George’s Guide to Hiring a Home Inspector

As a residential General Contractor since 1996, I have had to inform countless homeowners of costly repairs that either a knowledgeable or a skilled home inspector overlooked when performing the home inspection.

For the record, I am not a licensed home inspector, but I have taken the necessary 75-hour course that makes you eligible to take the National Home Inspection Exam, which I do plan on taking. I have formed strong opinions on this subject and have seen the ramifications of uninformed homeowners who were rushed through the home inspection process. As a result, some homeowners have had thousands of dollars in additional repairs that were avoidable if a home inspector had done a thorough job during the home inspection. Therefore, I have outlined a few tips on how I would approach hiring and utilizing the services on a home inspection.

1. Do not involve the realtors when hiring a home inspector. Remember that the home inspector is supposed to be an unbiased, all-knowing construction expert who is going to report the status of your future home. Therefore, you find and hire the home inspector yourself.

2. Look for home inspectors who own their own business and perform the home inspection themselves.

3. Only hire a home inspector that has owned and operated a residential remodeling company for at least ten years. The home inspection industry is loaded with non-trades home inspectors who have learned their craft from a classroom, which in my opinion, makes them less qualified to understand and diagnose potential issues.  

4. Once the home inspection is completed, read the entire report. Ask questions, bring up concerns. If there are issues, such as electrical, pay an electrician to follow up on the findings of the home inspection and address the issue with your realtor.

In conclusion, a home inspection is a critical aspect of your purchase. This process could save you thousands of dollars with unforeseen repairs, therefore take this aspect of your purchase seriously.

Written by George Trojan owner of American Building & Design, LLC

Custom Staircases

Challenges are our favorite

I am frequently asked the question “What is your favorite type of project to do?”. I find this question difficult to answer, because I do not dislike any project. However, as much as I enjoy all aspects of design-build remodeling (framing, roofing, siding & boxing, drywall, door installation, window installation, flooring, tile, interior trim, cabinet making, kitchens, baths and decks), there is one project that I love doing the most and it’s building custom staircases. 

The main reason why I love building staircases is that they can be challenging, and they incorporate a lot of the skill sets that a good carpenter develops with years of experience. 

A staircase, just like kitchen cabinets, are a statement piece about the project’s quality, and attention to detail is highlighted.  Arguably, staircase construction is one the most important projects to be constructed correctly to avoid accidents or death. It’s important to consider these statistics from the National Safety Council. Over 1 Million injuries occur each year as the result of stairway falls. Staircase and stairway accidents constitute the second leading cause of accidental injury, second only to motor vehicle accidents. Each year, there are 12,000 stairway accident deaths. 

American Building & Design, LLC is a family owned, NH-MA based remodeling, renovation, and cabinetmaker contractor, established in 1996. A typical project for us ranges from renovating historic homes, customizing kitchens, building additions, custom decks, building and customizing staircases, and renovating bathrooms.

The Remodeling Contractor

What does remodeling really mean

The residential building industry has many synonyms which essentially equate to the same definition; however, depending on the individual, we favor a term in our vocabulary to describe the residential building industry’s task.
Through the years, I’ve had the same statement posed to me many times, “We knew that you built additions, but we were not sure if you also staircase, decks, installed windows, roofing, installed siding, constructed barns, installed hardwood flooring, installed drywall & finished drywall, remodeled kitchens, finished attics, build custom cabinets, remodeled bathrooms, finished basements, framed homes, installed interior trim, and designed projects. My general response to this question is that I am a Remodeling – Renovation – General Contractor, because we will either renovate or remodel a space, while at the same time General Contract the project.
Overall, this industry translates from one task to another, however many companies focus on a single task; like an electrician does with electrical. However, American Building & Design’s, LLC specialty is to do as many tasks associated with a project to maintain a higher degree of product and maintain a constant speed to the project. Also, the owner; George Trojan is on the project doing the work with his crew. This also maintains a level of professionalism and allows the homeowner an ability to communicate with the contractor. This simple equation has resulted in our surviving over two decades and earning a level of respect. Please consider our service in the future.

The “Basic” Deck

Are they making a comeback?

