Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Best Time of Year to Hire a New Hampshire Renovation Contractor

In New Hampshire, the best time of year to hire a contractor for renovations is late December and January. On average, you get the best value for your money at this time of year, along with the best
selection of contractors and the most scheduling choices.

We've found that most homeowners don't plan ahead. If there's good-weather work to be done on the outside of a house, a typical homeowner will wait until good weather comes and then call a contractor. So contractors are flooded with calls, and (as a hedge against lean times) choose the most profitable jobs. The homeowner pays a premium price, and even then is often put on a waiting list.

In late December and January many contractors experience a lull in their work. We're still busy, partly because we had such a long waiting list, but that's not always the case at this time of year. Generally speaking, if you call now, you're more likely to get the work done when it works for you, and get the best price, too.

There are three kinds of jobs you'll want to line up at this time of year:

  1. Indoor work. Kitchen upgrades, interior repairs, closet reconfigurations, etc., can be done any time of year. But in warm weather, your indoor project has to compete with roofs and other fair-weather work.
  2. Outdoor work. Call before the rush and schedule your warm-weather project, and you'll get in ahead of the procrastinators.
  3. Storm work. Just as you wouldn't wait until it snows to find someone to plow your driveway, you shouldn't wait to find someone for roof shoveling. The same goes for post-storm repairs. If you're on a storm work reserve list, you'll have someone to take care of your house if anything should happen.
Of course, whenever you call a contractor, you should do your homework. Click here for some tips on finding the right contractor for your project:

Best value for the money

Best selection of contractors

Best choice of scheduling

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Finding the Right Contractor for Your New Hampshire Construction Project

How do you find the contractor who's the best fit for your project? Here are a few tips:

  • Price: It's a good idea to do a little research and get an idea of about how much jobs like yours
    should cost. Then, when you get estimates, you'll have something to compare their prices to. Beware of estimates that come in significantly underpriced. While it's always possible that the contractor simply made an arithmetic error, it could also mean that she doesn't understand what's involved in doing the job.
  • Experience: Talk with the contractors you're considering hiring. Ask questions about the work they've done in the past, and ask how they've overcome the type of problems they might reasonably come across in your project. Ask for the phone numbers of a few satisfied customers.
  • Communication: Sometimes a contractor will give you a good price and have experience doing the kind of work you need done, but will still not be a good fit for you. There's still one more essential area to check out, and that's communication. Does the contractor understand your vision of the project? Do you understand how he proposes to get it done? Do you have enough rapport to be happy working together?
New Hampshire Construction

Monday, August 31, 2015

Looks Like We're in for Another Cold Winter

The Old Farmer's Almanac is predicting another cold, snowy winter this year.

We wish we could tell you that you suffered enough last winter, so you're going to be rewarded with a mild winter this year. Unfortunately, the predictions are saying the opposite. Maybe it's like sports: win one challenge, and your reward is the chance to train for an even bigger one.

But if you're thinking of resigning yourself to another winter full of ice dams and frozen pipes, think again. Most of those problems don't actually come from cold temperatures or lots of snow. They happen when houses aren't ready for New Hampshire winters. The good news is that if a house is built right, you won't need to shovel the roof or worry about structural damage, even if we get as much snow as we did last year.

The bad news is that the majority of houses built in New Hampshire are not built like that. Sometimes this is due to the ignorance of the builders, but more often it's because they knew better and still chose to cut corners to save costs.

What can you do to help your house weather the weather this winter? There are just four major things to address:
  • The roof. Make sure the sheathing and the shingles are in good shape. Check the rafters to ensure that they are close enough together and thick enough for your roof type and slope, and that none of them is cracked or rotting. Replace anything that's damaged or worn out, and shore up the structure if you need to.
  • Strength of the structure. Be sure that your strong roof has a strong house and foundation to sit on. Remember that the purpose of all the structural elements of the house is to safely transfer that weight to the earth.
  • Sealing up drafts. A lot of times, frozen pipes and other winter damage is due to leaks where warm air rushes out of the house or cold air blows in. Look for little cracks and holes, especially around doors and windows, and where the main house meets the foundation.
  • Insulation. From the foundation to the roof, there's no substitute for insulation. Insulation, along with ventilation, prevents ice dams and dangerous icicles. It reduces material stress due to expansion and contraction, and it can protect your pipes from freezing.
While every house has different needs, most winter issues fall under one of these categories.


