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!