5 Questions You Should Ask When Buying Land for a New Home

What to Know about Buying Land in New Hampshire

Buying land to build a new home can be an exciting project. You have the ability to create the home you want from scratch, from the bathroom to the backyard. Of course, looking for the right piece of land for your new home can be the tricky part. A wooded lot just outside of town might seem like the perfect spot on the surface, but problems with drainage or limited zoning ordinances could restrict your ability to build what you want there.

Here is a checklist of questions you should ask before buying and piece of property for a new home.

What are the zoning restrictions?

Zoning ordinances vary from town to town in New Hampshire, and different restrictions apply to different parts of these towns. For instance, a “village district” might require a minimum half-acre lot for a new home, while a “rural district” might require a 3-acre lot. The size of the home, including the number and size of out-buildings allowed, can also depend on the zoning. In some communities, there are even limitations on the kind of materials allowed or the design of the building, especially in historic areas. Make sure the home you envision is allowed on the land you hope to buy.

How wet is it?

If there are delineated wetlands on the property or the water table is especially high there, it may limit your ability to use the property. If there is no public sewer in the area, a soil “perc test” should be done to see if the land can support a septic system.

What is my water source?

Is public water available or will you need a well? Some new subdivisions have shared well water systems that require a fee for use and upkeep. In New Hampshire, all wells that have been drilled in the past 30 years are recorded by the state. You can use this information to find out how deep your neighbors had to drill for water. Town health departments may also keep records about local well water quality, too.

How much work needs to be done to build?

Cutting down trees, blasting into ledge and building long driveways can add significant cost to building your home. Before buying, look into the geology of the property, the grade and if there are any drainage issues.

Does your design fit the land?

Does your dream home design include floor-to-ceiling windows for taking in great views, or roof solar panels for heating hot water? Make sure the lot fits in with your dream plans. If the lot is heavily wooded, has a steep grade or a beautiful view, factor that into your designs.

What are the future plans for the area?

If you are putting all this effort into building a home, you’re likely going to want to live there for many years. If so, take the time to ask the town offices what the plans for the area are in the next decade. Communities are required to create a “master plan” that lays out the vision for the town. Will there be extensive development in your area? Are there plans to add industrial or manufacturing districts nearby? Will there be a road expansion or new housing developments. This is especially important to ask if you’re building a new home to seek privacy.

Are there easements or other deed restrictions on the property?

Landowners can negotiate easements and other deed restrictions without it having much impact on the property. Conservation easements are a popular way for landowners to preserve an especially beautiful part of their property, but it could keep future owners from building the home they want. Also be wary or rights-of-way which could allow utilities or town workers to cut trees and develop the land for roads or power lines.

Dube Plus Construction has been building homes in New Hampshire for nearly two decades and can answer your questions about the process.

Why Hire an Insurance Restoration Professional

When someone’s home falls victim to flooding, a fire or damage caused by high winds, the homeowner’s first thought is usually, “How can I get this fixed as quickly as possible.” Unfortunately with most homes, solving this kind of problem isn’t as simple as breaking out the Shop-Vac or the tool box. Insurance companies must be contacted and people must be hired to properly repair the damage. For most homeowners, this process is new to them, and their lack of experience could potentially lead to inadequate repairs or added costs not covered by their insurance. 

Hiring a restoration contractor is one way homeowners can ensure the repairs on their home are being done right. Restoration contractors specialize in repairing damage caused by flooding, burst pipes, fire and smoke, mold, and wind. They have experience in properly addressing these sometimes tricky repairs and have a reputation in their community for quality work.

What Sets Insurance Restoration Specialists Apart?

If a tree crashes through your roof or a grease fire ruins your kitchen, you will need to call your home owner’s insurance company for an inspection before getting any reimbursement for damage repairs. Once the damage is assessed, it’s your job to hire a contractor. Using a builder or company that does not specialize in restoration construction is up to you, but could mean some important repairs or underlying problems caused by the accident go unnoticed and unaddressed. A specialist is trained to look for these underlying problems.

Restoration contractors have also built a business on being trustworthy and delivering quality work. In times of natural disaster, such as after a flood, hurricane or a major snowstorm, you will often hear news reports about fly-by-night repair operations delivering shoddy work or running off with large deposits, leaving the homeowner in the lurch. Dube Plus Construction has a track record of working extensively with homeowners and their insurance companies to get their lives and homes back together as quickly and efficiently as possible. We believe it is important during your time of loss that you are able to focus on the needs of your family.