New Hampshire Construction

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Shopping Tips: New Hampshire Construction Contractors

Shopping for a New Hampshire construction contractor? Here are a few tips to help you choose one you'll be happy with.
  • Experience. Construction seems to be the business everyone wants to be in right now, and its popularity has attracted some people who are new to the field. It's a good idea to keep this in mind when looking for a contractor for your project. Ask questions like "How many years have
    you been doing this? Have you done any work in the area that I can look at? Can you give me some references?"
  • Understanding and Communication. There's nothing worse than coming home to find your addition going in on the wrong side of the house. Of course, this is an extreme example, but you'll want to make sure you and your contractor are on the same page.
  • Honesty. Obviously, you'd have to be a mind reader to know for sure whether a contractor is being honest. But you can watch for red flags, such as inconsistencies and stories that don't check out.
  • Control. You'll want to make sure that the contractor you're hiring is actually going to do the work, or at least be fully in control of it. You don't want to go through the trouble of finding an experienced, honest contractor who understands your needs, only to have the actual work done by someone else. 
Building projects can be stressful, but if you follow these four pointers, you'll have a little bit less to worry about.


NewHampshire Construction

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Real Deal on New Hampshire Construction Contractor Licenses

Lately, we've been asked a few times if we're licensed, so it looks like it's time to set the record straight:

The State of New Hampshire does not require (or offer) licensing for building contractors. The only construction-related contractors who need licenses in New Hampshire are electricians, plumbers and asbestos abatement contractors.

So beware of advertisers who say they hold licenses that don't actually exist. Yup, we've seen them!


NewHampshire Construction

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Commonly Confused Construction Terms

When you're ready to start a building project, whether you're going to hire a contractor or do it
yourself, communication is key. Knowing what to call everything can help you avoid expensive misunderstandings with contractors and suppliers. Here are a few commonly confused or misused construction terms and their meanings:

Joist/Stud: A joist is one of a set of beams that support a floor, deck, or other horizontal surface. A stud is one of a set of posts that make up the frame of a wall. The difference: joists are horizontal and studs are vertical.

Board/Plank: The difference between a board and a plank is thickness. Put simply, if it's at least an inch and a half thick, it's a plank; if it's thinner than that, it's a board.

Cement/Concrete: Cement is heat-treated limestone. Mix it with water and gravel, and you've got concrete. You can't build anything out of cement alone. It's a powerful binding agent when activated by water, but it needs something to bind. That's where the gravel comes in.

Beam/Post: These are both strong structural elements designed to support a lot of weight. The difference is that beams are horizontal and posts are vertical.

Truss: A truss is a sub-structure built to support weight without the need for a lot of posts or load-bearing walls. Trusses are often used to support roofs in buildings where a lot of open floorspace is desired. Don't confuse it with trust.

Soffit/Fascia: If you stand under the overhang of a typical New Hampshire roof and look up, you'll see a sort of outdoor ceiling called a soffit. Now, step away from the house and look for a trim board running along the roofline. That's the fascia, also called fascia board.

Tread/Riser/Stringer: These are all parts of a set of stairs. The treads are the part you probably notice the most, because you walk on them. The risers are the vertical boards that go between the treads. Not all stairs have risers. The stringers are the diagonal planks that form the main structure of the stairs.

Rafter/Purlin: Both these terms refer to the beams that form the structure of a roof. The difference is which direction they run. On a gable (peaked) roof, rafters run from the ridge (peak) to the eaves (bottom of roof/top of wall), whereas purlins run parallel to the short walls of the house. Purlins are not used in traditional-style modern houses, but are usually found in post-and-beam construction.

Sheathing/Siding: Sheathing is attached directly to the wall studs. In modern houses, it's usually made of OSB. In older houses, it may be plywood or even pine boards. Over the sheathing goes the housewrap (Tyvek is a popular brand), and over that goes the siding. The siding is the exterior finish of the house.

Baseboard/Baseboard heater: A baseboard is a piece of trim that runs along the bottom of a wall next to the floor. It's usually made of wood, but in commercial buildings, there's a popular type of baseboard called cove base, which is made of rubber or vinyl. A baseboard heater is a heater, usually electric, designed to be installed just in front of a baseboard.

Banister/Baluster: A banister is a stair rail, and balusters are closely-spaced supports that hold up a railing. A related word: balustrade, a railing with its supporting balusters.

Screw/Bolt: A screw is used by itself, but a bolt is used with a nut.

Cut/rip: Again, the difference is which direction it's going. Cutting goes across the grain of the wood, while ripping goes along the grain.

Did we miss any? Add to the list! What word confusions have gotten you in trouble?