Through the years I have built a large variety of extremely detailed decks, along with my share of decks that I would classify as a “basic” deck. A “basic” deck consists of several footings, a platform, rails, staircase, and all wood materials consisting of pressure treated lumber. Overall a “basic” Deck is about function and affordability.
From 1996 through 1999, I built well over eighty “Basic” decks, which were for a variety of track builders and first-time home buyers who were budget conscious. What I take from this period, was that these structures were simplistic in detail, affordable, and an absolute pleasure to build. Through the years the deck systems have evolved into complicated structures, a budget buster for most homeowners, and a project that can range in weeks to months in length. As the owner of a small remodeling company, the “basic” deck system is seeing a comeback for variety of reasons as outlined above. I am happy to see customers at least entertaining the novelty of building a “basic” deck. The biggest misnomer that I believe that most homeowners are deceived by when contemplating a pressure treated deck is maintenance associated with treated material. As I tell all customers, staining the structure with a high-end, oil based, semi-transparent stain is a simple, fast solution to countering this issue. It’s typical that staining the deck will be required every 12-24 months, but the process of staining a deck is simple and fast in my opinion. 
American Building & Design, LLC is a family owned, NH-MA based remodeling, renovation, and cabinetmaker contractor, established in 1996. A typical project for us ranges from renovating historic homes, customizing kitchens, building additions, custom decks, building and customizing staircases, and renovating bathrooms.

Are Storm Windows Worth it?

Are storm windows a viable energy saving option and what are the additional benefits?

Do you feel like the interior of your home is too cold in the winter? Or maybe it is too hot in the summer months? If you feel like maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home is an issue then storm windows may be worth a look. Today’s question: are storm windows a viable energy option? Well, read on and let’s discuss the answer to that question as storm windows are a viable energy saving option for your home, there are also several other benefits to installing storm windows in your home.

Benefits of Storm Windows

1. Noise Reduction

Your may current windows may have plenty of character but chances are they were designed for a quieter era, over the years, noise levels outside the home have drastically changed. A street that was once silent is now a highway leading straight to downtown. Many people enjoy the character of their old windows but at the same time, they may want to utilize the benefits of noise reduction offered by storm windows. When fitted properly by a licensed contractor such as American Building and Design, storm windows can be a beautiful addition to a home and they offer the added benefit of noise reduction.

2. Reduces UV exposure

Most modern homes with storm windows have tinted glass that help reduce the UV exposure in the house. UV exposure directly from the sun will cause fading of walls, flooring, drapes and furniture. Good storm windows offer the necessary tinting that may not be present on your old glass windows. 

3. Energy Reducing

We touched on this one earlier but in a world of high energy cost, we are always looking for the ways to conserve. One of the biggest benefits of storm windows is the energy cost savings they provide. Old windows properly maintained may do a pretty decent job of keeping out the heat and cold but chances are if they are older than ten years they cannot match the energy saving features of modern storm windows. Combine the effect of the storm window with proper glazing and the use of weather stripping and you could see a pretty significant reduction cost in your energy bills. 

4. Moisture control

It’s not uncommon for condensation to happen on the surface of your windows especially in single pane windows. Unfortunately, the water drips down to the frame and it can damage or even ruin the sash of the window. With time, the paint and the sealants will fail. More importantly, this will also compromise the integrity of the window. When you install storm windows, they will significantly reduce the amount of heat exchange on the surface of the window and therefore reduce condensation build up. 

5. Additional Screens

Have you ever opened your windows on a cool evening only to be greeted by bugs rushing into your home because your windows are not fitted with screens? This is not a pleasant experience and can be avoided. Good storm windows come with screens that allow you the opportunity to open the interior window plus the storm window without having to worry about critters entering your home.

So, storm windows are a viable energy option…

As well as offering many additional benefits including improving the aesthetics of your home. Properly fitted storm windows can complement the entire appearance of your home. But if you do prefer the look of the original windows, there is the option of using interior storm windows.

In summary…

Adding storm windows to your home can be a great choice both from an energy saving stand point and a design standpoint but only when done properly. Contact us at American Building and Design and receive a free design consultation and let us help you determine which product may be right for your project.

