The Importance of Mock-ups in Home Remodeling

Many times in the construction process there are details that can benefit from a template, mock-up or pattern. Often we mock-up decorative window pediments so the client can feel comfortable with the scale and how it looks on the house. This can also help keep the construction moving along if we need to have a coppersmith create caps for those pediments- they can be made while the carpentry is happening so they get installed right away instead of being delayed by waiting until the pediments are all built for measuring.

Sometimes one of our designers may ask the carpenter create a pattern to see the detail if there is any question about making it more optimum to the project. I know that I am someone who likes to see these so that I can make sure things look as good from our real vantage point as they do in the 3D rendering our architecture software produces. Details are the part of the project that make difference.

In the photo below, this rough mock-up at a project in Dover helped the client see the overhang of the roof, it helped the carpenter lay-out the final bracket installation and also allowed the designer to make a minor modification to the ceiling materials, rafter layout and little end detail. All of which will make standing up to this pool side bar a much more quality experience for everyone when it is done.

Roof mockup in Dover

If you are a visual person like me, don’t hesitate to ask for some tools to help understand your space better- maybe even drawing the built-in shelves on the wall before the carpenter starts will make you feel less anxious about the end result!

cabana roof in Dover        Copper roof overhang in Dover






Watching the weather, converting one story to two

We do many projects that involve opening a home in a way that could make it vulnerable to the elements. I am often asked if we do large home renovation projects in the winter season, or how we protect the home against the elements. Believe it or not, I have actually done a few projects where we removed the entire roof structure to add a second floor in the middle of winter while we had clients living in the residence- here is how we plan for it.

The first step is to have a scalable plan. It is important to know how long certain assemblies take and what the resources are. This is construction so contingency is needed in case we have some ebb and flow to certain pieces. Step one, do not remove the roof first without knowing what the next steps are-even if it seems like the obvious first thing to go. We know in advance if we are keeping the ceiling (and if that is a viable floor structure), we may also have some items that require or benefit by pre-cutting or building some of the walls. Step 2, we live in New England so the weather can change without much notice, so it’s crucial to be watching the weather daily. That may sound obvious, but in the construction business our planning is so vital around the weather that we are almost as aware of the dew point as the time of day.

In the case of this current project, it rained a bit every day the week before this photo was taken, so we were busy cutting all the roof rafters and wall studs so that we could make progress this week. We also built a 2 story wall inside that we will lift tomorrow morning, and built a couple of the interior bearing walls as well as prepped the steel beam. The weather called for possible showers this Wednesday so the project lead decided to remove only half the roof in case we had to cover- that forecast changed yesterday :) so we continued to move forward… and watch the weather. Every project is different and every week offers different weather- so plans will change, but our customers will always stay dry.


Synergy of Design Collaboration

I have often discussed the synergy of Architecture and interior design, and the great value of our design and construction professionals working together for a better client experience. There is another important part of the built environment where you may want to consider a collaborative approach (project depending of course).

We are currently working on a project that is benefitting greatly from the collaboration of Residential Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Pictured below, left- Allan Wright (our in house Architect), and Wes Wirth, (Landscape Architect of Thomas Wirth Associates, Inc) work on the best approach (no pun intended) for a vehicle to enter a garage addition. This project is the perfect example of the value of a talented Land professional providing important insight in grade change, and the views from inside the building and how we can together provide our client with the best outcome by taking advantage of these synergies during the design process instead of the landscape working to correct deficiencies the architecture imposes.

In this project alone we were able to move the garage slightly to improve the owners experience from the interior of the home, provide the opportunity for a pedestrian way to a new side entry that won’t feel like a walk beside the garage, and reduce the elevation challenges inherent to the lot. Stay tuned on more about this fabulous addition and whole house remodel in Brookline as we move from design to construction!

Cocooning Meets Entertaining

According to Wikipedia, “Cocooning is the name given to the trend that sees individuals socializing less and retreating into their home more.” The term was coined in the 1990s by Faith Popcorn, a trend forecaster and marketing consultant:

Cocooning has been in our bank for thirty years. That’s how early we discovered cocooning, and cocooning is about staying home, creating a safe place around you, the gardeners being the barrier, between the garden and the alarm systems being the barrier, filtration systems for water and air, working at home (…) every inch of it you have, you have some of this (…) how many days can I work at home? That’s cocooning.