New Hampshire Construction 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Buying Construction Materials? Inspect Before You Buy

It seems obvious that if you buy your construction materials from the same stores that supply professional contractors, you should be able to count on getting high-quality, professional-grade products. Unfortunately, that's not the way it works.

The pros are used to it. When we drive into the lumberyard to pick up a load of two-by-fours, we know that part of the job will be checking them for bad splits, bows, warps, knots and damage. And the same goes for everything else we buy. So if you're buying materials for a project of your own, check everything over before you leave the store.

An example:

A customer recently picked up a screen door from one of the big box stores, but when we went to install it, we realized we were going to have to take it back to the store.

Notice how there's a lot more of the bottom board showing on the right than there is on the left. Something's not right here.

Turn the door around, and we find the problem: a screw missed its target, splintering part of the frame...

...and forcing the main panel out of place.

Most stores will let you return defective products, but of course it's a lot quicker and easier not to buy them in the first place.

New Hampshire Construction

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Renovating New Hampshire Soffits

What do your soffits look like? Are they working properly? What are soffits, anyway? Most New Hampshire houses have soffits, and if they're not working properly, that could lead to problems.

What are soffits?

On most New Hampshire houses, if you stand under the overhang of a pitched roof and look up, you'll be looking at the soffit.

How do they work? What are they supposed to do?

Soffits serve two important roles in a house. First, they block the roof off from mice, squirrels, and other creatures who may want to build their nests in there and ruin your insulation. Second, they work in combination with ridge vents to allow airflow through the roof. Without sufficient airflow, condensation is likely to collect in your roof. That could lead to mildew, mold, dripping, rotting, and possibly even ceiling collapse.

The old way

Older soffits were often made of plywood or even boards, with metal vents installed at regular intervals.

The new way

Today, soffits are usually made of perforated vinyl. They don't need to be painted, and installation is less labor-intensive because they don't need custom holes cut for the vents.

Renovating soffits

In many cases, new soffits can be installed without fully removing the old ones. In this example from a recent job, we're removing the old vents and installing the new perforated vinyl soffits over (literally, under) the old wooden ones.

New Hampshire Construction

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How Adding a Three-Season Porch Could Save You Money in the Long Run

Three-season porches make a whole lot of sense. They add living space for a minimum of expense.
They give you a place to enjoy the fresh air in summer without being baked by the sun or eaten by mosquitoes or horseflies. And they let you have a semi-outdoor living experience far sooner in the spring and later in the fall than you could get otherwise. But did you know they can also reduce your winter heating bills?

A good three-season porch typically has easy-to-operate, screened windows on three sides, with the original exterior wall of the house making the fourth wall. The floor and roof are tightly built, so that when the windows are closed, there are no drafts.

Here are two ways a three-season porch can save heating fuel:

Passive Solar Heat

Direct sunlight coming through plain glass (glass that's not tinted or treated with a reflective coating) can provide a surprising amount of heat. If the angle of the sun's rays is too steep to come directly, and it reflects off snow or ice in your yard first, that works, too.

To take advantage of the passive solar potential of your three-season porch, follow these tips:
  • Locate it where the winter sun will hit the windows. Usually, this means the south side of your house.
  • Make sure there are no evergreen trees in the way that will shade the windows in the winter.
To keep your porch cooler in the summer:
  • Give it a roof with a large overhang. The sun is closer to the horizon in the winter, so a large overhang will let winter sunshine will in but keep midday summer sunshine out.
  • Locate any kiddie pools and other shiny objects where they won't reflect the sun's rays onto the windows.
  • Don't cut down deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves in the fall), unless they are endangering the house in some way. Deciduous trees are nature's air conditioners. They keep your house cool in summer, and actually clean the air while they're at it!

When you think of airlocks, you probably think of submarines, or maybe even spaceships. But airlocks are important in our houses, too. When you open your door on a winter day and go outside, a lot of warm air goes with you. But it doesn't have to. Old-time New Englanders never used to use a single door in the winter, because it wasted heat. You need to trap the air when you go in and out of your house, so the heat isn't sucked outside, and a three-season porch is a good way to do that. Other options are mudrooms and enclosed breezeways.

To use your three-season porch as an airlock in the winter, always close one door tightly before you open the other one. Teach your children to make sure the last person has come through the first door and shut it tightly before anyone opens the second door. Once they get the hang of it, it should start to come naturally.

Could your house benefit from a three-season porch?

