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Remodeling Journal


Thanksgiving Thanks

We just participated in a pretty poor year of business and weather, but considering a lot was against us we have almost finished the year and things look alright. The year went by quite swiftly as the customers were part of the reason that going to work every day is such a pleasant experience.

I am thankful for my clients that kept me busy and the clients that have considered me for work.

Without the constant need for my sevices I wouldn't be able to say, Thanks for a wonderful year and the hopes of many more.

To all  of you, who I have helped with your projects and your home improvement needs, have a grand and

Happy Thanksgiving and may God's blessing be many in the following years to come.



Right windows for you

That is right, the weather is changing, temperatures are dropping and you are wondering how you can save money on those ever increasing energy and fuel costs. It could be as simple as upgrading your windows to a higher standard. Today's vinyl windows exceed any previous design and can save you fuel and energy all year long.

The right thing to do would be to insulate yourself better from the changing energy prices by making your house more energy efficient. This is where a quality replacement window can make the difference. Look for the energy star rating and the new higher thermal efficiency to get a government incentive rebate for next year.

Vinyl replacement windows are made custom to any size needed, so they fit your house right and can be made in almost any shape and design. Various different options in glass design and insulation quality can yield a savings in your energy bills of 40-60%.

Installation is simple and usually has a low impact on the house itself. A simple removal of the sashes from your old frames, and inspection and preparation of the original case work and making it tight, is necessary and then calking and installation of the new windows is accomplished.

This can be a good home owner project but don't make any mistakes as windows are custom made and you own any mistake you make.

The right decision for you may be to hire a competent window installer or remodeling specialist. The small cost of a professional who has the experience and proper tools to facilitate proper installation and repairs may actually save you money in the long run.

I have made some special tools for blowing in insulation around window jambs to fill old weight pockets, so the job can be done right the first time and can easily cut out old rotted sills and replace them anew or rap them in aluminum trim coil. Even with the cost of new windows, most replacement windows done with Harvey's vinyl replacements and a careful approach to cost can be done for under $300 per window without a reduction in quality and as low as $225 in some cases.

Every job has its own nuances so a personal onsite inspection and quote must be done to insure a proper price evaluation and analysis to insure the job is done right and to the best economic package for the consumer. Special care to inspect for rot will expose any solutions needed to fit the window correctly to insure all repairs necessary are completed to make the window weather tight for years to come.

Most good quality vinyl windows have lifetime warranties of parts and material and 20 years on the glass, which gives you ample protection against any failure. Some companies will give you a life time warrantee if you are willing to pay 2-3 times more for the windows but that pretty much tells you where your money is going.

The right window for the right price is a nice thing and we can supply that with the Harvey's brand vinyl replacement window installed by Hoen Carpentry.






Saving an addition

House jacking, foundation demo and replacement and a little igenuity saved this twenty-five year old addition from collapsing.

We started the task of saving an addition from foundation decay. It wasn't that the concrete had failed, it was that some one thought it was alright to put footings in about 10' below the surface.  In New England that doesn't work too well due to the frost going below the surface as much as 4 feet at times. lifting the building then dropping it when it defrosts every time the temperature goes up and down.

It is always a disappointment to discover that some builders will do this kind of stuff and some how face themselves the next day and worse that an inspector lets things like this occur.

Saving a room addition from foundation decay isn't as bad as it sounds or looks but takes some planning and coordination of workers. I had heard another contractor had recommended tearing it down and rebuilding completely for three times as as much money as I had envisioned for the customer. To me this was a situation where house jacking and foundation demo were the only choice. I used Jack Stilkey and Son for the house jacking, and Hawk Brook Construction of Methuen to expertly demo the old concrete haul it away and dig out for the new foundation walls and footings.

Our objective here is to salvage a decent room addition with a minimal of cost. Although still costly, we are able to save the entire addition, replace the foundation and just do repairs to drywall, roof and siding rather than demolition and rebuild. This is a good way to save money and restore a building back to its former intention.  

I'm happy to say that jacking this house up with Jack Stilkey of Epping NH turned out to be a breeze. Jack and his son stacked their cribbing and placed the beam in such a way that we could excavate for the new foundation with relative ease. Hawkbrook Construction of Methuen did and excellent job removing the old foundation and grading the land around the trenches that were made deeper and wider to accommodate the extra wide footings we installed.