Is Vinyl the Right Choice for Replacement Windows?

Is Vinyl the Right Choice for Replacement Windows?

American Building and Design can help you decide what windows are right for your project.

Is Vinyl the Right Choice for Replacement Windows?

When it comes to improving the efficiency and performance of your existing windows, most homeowners and contractors usually have a range of options to consider. You have the chance to opt for a simple and low budget DIY fix, for instance, installing window films or replacing weather stripping.

You can also go for a more capital intensive alternative where you can replace the whole window. More often than not, homeowners usually take up a decision without necessarily evaluating their options and what are the implications of the changes they make on their home.
Even though you don’t have to wait until your window is completely broken, it is always important to have an idea of the long term effect of your investment. So in this article, we are going to discuss if it’s easy to fix your vinyl replacement windows.

What is a Vinyl Window?

The shortest and the quickest answer to this question is that these type of windows use vinyl as glass and framing materials. Vinyl is basically an advanced polymer that’s known as Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) in full. To be brief, PVC is a safe, thermally resistant and of course, an economical material with tremendous amounts of applications in the real world. In most cases, it just needs to be modified a little to fit certain applications. When someone tells you that they are installing vinyl windows at their home- in a real sense they are actually installing an advanced polymer of PVC that has been made to fit window applications.

Can I fix My Vinyl Replacement Window?

The big question…Yes, of course you can fix your vinyl replacement window. If you are a hands-on person, then most repairs are not too difficult to handle. But when making repairs or replacing a window please be aware that any miscalculation on the replacement may cause bigger problems down the road, including issues with the circulation of air in your home. That is why it’s probably best if you seek help from a professional company. At American Building and Design we have years of practice when it comes to installing replacement windows. That means that we have the experience you need to be sure your windows are chosen and installed right. Above all, the work is guaranteed, feel free to contact us with questions about your project. As much as doing it yourself sounds cool and less expensive, you should think about hiring a professional window company.

Are Vinyl Windows the best choice for my home?

Vinyl windows can be a great option for replacement windows. They don’t warp rot and they offer a wide range of options, they are economical and safe to use in your home when compared to glass windows. Unfortunately, vinyl windows are not as durable as wood but they have the ability to last for up to 20 years or more with proper care. Additionally, a quality vinyl window will save you money on the electric bill since the insulation found in the frame of the window is energy efficient. That means you don’t have to spend so much money keeping your house warm during those cold winter days, and vinyl can help keep your house cooler during the hot days of summer. Generally, vinyl windows are a great bang for your buck… That’s not to say that wood doesn’t offer some great benefits and remains a favourite among many homeowners.

Are vinyl windows better than wood windows?

There really isn’t a single answer to this question, each of these window types stands out in their own way. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve and what you are looking for. Vinyl windows tend to be less expensive when compared to the installation of wood, but wood offers a beauty and resilience you can not get with vinyl. Vinyl windows usually offer more energy efficiency than wood and vinyl tend to be easier to replace. You have many amazing choices when it comes to choosing the right window type but each have their own limitations. Talk to an expert, get the pro’s and cons of each window type for your situation.

In Summary…

When it comes to DIY projects such as window replacement, I would advise you to be cautious. It’s better to contact a professionals and seek the appropriate advice and direction for your project. Vinyl can be a great choice but each project has unique requirements and vinyl is not a one size fits all.

American Building and Design has been providing remodeling and renovation services to the Seacoast New Hampshire and Massachusetts communities of Newburyport, Georgetown, Rowley, Topsfield, Ipswich, Hamilton, Reading, Essex, Stoneham, and the surrounding areas for over 20 years. Do you have a project you need professional help with? Call us today at (603)749-6683.

The Right Windows for Your Project

Finding the right window for your home can either make or break the entire home design.

Whether you are renovating an existing property or taking on the full construction of your house, new windows are one of the key features to creating an aesthetically pleasing yet energy-efficient home. Energy-efficient homes may be the ultimate goal in updating your windows but one can not overlook the importance of style. Achieving energy efficiency while maintaining style can be achieved by picking the right windows. So, how do you pick the correct window for your project? Well, it’s may not seem like an easy task but don’t panic, let us offer a few tips to get your project going.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Tips for finding the right window for your home

Style of the Window
Without a doubt, choosing the style of a window is the most exciting part but it can also be a nerve-wracking situation. Get it right and the stylish window will improve the exterior décor of your home. However, if you install an inferior window, it will stick out like a sore thumb which might even affect the resale of the house.