New Hampshire Construction

Monday, May 4, 2015

Home Maintenance - New Hampshire Homeowner Tips

The weather is heating up. Just a few weeks ago, there was snow on the ground, and today we're all in shorts - or wishing we could be. With the ice dams and giant icicles of last winter a very recent memory, now we're looking summer in the face. Here are a few quick tips for helping your home or business building make the transition:
  • Inspect the roof. A tough winter like we just had can really do a number on a house, if it wasn't built for the climate and kept in great condition. And, unfortunately, most houses and other buildings in New Hampshire weren't built for the climate. Go figure. Check the roof for leaks and missing or damaged shingles.
  • Open and close all the doors and windows. If they bind or stick (and they didn't last summer), that could be a sign of structural damage.
  • Look for any cracks or gaps around the edges of windows and doors, cracked paint on your interior walls, and screws poking out from the walls. Again, any of these could be a sign of structural damage.
  • Check the foundation. Again, you're looking for cracks.
  • Assess your insulation. Adequate insulation will do three things for you, even in the summer: save you money, keep you more comfortable, and help your house handle temperature changes with less stress.
If you find any damage, or anything you're not sure about, don't just sit on it. Make sure you know what you're doing, or find someone who does, and take care of the problem as soon as reasonably possible. Damage only gets worse the longer you wait.

New Hampshire Construction

Friday, April 24, 2015

How to Get the Most Out of Your New Hampshire Renovation Contractor

Renovating your home, or even just one room, can make a big difference in your family's life. There's
nothing like finally having things in your home laid out the way you want them, in a style and color scheme that make you truly feel at home. But the process, of course, can be less than pleasant. Here are a few tips to help shorten the time it takes to do your renovations, make your life easier while it's happening, and get better results in the end:

  1. Before you do anything, make sure you know what you want. You don't have to know every detail, but be sure you have a clear idea of what your goals and priorities are. Do you want a more efficient kitchen? Less crowding in the bathroom? More closet space? An updated look? Talk with your family before you call a contractor, and make sure you're all on the same page.
  2.  Make a list of questions to ask the contractors who do your estimates.
  3. Choose two or three contractors you think would be a good fit for your project. Don't bother with contractors you already know you wouldn't hire, 'just to get a price.' Getting a price for unacceptable work won't help you price the work you're looking for.
  4. Pick the contractor based on what's most important to you. Price is one consideration. What may be more crucial is your confidence that the contractor understands your renovation vision and has the experience and professionalism to make it happen.
  5. Before you sign the contract, read it carefully and ask any questions you may have. This is the time to make sure you're getting what you want, and that you and the contractor have the same expectations.
  6. Before the work starts, clear your belongings out of the area and set up an alternative space to meet your daily living needs. Think ahead, organize your things, and label any boxes you put in storage.
Following these simple steps will save you and your family a lot of stress, and could even save you money. Thinking ahead, communicating and being organized can help you avoid a lot of expenses and plan for the rest.

New Hampshire Construction

Saturday, April 18, 2015

With Storage Sheds, New Hampshire Residents Have to Be Picky

In some climates, even the flimsiest sheds will do the job. All you need is a few sheets of metal to
We custom-built this shed to look like the customers' house.
See the whole album here.

keep the rain off and enough of a structure to keep would-be thieves looking for easier targets. But we don't have that kind of climate here in New Hampshire.

In New Hampshire, storage sheds have to stand up to a whole winter's snow load, year after year. That means your typical pre-built metal shed isn't going to work here. It might last a year, if the winter is unusually mild or you stay home every time it snows to keep it shoveled off. There's one in every circle of friends, though: that one bargain-hunter who saves a pile of cash with a great deal on a storage shed - only to see the roof collapse under the first heavy snowfall.

It's a simple concept, and maybe it should be obvious: Any building in New Hampshire has to be tough enough to handle New Hampshire weather. Here's what you should look for:

  • The foundation: If your shed is permanent, put it on a concrete slab with footings that go at least four feet into the ground. That will get them below the frost line and prevent damage from frost heaves. 
  • The roof: Be sure the slope is steep enough to keep the snow sliding off, or the whole structure is strong enough to hold it. Think like an engineer. Start at the top and imagine how the weight of snow would be transferred from one part to the next until it reaches the foundation.
You can either buy a shed already built, build it yourself, or have one built for you. Of course, if you're ordering your shed (or a DIY kit/plans) from a supplier outside of New England, you'll need to make sure it's suitable for our climate. Unfortunately, the same goes for local suppliers, and even local builders, as well. As with any building project, there's no substitute for doing your homework and knowing what you're getting.