I needed to have some 3/8 x 3 x 36" steel straps made to bolt to the sills and ridge on the house to addition joints so as to walk the sections back together and with the Stilkey's expertise in jacking, my home made turnbuckle using threaded rod and steal brackets we had made just for this application, things went smoothly.

After all the jacking was completed and the foundation in, we spent about a week pulling the building together its final inches. Most of the inner seams along the flooring, ceilings and rafters came together with 1/2 lags and mated up well. I think the Farmers are very happy that I came along and recommended a simple affective way to save a sad situation.

My thanks go out to Jack Stilkey and Son house jacking and moving for their dependability on jacking and foundation work and to Hawkbrook Construction, Bruce Hoehn and Johnny Saab for their efficient demolition of the foundation and the great landscaping that improved the area surrounding the work too.



save, save, save

 That is no secret to save, save, save, but here are a few tips.

Neglect is not saving. You probably already know that from past experiences and telling you only seems annoying, but saving money by not fixing critical areas around your home can hurt your homes ability to perform.

Efficient use of materials, time and effort will save you money down the road. This is something you want to do when entering an economic slump. Check your roof first and be sure any expenses now can last a few years without major repairs.  Inspect windows and doors for any air leaks and install storm windows where you have any drafty, but some what effective modern windows. The cost will be minimal and the savings in heating season could be very important if prices fluctuate erratically again.

Install a storm door where you may have not done so in the past.

Have your insulation in your attic checked. The savings gained from making sure your attic is fully insulated and properly vented is money in the bank come winter.

Make sure your bulk head, if you have one has a door that can be secured at the cellar with few drafts. Have your boiler cleaned and checked to make sure it is running clean and efficient. Buy your Pellets right now in June and July before the prices go up and before a shortage occurs.

Check into an alternative heat source such as wood, pellets or even a coal stove that can save you on oil or gas.

Other ways to save without spending would be to control your use of hot water better.

I think even trips to the grocery store may be reduced by shopping together with a neighbor and sharing the time comparing cost saving measures.

We are going to be faced with an economic slump for a while with the way things look so plan ahead. be wise with your money and even sell off things you don't need now while things are still progressing slowly.

Call your contractor or carpenter friend to give your house a look over and see if there are a few simple things that could be done with cost effectiveness that will insure you are secure from the weather and prepared for winter before it becomes an emergency that can't be delayed.

Prepare your house for a guest. You may want to put a room aside and get it ready for a family member who may be in the midst of moving or selling their home to avoid the financial burdens that may overtake them.

This is really a good time to save money on projects as carpenters and contractors will be very competitive to please you during a slump. Hope to hear from others with ideas on how to save, save, save.



Economic Cabinetry

With the price of cabinets these days and the economic situation on the horizon, it seems to me people should be saving money by spending wiser. Cabinetry is one of those skills that can be applied with an immense amount of cost variables to suit almost any room configuration. As in all things direct buying to the manufactured source can yeild great advantages. The reputation that custom cabinetry is more expensive than store bought factory boxes, assembled on site, is a sales ploy from cabinet sellers.

The reason I say this as there are many things that are priced to carry the overhead of multiple stages in the selling process and one could be much wiser with ones money if they just knew another more direct approach to spending that would yeild immediate savings. Buying direct from a cabinet maker.

Custom Cabinets. Kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets and built in cabinets all can be bought directly from a cabinet maker and the savings can give you a better value than buying cheap store bought cabinetry.

The advantage to in house bult cabinetry is two fold.

One; you employ a local cabinet maker and he is always available to add, repair or service your future needs.

two; You are paying only him to design, build and finish the job. No sales staff, no show room and no added cost for transportation from far away places that make the cabinets in some one else's economy. 

I have worked with a number of cabinet makers over the years and I myself make cabinets that are sturdy, custom fitted to every individual room and can assure real wood is used and no particle board or inferior assembly techniques are used. All of which is done at the local cost and hourly wages of your local area.

When real wood is desires and quality construction at reasonable prices is desired then custom fit onsite cabinetry may be your solution. The advantages of no filler pieces and full staright through shelving with no space stealing partitions unecesarily robbing you of interior dimensions, like in store bought box cabinets, you get a better more economical use of space and money, with out sacrificing looks.

If economic worry has caused you to put off a needed cabinet job, perhaps you should checkout a local cabinet maker and find out how much he can do for you. At a minimum you will have meet a local ttradesman and perhaps secured a carpenter for life that can aid you on cost saving measures throughout your home.