Addition or Remodel?

A common theme that I noticed when quoting a large room addition is that
the addition is an attempt to correct a faulty-existing floor plan. Of course, the
one room addition that serves as a sun room or bedroom is not part of this
equation, but rather the multi-purpose room addition generally is.
Besides the multi-purpose room addition being expensive and potentially
making your house the largest home in your immediate area, I pose the question
as a residential design professional and General Contractor, “Can you make your
existing floor plan function better and eliminate the need for an addition?”
What I know, being a son and grandson of General Contractors, is that the
planning phase of residential design is generally a low priority when building
your home. The development phase of the floor plans is often rushed with an
emphasis on labor and material efficiency. As a result, your floor plans may
have some real practical deficits, which are driving you as the homeowner to
think that the multi-room addition will solve all your organizational issues,
however it may be more practical to remodel than build an addition.
With years of residential design experience, I know that all designs are not
equal and that the challenge of an exceptional design is difficult to achieve.
However, the steps of achieving a well thought out design start with a process,
which could aid you when deciding on an addition vs. a remodel.
The first step that I would recommend to all homeowners is to hire a
design professional to replicate your existing floor plan from which remodeling
projects can be proposed. Consider a veteran General Contractor when hiring a
design professional, because they have a firm grasp on construction methods,
materials, and costs with doing these types of projects.
An additional consultation to consider is either hiring an appraiser or
experienced realtor to evaluate your potential investment. The information
gained from this investment may clue you in on what your existing value is, and
the potential value of your home once you are completed with your project.
Also, there may be some unique details that you should include in your project
to raise the value of your investment.

How do I make my remodeling Project Cohesive?

When you are doing an interior or exterior remodeling project, the
number one goal from the onset of the project should be the discussion with the
homeowner about the style of the home’s design or future home’s architectural
style. This obvious but important bullet point is not always followed by
contractors and homeowners when planning and executing a project. In the
scenario when function is paramount and style and budget is either lacking or
not available, this blog does not apply.

The money and time spent on a remodeling project is not refundable and
cannot be changed. Therefore, when you are planning on a project, take time to
develop a narrative for your project. This design narrative will translate into
cohesion, which then translates into a well-executed project.

What can go wrong with vinyl windows?

Vinyl windows have a large market share of all windows being used on
the market, however there can be drawbacks to using this type of window.

  1. Vinyl windows can expand and contract depending on the
    region of the country and the sun exposure, which can
    compromise a variety of functions of the window, such as
    weather-stripping effectiveness, and warping frames.
  2. Vinyl as a product can degrade rapidly from ultra-violet rays
    from the sun.
  3. Vinyl becomes brittle in cold temperatures and is susceptible
    to damage from contact.
  4. The vinyl sash’s expansion and contraction tend to lose their
    gas pack sooner than wood or aluminum competitors.

Not all vinyl windows are necessarily a substandard window, however
sun exposure, quality of construction by the manufacture, and installation are
extremely important when using a vinyl window.

A solid design

When I am designing a house, addition, or remodeling project, how do I
know when I have developed a reasonable option for a residential design
solution? This can be a difficult question to answer when you’re faced with
time restraints, the momentum of a project beginning, and high benchmarks on
a design which solves all issues for a customer.

Like anything, sometimes, a residential design just comes together
quickly and most times it is a process of elimination. However, there is one question that usually solves this anxiety packed question for me; Do the
floor plans and elevations look like an obvious answer to the customer’s
problems? More simplified, if the design looks like an obvious solution, then
you know your conclusion is a viable design option.

What I love about residential design is that you are working on a
narrative, assumptions, budgets, and preference. It can be a challenging
endeavor to accomplish, but I generally find the entire process rewarding.
An area of design that I ponder; could this design have a phase two or a
relabeling of the floor plan for a different person? Many times, the designs I
have worked on are so compact that the above mentioned is not capable of
being achieved. In my opinion, if the answer is yes, you may have developed
an exceptional design.

In conclusion, my recommendation to anyone hiring or doing their own
residential design is enjoy the process, take your time, educate yourself on
products, architectural history, methods of construction, and evidentially you
will land your ideal design.

When should you consider custom cabinets?

I absolutely love building custom cabinetry and please understand that
perspective when reading this blog. Custom cabinetry is not always a cost-
effective avenue to travel when designing your future kitchen, but it can be
viable option when you have a kitchen that is larger or atypical in dimensions.
If your kitchen is large in scale, it can be a cost-effective manner to
explore the costs of having a local cabinet shop quote your project because
manufactured price point is geared on smaller to mid-sized kitchens. My shop
can be streamed lined for assembly which improves my price point when
quoting your large-custom-kitchen.

The second area where my shop can be competitive on price points
regarding a manufactured kitchen is on the custom features. For example, I can
make your base cabinets less in depth for the same cost, as opposed to a
manufacture. I also only build multi-bay cabinetry, which is a custom feature
and speeds up the installation. These equations make my shop more
competitive with a manufacturer.

As an authorized dealer of TSG cabinetry, I have found that the largest
price jumps are in the hardware and specialty items, such as molding, pullouts,
and open shelving which subject to large price jumps. These challenges from
my shop are not challenges but they are instead embraced, which is another
avenue the consumer can save.

The last issue that a customer should consider when deciding on a cabinet
shop vs. a manufacturer is the quality of construction. The cabinetry that I
construct is designed to withstand heavy use, however not all manufactures
construct their cabinetry for long lasting usage.