New Hampshire Construction

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spring Maintenance for Your Home or Building

In spite of our recent April snowfall, spring is actually, finally here. While extreme cold and heavy
snow loads are not an issue any more, we do have plenty of other things to deal with, including melting snow and ice, mud, rain, and dampness. Here's a list of places in your home or place of business that may need some attention:

  • Roof and attic: Your roof should be inspected every spring, and after the winter we just had, that's more important than ever.
  • Windows and doors: Do they still operate freely? Is there any visible damage? Are the thermal panes still intact? Do you need to repair or replace any screens before black fly season hits?
  • Basement/foundation: Check for moisture and cracks. In both cases, catching them early is key.
  • HVAC: Your furnace should be serviced and your chimney cleaned and inspected during the off-season. Booking those appointments now could save you some headache when things get busy. Now is a great time to make sure your air conditioning system is ready to go.
  • Insulation: Even if yours is one of the lucky few New Hampshire homes and buildings that have enough insulation, it could still be compromised by leaks, insufficient venting or rodents.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Before Starting Renovations, New Hampshire Homeowners Need to Know This

When it comes to renovations, New Hampshire homeowners enjoy a lot of freedom to change their
houses as we see fit. But sometimes, things can go wrong.

From time to time, customers. hire us to fix renovation mistakes made by do-it-yourselfers or inexperienced contractors. One mistake in particular can do a lot of damage to your home or building and even make it dangerous to live or work in. To keep from suffering the same fate, you should know about load-bearing walls.

There are two kinds of interior walls in any building: load-bearing and non-load-bearing. Load-bearing walls are also called carrying partitions.They do more than just divide the space in your house into rooms: they form a necessary part of the structure of the building by carrying some of its weight.

The mistake you need to avoid, of course, is removing any load-bearing wall without first making sure it has an adequate replacement to take its share of the weight.

What to do instead: It is not enough to remove the wall first and then replace it with another one. You must make sure sufficient supports are in place before removing the wall. If you don't, one of two things could happen:
  • If you're unlucky, part of your house could actually fall on you as soon as you remove the old wall.
  • The structure of your house could shift, causing problems such as cracked walls, popped screws, windows and doors that work poorly or not at all, splintered studs, joists and rafters, and leaks in the roof.
Replacement options for your load-bearing wall include:
  •  A load-bearing arch. Make sure your arch is strong enough and engineered to fully transfer the weight to the floor.
  • A header and one or more posts. Again, make sure the header is strong enough, and you have enough posts.
  • A beam. Usually, to be effective, this should be made of steel, but that depends on how much weight it needs to take and how long the span is.
  • Another wall. Sometimes, you just need to replace the wall that's already there.
Of all the renovations New Hampshire homeowners like to do themselves, one of the worst ones to do wrong is removing or replacing a load-bearing wall. For this or any other project, make sure you do your homework first or hire a qualified contractor.

New Hampshire Construction

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mark J Gordon Construction's New Online Home

We have enjoyed providing this educational blog as a public service, but the About page hasn't been meeting our business needs. We do not want to clutter up this space with too much information about our services, but we have been frustrated at our limited ability to show potential customers what we can do for them. We also think you deserve to have a more complete concept of who is sponsoring this blog.

The solution to all of this:

We'd love for you to come over and visit. Meanwhile, we'll continue providing informative posts to help you take better care of your home or workplace.

New Hampshire Construction

Friday, March 13, 2015

This Year's New Home Trends

Back in December, RealEstateBook.com published a list of six new trends they expected to be big in 2015. If you are planning to spruce up your house and put it on the market, these are changes you may want to consider. If you are looking for a change to freshen up your home for yourself and your family, you might consider the ideas.
Here are their predictions:
  1. Luxury vinyl tile flooring
  2. More painted kitchen cabinets and less stainless steel
  3. Maintenance-free countertops instead of granite
  4. Cooler bathroom colors
  5. Keeping rooms
  6. Bigger closets and bathrooms
Read the full article here:

Now that we're nearly 2 1/2 months in, do you think they guessed right?

New Hampshire Construction

Friday, March 6, 2015

Did This Winter's Weather Make Your Roof Leak?

A lot of New Hampshire home and business owners have seen their roofs damaged from the weather this winter. Heavy snow loads have weakened and even broken a lot of rafters. Leaks caused by ice dams have created a lot of water damage. And plenty of shingles and gutters need to be replaced.