While I have witnessed the remodeling trends that followed the cocooning lifestyles we embraced (more family space and kitchens that are part of the gathering area), entertaining and more socializing seem to be a current shift based on many of the requests our clients have asked us to design in recent months. I think that folks just want to have the opportunity to entertain without having the chore of setting up, and they want space that works for a quick and casual invitation that can bring 2-10 people over.

We just started a very cool “dual purpose” cabana bar and bath house that will make entertaining easy- and add great fun when the family is enjoying time together or when friends stop by. This project will be done in advance for next spring/summer to ensure everything is all set in time for the pool opening. Since we can tie the space into the existing game and media rooms, this will be a year round hit! And on top of that the existing porch will receive 3 season upgrades to open up the second floor- Stay tuned on Facebook to see the progress!






5 Tips for Preventing Ice Dams

We’ve had a mild winter until today! We still have months to go before spring comes, and we’ll no doubt get a few more big snow storms before that happens. There is a certain beauty that comes when you look out and see the world is covered in white, and the way the sunlight glistens through the icicles that hang from trees and rooftops.  Though a row of icicles on a house is picturesque, it is also a warning sign… the same conditions that allow icicles to form also make ice dams.  As you maintain a comfortable interior temperature for you and your family heat slowly rises into the attic. This heat starts to melt the snow on the roof top, as the snow melt runs down the roof until it eventually reaches the eaves, and this is where ice dams form.  The ice forms around the eaves of homes due to a temperature change, the heat that had melted the snow is lost once the roof goes beyond the exterior walls, this slight difference in temperature is all it takes to allow the water to refreeze into a sheet or dam of ice which will melt and refreeze as the days go by.  As the snow continues to melt the dam grows in size; the water above backs up behind the ice dam and remains as a liquid. This water finds cracks and openings in the exterior roof covering and flows into your attic space. From the attic it could flow into the home- this may damage exterior walls, insulation and the ceiling finish. It can also lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which could have an adverse impact on you and your family’s health.

ice dams

To help prevent ice dams the approach is simple, just keep the entire roof as close as possible to the same temperature at the eve. This can be done a variety of ways:

    1. Ventilation- A ridge vent and soffit vents under the eaves circulates cold air under the entire roof. Both ridge and soffit vents should have the same size openings and between them provide at least 1 square foot of opening for every 300 square feet of attic floor.

    2. Insulation– Make sure your attic floor is keeping the heat where it belongs, replace damaged insulation and be sure you are hitting the state requirements. Massachusetts requires a minimum R-38 in the ceiling now, but many homes have less insulation. Another newer method of insulation is to have spray foam installed on the roof plane. This is the most effective type of insulation I have found against ice dams. (Each state is different, so be sure to check your local codes)
    3. Cap, Caulk and Seal- recessed lights, attic hatches, and electrical cables and vent pipes all affect the heat that makes it into the attic space. Recessed lights should be insulated so they will not give off excess heat. Attic hatches/fans should be covered with weather-stripped caps. Lastly check areas where holes have been made for pipes and cables- insulate and seal these areas so that you cannot see light coming in.
    4. Exhaust to the outside- Make sure that the ducts from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry lead to the outside through the roof or walls. If it goes through the soffit or eave you should rework the exhaust system.
    5. Moisture barriers- If you are reroofing or installing a new roof put in a moisture barrier (more commonly called an ice and water shield) between the deck and roof covering. This an inexpensive option that will help keep water out of your home due to moisture from ice dams, as well as protecting the house from wind-driven rain if the roof cover blows off during a windstorm.

When the heavy snows come, remove the snow where possible. A roof rake can be used to pull snow down the slope of the roof to prevent an ice dam from growing or forming. Aggressive chipping or breaking the ice dams can cause damage to the roof or gutters. In an emergency situation to stop water from continuing to flow into the house structure, it may be necessary to make channels through the ice dam, so using warm water should be the first attempt. However, the channel becomes ineffective within days, so this is only a temporary solution.

The most important thing to know is that there is no guarantee against ice dams. The best practice is to use a combination of ice and water shield, proper insulation and ventilation- if they are all in good shape, you will have the best chance. If it is too late to have any of these things done, the roof rake is the best prevention. Happy Snow day!