A carpenter’s perspective on Window parts to consider when determining your brand of window

Through the years I have installed many types and brands of “New Construction”
windows, which have varied in sizes and complexity. I have developed a preference for
certain window manufacturers over others. However, the purpose of this blog is not to
highlight brand preference, but to educate a consumer on three factors that a skilled
carpenter must battle when installing a window unit that operates flawlessly.
The first issue is the manufacture connection of the L-Finn to the frame of the
window system. If the L-Finn is molded to the frame this will be one less headache for
your carpenter to install, along with guaranteeing a water and airtight connection to the
wall system. Many manufacturers have a frame and then attached the L-Finn to the frame
through a spline. What I dislike about this approach from the manufacture is that the L-
Finn is not always attached as well as it could be. Generally, two problems that arise from
this is the L-Finn can detach from the frame and secondly, the jamb is not always on an
even plane with the drywall, because the L-Finn is not as ridged, which can lead to interior
trim complexities.

The second notable bullet point to highlight is the window balance hardware. The
window balance hardware is the trolley for the window sash to travel up and down on a
double hung window. The window balance hardware and track are critical in having a
long-lasting window. Unfortunately, this critical detail is not highlighted by window
manufacturers. If the window balance hardware fails, can the hardware be replaced, and
are replacements available for purchase?

The third issue that I would consider if I were purchasing windows is if the
windowsill is sloped. Some manufacturers build windows that are not sloped. If water
enters the wall cavity, serious issues can result.

The final issue that I would highlight to a consumer is the “Meeting Rail” on a
double-hung window system. The “Meeting Rail” is how the window system is engaged to
lock and unlock. It is critical that the movement on this hardware functions flawlessly
because the window will be opened and closed countless times. Although this is a simple
concept, I have installed windows which were level, square, and plumb and still struggle in
locking and unlocking the sash, which may result in a fine tune adjustment of the
hardware. Sometimes it is a matter of the hardware being broken in, but generally I have
found that this is not always the case.

Protect Your Roof with Zinc Strips and Rainwater: A Natural Solution

Your home’s roof is more than just a protective covering; it’s an integral part of your property’s overall appeal and structural integrity. However, over time, roofs can become vulnerable to the growth of unsightly and potentially damaging organisms like algae, moss, lichen, fungus, and mold. Fortunately, there’s a natural and environmentally friendly solution to combat this problem: installing zinc strips combined with rainwater management. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the details of how this simple yet highly effective method can help you maintain a clean, healthy, and long-lasting roof.

Understanding the Problem

Before we explore the solution, let’s first grasp why roofs are susceptible to the growth of algae, moss, lichen, fungus, and mold. These organisms tend to thrive in conditions characterized by moisture, shade, and humidity. Consequently, if your roof has these elements, it can become a prime breeding ground for these unwanted guests. Over time, they can take root and begin to deteriorate your roof’s surface, causing structural damage if left unchecked.

The Role of Zinc Strips

Zinc strips, often made of zinc or copper, are metal strips that are typically installed near the ridge of a roof. These strips act as a natural barrier to inhibit the growth of algae, moss, lichen, fungus, and mold. Let’s take a closer look at how they work:

Zinc Ions Release

Zinc, when exposed to rainwater, naturally corrodes over time. As it corrodes, it releases zinc ions into the runoff water.

Inhibition of Algae and Fungi

When rainwater, now carrying zinc ions, flows down the roof, it creates an environment that is inhospitable to algae, moss, lichen, fungus, and mold. These zinc ions disrupt the cellular processes of these organisms, preventing them from establishing themselves and thriving.

Long-Lasting Protection

One significant advantage of zinc strips is their durability. They typically have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years or more. This means that you’ll have years of protection against unwanted growth on your roof.

Check out an installation from This Old House here!

Installing Zinc Strips

While installing zinc strips is a relatively straightforward process, it’s advisable to hire a professional for the job to ensure it’s done correctly. Here’s an overview of the steps involved:

Roof Assessment

A roofing professional will assess your roof to determine the best placement for the zinc strips. Typically, they are installed near the roof’s ridge.

Roof Cleaning

Before installation, the roof should be thoroughly cleaned to remove any existing algae, moss, lichen, fungus, or mold. This step ensures that the zinc strips can function optimally.

Strip Installation

Zinc strips are then securely fastened to the roof using nails or screws, usually just below the ridge cap.

Natural Activation

Over time, rainwater will naturally activate the zinc strips, causing them to release zinc ions and create a protective barrier that deters the growth of algae, moss, lichen, fungus, and mold.

Rainwater Collection: Enhancing the Effectiveness

While zinc strips alone can do an excellent job of preventing the growth of unwanted organisms on your roof, combining them with rainwater harvesting can enhance their effectiveness even further. Here’s how you can do that:

Gutter and Downspout Systems

Ensure that your roof has a well-maintained gutter and downspout system in place to efficiently collect rainwater.

Rain Barrels or Tanks

Install rain barrels or tanks to store the rainwater you collect. This harvested rainwater can be used for various purposes, such as irrigating your garden or lawn.

Rainwater Diversion

Consider implementing a system to divert some of the harvested rainwater to flow over the zinc strips on your roof. This will help distribute the zinc ions more effectively, creating an additional barrier against unwanted growth.


Maintaining a clean, algae, moss, lichen, fungus, and mold-free roof is not just about aesthetics; it’s essential for the overall health and longevity of your home. Zinc strips, combined with proper rainwater management, offer a natural and eco-friendly solution to this common problem. By inhibiting the growth of these troublesome organisms, you can extend the lifespan of your roof and enhance the curb appeal of your property.

To get the best results, it’s advisable to consult with a roofing professional. They can assess your specific roof and climate conditions, ensuring that the zinc strips are installed correctly for maximum effectiveness. With this proactive approach, you can enjoy the benefits of a cleaner, healthier, and longer-lasting roof for years to come.

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.