But none of this is the fault of the weather alone. Believe it or not, a well-built New Hampshire roof can handle the kind of winter we just had with no problem. It's only roofs that were in need of repair, or built too cheaply to begin with, that had any trouble.

If your roof did get beaten up by the weather this winter, the bad news is that it was already not in great shape before the snow came. But the good news is that you can prevent these problems in future years, even if we get the same kind of weather.

The ideal New Hampshire roof has:


 A strong structure and a pitch that fits the climate

Have you ever wondered why a Roman villa has a flat roof, but an alpine chalet has a steep one? It's not just a matter of culture. Steep roofs not only shed more snow, but can hold a lot more weight, too. How steep a New Hampshire roof needs to be depends on how strongly built it is. Or, to put it another way, how strongly it needs to be built depends on how steep it is.

Plenty of insulation

No matter how strong your roof is, it still isn't likely to make it through a winter like this one without damage unless it's properly insulated. Roof insulation does more than just help reduce your heating bills and your carbon footprint; it's an essential part of the roof. Inadequate insulation can result in ice dams, excessive icicles, damaged shingles and leaks. And of course, leaks cause their own chain of water damage and rot.

Adequate venting

Leaks are not the only thing to cause dripping ceilings, water spots and rotting in a house. This water may not even be coming from outdoors if your roof is not properly vented. The air naturally has some moisture in it, and activities like cooking and breathing add even more. Without sufficient venting, this moisture will collect and destroy your house.

The Right Way to Handle Snow and Ice on Your Roof


Modern roofing materials are manufactured to stand up to decades of rough weather. But they are not
meant to be scraped with shovels or hit with hammers.

Don't try to clear all the snow off: leave half an inch still on there. Asphalt shingles, especially, are very brittle in the winter, and you can easily damage them and create roof leaks. But even if that doesn't happen, scraping the shingles will take years off their life. If you have rubber roofing, then a little hit from the corner of your shovel could gouge a hole. The point is to take most of the weight off and relieve the stress on the rafters.

It may be tempting to try to physically remove all the ice from your roof, but that would tear it up. The best plan of attack is to break the ice off below the eaves to remove most of the weight, and then use calcium chloride to melt channels into the ice and let it fall off by itself. Make sure you are using calcium chloride, not rock salt or magnesium chloride.

When to Call in a Contractor


Sometimes hiring a contractor is less expensive than doing the job yourself. For example, Ice dams and icicle clusters can be very heavy and fall in unpredictable directions. Chipping off roof ice is a lot like felling a tree: it takes a lot of training and experience to learn how to control the fall. Not hiring a professional in this case could cost you a window, or even your life.

New Hampshire Construction

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Should You Shovel Your Roof?

Roof shoveling is a cold, hard job, and nobody wants to do it unless it's necessary. But you don't want to risk having your roof collapse on you, either. So how do you know whether your roof needs it?

There are a few factors to consider:

  • The depth of the snow on the roof
  • The size of the roof
  • The strength of the roof
  • The pitch (steepness) of the roof
  • Ice dams

Weight and Strength

It's pretty intuitive: how much snow a roof can take depends on how strong it is. Smaller roofs will naturally be stronger, per square foot, than larger roofs. This is because there's a shorter distance between the uprights (walls or porch support posts, for example). So each rafter has a shorter span and can hold more weight per square foot without sagging.

Structural Strength

How much weight your roof can take will also depend on how beefy the rafters are, how far apart they were placed, whether any of them are starting to rot, and whether the house was put together correctly. Modern construction standards call for rafters to be made of at least 2x8 lumber (ideally, 2x10) and be placed 16 inches apart.

Roof Pitch

If you got good grades in geometry, you can probably visualize how your roof's pitch affects its strength. Generally speaking, the steeper the roof is, the more its weight is transferred down to the outer walls. So a steeper roof can handle more snow without endangering its rafters.

Ice Dams

Ice dams can occur when a roof is not sufficiently insulated. Heat leaks out through the roof and melts the snow that's sitting on top of it. That melted snow runs to the edge of the roof and starts to drip off. But since it's no longer being heated, it turns to ice. Over time, that ice can build up and even crawl under the shingles and lift them up. Then when it melts on a sunny day, it usually causes water damage inside your home.

If your roof has an ice dam problem, then you need to remove the snow before it can melt and ruin your roof, your ceiling and more. And, of course, you should insulate your roof or attic to fix the problem.

When in Doubt, Shovel

It may not be fun, but it's easier to shovel your roof when it doesn't need it than to rebuild your house after the roof collapses.