More importantly, you need to understand the different styles of windows present today. Each style goes well with certain home design. For instance, a contemporary single storey house goes well with a similarly narrow but vertical window. That said, you will have to check the architectural style of your property as well as the functionality of the window.

There are several styles of windows you can choose from:

• Casements Windows
These types of windows are also referred to as ‘Side hung windows’. The window actually features pivots or hinges that are attached to the upside of the frame. Therefore, the window opens either outwards or inwards along its entire length which is similar to a door.

• Sash Windows
Sash windows are among the best types of windows to have in your modern home. These windows majorly consist of two moving panels also known as ‘sashes’. The sashes are often made of small panes which are held together by glazing bars. In most cases, you will find sash windows in period properties. However, some architects use these windows to bring out a traditional flair in modern properties.

• French Windows
These types of windows operate in a similar manner to the casement windows. That is, the French windows also have a hinge system attached to the frame of the window. The only difference when it comes to French windows is the fact
that they don’t have mullion or central point which creates an even larger opening instead of two smaller ones.

Having an energy-efficient window will not only save you a few bucks on your monthly utility bills but it will also help reduce the emissions needed to heat up your home. Above all, the fact that your home will be energy efficient is a good resale pitch if you ever consider moving from your current home.
Thankfully, with the current technological trends, you can now find windows that are energy efficient. That alone will save you tons of cash that you would otherwise use on humidifiers and electricity bills.

Most people actually know that a wood frame is less likely to transfer heat or cold compared to an aluminium frame. That’s simply because metals conduct temperature easily than wood. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that wood is the ideal energy-efficient window frame. There’s a range of window frames and each of them has their own set of negative and positive impacts to your home. Here’s a look:

• Vinyl: the fact that vinyl is the least expensive material doesn’t mean it’s ‘cheap’. Vinyl frames can be the best budget-friendly choice while at the same time ensuring you have an energy-efficient home. However, the colour choices might be a bit limit. All in all, the truth still remains that some people don’t just like the look of vinyl frames in their homes.

• Wood: this is by the far the best choice if you are thinking of insulation. But they require more upkeep when compared to vinyl or even aluminium. That’s because they have a high potential for rot, especially during the rainy days. A well-installed wood window frame will likely withstand the test of time.

• Aluminium: although it’s not the most ideal choice especially because of heat transfer, it’s the most recommended option in hurricane-prone areas because of its strength.

There are also other options such as composite, fibreglass, and wood-clad.

Prioritize materials and size
Once you’ve gone through the style and type of frame you’d like for your window, it’s now time to focus on the materials that are needed to make this project a reality. Again, depending on the space and the design of the home, you may require more durable materials. Each material will come with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
In the end, what you will need to focus on is the plan of your house and possibly if you can consult with a company that deals with window installations. This will ensure you have a smooth ride during the whole process.

Bonus Tip: Colour is the Key
Lastly, a key component often overlooked… colour. Window colour is the ultimate spice that will help you achieve that architectural uniqueness that you need. Windows and also doors will have a tremendous effect on the aesthetic and resale value of your home.
So, before you commit to a give window style and shape, make sure the colours will easily blend well with the style of your home. Each home has its own unique element and yours is no different. Talk to your designer and you can both plan to get the best design out there.

Before you go…
Don’t ever underestimate the power that your windows and doors hold and how they can actually affect the whole ‘atmosphere’ of your home. You should carefully choose windows that will reflect your personality as well as your taste. One final thing, if you are considering replacing the windows in your home make sure you choose a licensed reputable contractor to do the work.

With over 20 years of experience as a licensed general contractor serving Newburyport and the surrounding areas of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, George Trojan Jr., owner of American Building and Design, has the experience to take your home improvement or remodelling project from vision to completion. Take a look at some of his work or reach out via the contact us page for a free consultation.