project may cost will help you to better refine the scope and determine exactly what your budget will allow.

Step 2

Gather information & ideas

If an addition or structural changes are in the plan then you will likely have some zoning, historical or conservation regulations to abide by. In some historic locations any change to the home’s exterior warrant a check in with the Historical Commision to ensure your plans are in compliance.

You can gather necessary documents like site plans, septic plans and as built plans from your local town offices. These documents will help you determine the area you have to work within to add on to a structure and will be necessary for the design & permitting phase.  You will likely also need to enlist the services of a site/civil engineer to draft new site plans showing your proposed changes if you will be altering the footprint or height of your home.

Now is also the time to start gathering ideas about your style & material preferences. Use online resources like Pinterest and Houzz to create digital idea books about spaces, designs and products that you like. The more specific you can be about the style, finishes and products you prefer the easier it will be for the professionals to plan for and price your project as accurately as possible.

Step 3

Hire an Architect or Designer

If structural changes are in the plan, an architect will be the next step. If only interior renovations are planned you may just want to enlist the help of an interior designer.  Architects and designers have inherently unique styles and strengths so do your homework and find one that tends to have an aesthetic that you are drawn to. Contact them  and use all of the information you’ve gathered to discuss the parameters, scope and style & material preferences.

Once preliminary drawings are complete you are ready to begin taking the plans to builders and contractors in order to get the estimating process started but remember that the more complete and comprehensive your plans are the more accurate your bidding process will be.

Step 4

Obtain Estimates from Contractors

Your architect will advise you when plans are ready to be submitted for bid.  However, if your plans are incomplete or missing key features like framing & foundation plans, window & door schedules, structural specifications etc. then your contractor may want to wait until those are included before even beginning to estimate your project. Leaving these details up to the contractor to determine will mean that it will be hard to compare one quote to another. One contractor may factor in sub par materials, cheap windows/doors while another includes higher quality materials and those minor differences will quickly add up to a major cost discrepancies between bids.

Some architects have a list of preferred contractors or you can do your own research and determine which companies you are interested in quoting the project with. When vetting companies consider all of the factors; too often homeowners make a decision based on price and timing. They want the project done for the lowest cost and/or the earliest start date. Basing decisions on these factors often leads to hiring a contractor who perhaps just wasn’t very detailed with their cost estimation process so hadn’t included all factors. It stands to reason that the most qualified and professional companies that do the best quality work will have a bit of a backlog so plan for that and be flexible with the timing of the project.

Read all bids and scope details carefully and be wary of vague or missing information and never make assumptions that anything not in writing is included in the overall cost of the project. A qualified company will provide a detailed scope with an outline of the types of materials they will use for your project. They will also be able to answer any questions you have about a process, product or cost. Open communication at this phase is key. Knowing what materials & methods are being proposed in the project can help determine the reason for any variances in cost from one company to the next.

Keep these questions in mind when selecting a contractor:
  1. Are they a professional company with all of the proper licences, insurance & certifications?
  2. How long have they been in  business?
  3. Have they completed recent projects similar in scope to what you are proposing?
  4. Do they have a team of  qualified office & in-house staff that will bring experience and knowledge to the table?
  5. Does their proposal/contract include a detailed scope and material specifications?
  6. How do they manage a project? Will you have access to updates, schedules, financials via a client portal?
  7. What portions of the project, if any, will you be responsible for managing or supplying materials or fixtures?
  8. How do they communicate? Will they be available via phone, text and email?
  9. Can you contact past clients to discuss their experience in working with them?Once you’ve selected your contractor be sure to sign a formal contract or agreement about the specific scope and payment terms and have a general discussion about their availability to begin the work and how long the project will take so you have a realistic expectation about start date & timing going forward.

Step 5

Permitting & Product Selection

You’ve selected your professionals and signed your contract and your contractor begins pulling permits and processing all of the paperwork to prepare for the start of your project. Before you hand your project over to them there are still many decisions to be made before your project can begin. Product selections will be your next big task. Your contractor will likely provide you with vendor resources to make your selections with and an idea of which selections take priority, typically the first on the list is windows, doors, siding & roofing, followed closely with appliances, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, flooring, tile, paint colors etc. Each project is unique so be sure you have an idea of what choices need to be made and by when. Once your choices have been finalized your contractor will then confirm when products will be available for delivery and build your project schedule and start date around those lead times.

The last thing you or your contractor want is to have a project in progress be held up by a product that is backordered or has long lead times that no one anticipated. This is why planning and preparation are key to a successful project. With everyone doing their part to ensure products are selected, permits are pulled  and schedules are created to coordinate with available product dates your project can move along swiftly with no bottlenecks or surprises.

So whether you are building a new custom home, adding an addition or remodeling an existing space taking the time to properly plan your project will be the difference between a pleasant and stress free project and one riddled with problems and unforeseen costs and delays. Everyone wants their project done as quickly and cost effective as possible including your building professionals so take a team approach to the process and work along with your design & building team to meet the deadlines for product selections, make timely decisions on any design changes and communicate openly and often.

Fall Maintenance Guide

 

Summer is breathing it’s last breath, kids are preparing to head back to school and here in New England the weather can turn fast. Prepare now for the impending chill of Fall and winter with some easy home maintenance tasks you can do yourself and some you may want to call in the Pros for. 