New Hampshire Construction

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Facts About Insulation New Hampshire Homeowners Need to Know

Without sufficient insulation, New Hampshire houses are extremely expensive to live in. And since most homeowners know this, it's mind-boggling how many of our houses are still severely under-insulated.

Two weeks ago we talked about how to use the snow melt patterns on your roof to see if it's properly insulated or not. Basically, if the snow there has melted unevenly - and there's no other reason for it, such as sunshine partially blocked by trees - then it's being melted by heat escaping through your roof. Heat is supposed to be inside your house.

It's really quite alarming that in spite of a struggling economy, and in spite of growing public awareness of climate change and its causes, snow melt patterns show up on practically every street in our towns and dot our country roads.

And that's just the roofs. We can only guess how many basements, sills, walls, doors and windows have the same problems. But one thing is clear: when it comes to insulation, New Hampshire houses are generally in bad shape. Which means New Hampshire homeowners are pumping a lot of perfectly-useless carbon into the atmosphere, and paying a lot of money to do so.

How does the heat get out?

There are basically three ways that houses tend to lose heat:
  1. Air exchange: Warm air can leak out of your house, and cold air can rush in. This happens when
    there are gaps in the foundation, around the sills, or at the windows and doors. It also happens if you don't have (and properly use) a double-door entry.
  2. Convection: Since cold air is heavier than warm air, it falls to the bottom of its space and pushes the warm air up. That's why ceiling fans are such an important part of a home heating system. But even if you use ceiling fans, warm air is still going to collect under the roof. And a poorly-insulated roof will suck the heat right out of it.
  3. Conduction: Heat is like water: it always tries to even itself out. If one side of a wall is warm and the other is cold, then the heat on the warm side will conduct through the wall to get to the cold side. Of course, that's a very unscientific way of putting it, but it helps us get a pretty accurate mental picture of what actually happens. The reason insulation works is that some materials conduct heat better than others. Air is a very poor conductor (but it has to be kept from flowing), and therefore most insulation is, essentially, encapsulated air.
So what can you do about it?

Here are some steps you can take to stop paying for the privilege of heating the sky:
  1. Close up your drafts. Start in the basement and go all the way up to the attic. Make sure there are no cracks or gaps in your house. Make sure your roof or attic vents are right for the New Hampshire climate and working properly.
  2. Use two doors. When you enter or exit your house in the winter, do so only through an enclosed (not screened) porch, mudroom or garage. Make sure one door is closed before you open the other. You may be surprised, but a lot of air is exchanged when you use only one door, even if there's no wind.
  3. Insulate. Insulate your foundation, insulate your walls, insulate your roof.
  4. Make sure all your windows and doors are thermal. And then insulate them with thermal drapes or window quilts. Yes, even thermal windows leak heat unless the sun is on them. Make it a habit to close your drapes every night - ideally, as soon as it gets dark out.
  5. Stop thermal bridging. Thermal bridging is heat conducting out through solid building materials in between the pieces of insulation, such as through the rafters of a roof or the studs of a wall. Today's state-of-the-art building methods prevent thermal bridging, but most existing houses need to be retro-fitted to stop it.
With proper insulation, New Hampshire houses can be comfortably heated for a fraction of the 'normal' cost in fuel, money and pollution.

New Hampshire Construction

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Kinds of Roofing New Hampshire Homeowners Can Choose From

We put on this metal roof in Weare.
When it comes to roofing, New Hampshire homeowners have a lot of choices. While there are a few materials that don't stand up well to cold weather, such as terra cotta tile, most roofing materials are still an option. If it's time to replace your roof, or you're building a new house, here are some questions you can ask as you look at your roofing material options:

  • Is it appropriate for the pitch (steepness) of your roof?
  • How long it will last?
  • How heavy is it?
  • How well does it match the style of your house?
  • How much does it cost to buy?
  • How much does it cost to install?
  • How much does it cost to maintain?
Some options to consider:
  • Asphalt shingles
  • Composite
  • Wooden shingles
  • Slate
  • Rubber
  • Ballast system
  • Membrane
  • Metal
  • Green roof
  • Solar shingles 
If you have any questions about roofing materials, fill out the form to the right, and we'll be happy to help. It's probably an issue we've run into before, because our family has been roofing New Hampshire houses for three generations. 
The asphalt shingle dormered gambrel roof on this shed matches
the roof on the customer's house. That's because we custom-built
the shed to look like a miniature version of the house.

New Hampshire Construction

Friday, January 16, 2015

New Hampshire Homewners, Is Your Roof Trying to Tell You Something?

Next time you're outside, take a look at your roof. Is there snow on it? If you can see where the rafters are by the snow melt pattern, then your house has a heat-loss problem. Or if the snow cover has obvious bare spots, that's a sign of trouble, too.

There are three common roof snow melt patterns:

  1. Bare spots. A bare spot in an otherwise snow-covered roof means that heat is leaking out in that location. That probably means you have a hole in your insulation, or that your insulation in that place is compromised in some way. You may even have a family of squirrels living in your attic.
  2. Melting between the rafters. If you can see lines of snow over your rafters, then your roof is under-insulated. It's okay if the snow slides off the roof, blows off or melts off with the heat of the sun. But if the snow is disappearing between the rafters and not on top of them, it's not the sun that's melting it. You're paying to heat the sky.
  3. Melting on top of the rafters. If you see snow everywhere except on your rafters, then you have a problem called thermal bridging. Thermal bridging occurs when heat conducts out through solid material. Your roof may have plenty of insulation between the rafters, but if the rafters themselves are conducting enough heat to melt snow, your insulation's not doing you a lot of good.
If your roof shows any of these signs of heat loss, it's probably past time to call your contractor. Most homeowners find that the cost of the work is more than made up for in energy savings.

New Hampshire Construction

Friday, January 9, 2015

How to Install Click-Lock Flooring

If you're a homeowner wondering how to install click-lock flooring, here's a quick overview of the process:

Tools You Will Need:
  • Table saw
  • Compound miter saw
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Flat pry bar 
  • Pneumatic nailer for installing trim at the end of the job (Optional. If you don't have one, you'll need a nail set.)
Materials You Will Need:
  • Click-lock flooring
  • Underlayment
  • Trim (baseboards or quarter-round, see below)
  • Transitions for the doorways
  • Finish nails for the trim, and screws and/or glue for the transitions
You will also need a small piece of wood to cushion the flooring pieces when you tap them into place with the hammer. You can use a scrap of your flooring material for this.

How to Do the Prep Work:
  1. Decide whether you want to remove any old baseboards and then put them back after installing the floor, or whether you want to leave the baseboards in place and add quarter-round trim.
  2. Measure the room and compute the square feet, then order the flooring and underlayment. Measure the perimeter of the room and order the trim and transitions.
  3. Prepare the surface by removing any loose or uneven parts of the old flooring. Check the joists and subfloor and make any necessary repairs.
  4. Set up your workspace, including both saws. Make sure you have enough space to stay organized and make accurate cuts.
How to Install Click-Lock Flooring:
  1. Decide which direction you want your flooring to go. Don't forget to take any closets, entryways and other unusual shapes into consideration.
  2. Put down the first piece of underlayment. It does matter which side is up, so read and follow the labeling.
  3. Lay the first piece of flooring near the wall at the edge of the room. Make sure there's a small gap (about a 1/4 inch or half a centimeter) between the floor and the wall to allow for expansion. You will cover this gap later with trim.
  4. Lay the second piece end-to-end next to the first piece. Hold the first piece down with your foot and tap the second one into place with the hammer. But don't let the hammer touch the flooring: put your block of wood in between to protect it from dents. Once you've done a few, you'll get used to the sound and feel of how they click into place. When installed correctly, the pieces are so close that the real seams look just like the printed ones. Sometimes you will need to use the pry bar to maintain the gap next to the wall.
  5.  Measure, cut and install each row before going on to the next one. Remember that the two sides of the flooring pieces are not the same, so if one of them gets turned around, it will not lock into place. Don't forget the underlayment.
  6. Paint or stain your trim pieces as necessary to match the decor of your room. Then measure, cut and install the trim and the transitions.
If you have the tools, the time and some finish carpentry experience, it shouldn't be hard to learn how to install click-lock flooring.

New Hampshire Construction

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome to New Hampshire Construction!

We're excited to announce the birth of New Hampshire Construction, an educational service of Mark J. Gordon Construction of Nashua, New Hampshire. Here's what to expect from us:
  • Articles on: 
    • How to find, screen and hire a contractor.
    • Tips for deciding whether to go ahead with your renovation project.
    • Knowing when you need a contractor, and when to do it yourself.
    • What to know before you buy a house.
    • What to improve before you put your house on the market.
    • And much more. 
  • Answers to your construction questions. 
Hope to see you often. Wishing you a green and successful 2015 for all your New Hampshire construction projects!