Indoor Fall Maintenance

For you…

  The introduction of the heating season brings new potential for fire hazards, so take a moment to review fire safety in your home as well performing some yearly routine maintenance tasks listed below.                                                                                                                                             

  • Check and replace fire extinguishers if necessary.
  • Change the batteries in your smoke detectors.                                                                                                                  
  • Go over the home fire evacuation plan with your family.
  • Clean the lint from your dryer vent lines. 
  • Change the air filter in your furnace and stock up on several more filters for the winter.                                                                                                                             
  • Ensure all vents and returns are clear of debris and open.
  • Check your windows and doors for any air leaks that may compromise energy efficiency
  • Prepare your seasoned firewood and store it covered, at least 30ft from your home.

For the Pros…

  • Call in an HVAC professional to test the heating output and give the system a tune-up. This technician can also check for and correct possibly hazardous carbon monoxide levels generated by your heating system.
  • Have your duct system cleaned and sanitized.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to help lower your energy costs.
  • Have any door weather-stripping in disrepair fixed
  • Call a chimney sweep company for an annual sweep before the start of the season.
  • Have your attic insulation inspected and added to if necessary

Outdoor Fall maintenance

For you…

  • Cover or put away outdoor furniture for the winter
  • Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the section of pipe just inside the house.
  • Empty out unused fuel from any gas-powered equipment because sediment can build up and clog the fuel lines. Store gasoline in tanks out of children’s reach and have it ready for use in your snow blower or emergency generator.
  • Test your emergency generator & snow blower. Make sure they are in good working order and remember never to run a generator in any enclosed space as this presents a carbon monoxide hazard.

For the Pros…

  • Have your gutters inspected and cleaned.
  • Have inefficient windows/doors replaced or repaired.
  • Install a Storm Door 
  • Install an electrical sub-panel for your main circuits to be routed to your generator in case of a power outage.

For help with your seasonal maintenance needs call 508-279-0656 or inquire online

 

Solar Attic Ventilation Fans

Product Spotlight

Solar Attic Ventilation Fans

Have you ever had to run up to your attic to grab something in the middle of a hot day in summer? Do you ever notice how stifling hot it can get up there? Believe it or not that heat can transfer into your main living space and cause your cooling system to work overtime, even more so if your cooling components are located in the attic. A system that has to work harder is much less efficient and ultimately could be costing you a lot more money. Increased temperatures in your attic can also cause added wear & tear on your roof shingles and reduce their longevity. The solution? Active Attic ventilation.

Why do you need an Attic Fan?

In summer, temperatures in an unventilated attic can exceed 160 degrees. A properly sized attic ventilation
system will reduce attic temperature to 5-10 degrees F above the outdoor temperature. Ventilating
the attic reduces the amount of heat transferred from the attic to the home, decreases the load on the air
conditioning system (reducing your electric bill), and extends the life of your roof shingles.
In winter, heat trapped in the attic may melt snow on the roof, which trickles down and creates destructive
ice dams in the colder eaves.
Everyday home activities such as cooking and showering create moisture which collects in the attic and
promotes mold and mildew growth, reduces the effectiveness of insulation, and attacks the wooden attic
structure. Year round fresh air circulation from an Attic Fan removes this moisture and helps prevent
moisture related problems.

Attic fans offer an environmentally friendly and economical solution to summer time cooling problems
resulting from attic heat penetrating your home’s insulation. . The higher the temperature of your attic,
the less effective your attic insulation will be at stopping heat from entering your home.
Installation of an Attic Fan on your home minimizes the amount of heat entering through the attic by
reducing your attic temperature. By minimizing the amount heat entering your home, you will save
money on your summer cooling bill and make your house feel more comfortable (see diagrams below).

Things to Consider

• The cost savings due to reduced air conditioner load depends on the price of electricity in your area, and can be
even greater when installing a solar unit. Other factors include: the amount of attic space in your home, the efficiency
of your attic insulation, and the amount of ventilation your attic vent is able to provide. A typical installation
will usually pay for itself in savings within 1-2 summers of use.

• An Attic Fan should not be used when air from the living areas of the home can freely enter the attic. This would
result in conditioned air being removed from the home. Any openings between the attic and the home should be
sealed before an Attic Fan is installed.

Want to make an attic fan installation part of your next renovation project? Contact us and let’s start planning!

Leave Room for Growth

Leave room for growth

Any one who gardens knows that a plant should be placed in a pot that will leave a little room for growth. You would be forced to re-pot pretty often if the subsequent pots were only a fraction larger than the last. With that in mind think of your next remodeling project…Why you ask? Because the same principle applies.

When planning for a project, particularly a large one, you want to be farsighted and “leave room for growth” as it were. It always makes sense to plan ahead… sometimes way ahead.

Think about how your life might change over the course of the next several years (or as long as you expect this renovation to last). For instance if you are approaching retirement and plan to spend your elder years in your current home, you may want incorporate some features that would make those years a bit easier. Or if you know you will be out growing your current home due to a growing family or changing needs you should consider what would appeal to the next potential home buyer.

Leaving room for growth also means planning for styles & finishes that will endure the test of time. I’m sure we all know someone who had to pull out a full “avocado” bathroom suite circa 1972…and it probably probably lost it’s appeal sometime in the 1980’s. The lesson? Sometimes the latest design trend can be a little too trendy, meaning it will quickly fade and be replaced by the next big trend.  To avoid renovating too often…leave room for growth!