Insurance Restoration Specialists can help before the adjuster is called

Insurance adjusters are tasked with determining the cost of the damage so that you can pay for the repairs, but in some cases, adjusters miss hidden problems that are revealed once the construction crews start the job. Mold hidden inside drywall or structural damage aren’t always visible from a walk-through inspection.

Some people also feel the need to hire a “Public Adjuster” to protect themselves from being “taken” by their insurance company. We’ve found this uncovered cost can be quite expensive and takes money directly out of homeowners’ pockets before the insurance claim is even made. Insurance companies and their adjusters are concerned with being “taken” by unrealistic and often dishonest contractors, as well. It’s our experience that working with a trusted company eliminates these concerns and helps bring the estimated cost of reimbursement more in line with actual costs.

In some cases, restoration specialist will work with homeowners before the adjuster is called to determine the extent of the damage. This estimate can then be used as a guideline when meeting with the adjuster.

If you have any questions about restoration construction or any home repairs, please call Dube Plus Construction. Through our 19 years of service we have established trusted relationships with insurance adjusters, as well as our many clients we work with.

Why is Design-Build Construction A Better Building Process?

On Average, The Design-Build Process Reduces Change Orders and Results in Quicker Occupancy.

On Average, The Design-Build Process Reduces Change Orders and Results in Quicker Occupancy.

Property owners interested in building a new home, renovating or putting an addition on an old home will need professionals to do the design work and the construction. Some people will hire two separate companies to do this work, while others sign one contract with a “design-build” firm to complete the work.

So which option is better?

In the two-firm approach, the owner hires an engineer or architect to draft plans for the project. The owner then uses the plan to solicit bids from builders. Once a builder is selected, a second contract is signed. If there are problems with the design plans, or there is a dispute between the builder and the designer, the owner is forced to serve as the mediator, slowing down the process and driving up costs.

Design-build construction reduces the likelihood of this problem by having both designer and builder under one contract, working together to finish the project. When owners use a reliable and well-organized design-build team, change orders and disputes are rare and the responsibility of managing the contract is solely placed on the head of the design-build team.

Know your liability

When investing in a new home or major renovation, the last thing any owner wants is added costs and errors. Using a design-build team moves the responsibility of managing these problems off of the owner, eliminating the liability gap caused by two separate design and construction contracts.

Architects and engineers provide design services under the legal concept of a Standard of Care. They take your vision as an owner and prepare plans and specifications to the best of their abilities. However, there is no warrantee those plans will be perfect when handed over to the owner, and eventually to the builder.

When an owner takes those plans and opens the bidding process in search of builders, the legal concept of the Spearin Doctrine goes into effect. When the owners give the design documents to the contractor and the work begins, they are doing so with the understanding that the plans and specifications are correct and entirely sufficient for the project. Of course, there are occasions when the plans aren’t sufficient and a dispute between builder and designer arises, leaving the owner in the middle to work it out.

Design-build means efficiency and cost savings

In the commercial construction and real estate industry, design-build has been a growing share of the market for the past 15 years. Companies and government agencies appreciate the advantages of a single contract and limited liability because it means less management on their end, and a faster outcome.

The design-build model also works well in residential construction. Typically, local builders and designers who work under one contract do so either as part of one company or have formed a long-term relationship. This relationship increases trust in the workplace and efficiency, as builders become familiar with designers’ work and vice versa. Studies show these efficiencies result in finishing projects on time and under budget.

According to Penn State Research, design-build projects are built 12 percent faster and are completed from design to finish 33 percent faster than projects that use the design-bid-build method. The overall cost of design-build projects is 6.1 percent less than design-bid-build projects and the cost over-runs are 5.2 percent less.

Using the design-build method for constructing a project is not new. The “Master Builder” concept of having one person overseeing both design and construction is an ancient model, used for centuries before it was dismantled during the Industrial Revolution. Businesses and homeowners are coming back to the design-build concept again for its simplicity and efficiency.

If you have questions about Dube Plus and our design-build capabilities, please contact us today at (603) 329-5077 or if you're ready to go,  click here to start a project.

The Best Building Materials For Building a Deck

Once the winter snow melts and the family starts heading outdoors again, it’s hard to ignore the rough shape of your backyard deck. If the splintered surface and rotting planks have compounded over the years, it might be time for a new deck.

The first step is to determine if you can just refinish the deck, or if you need a new surface. Will sanding and new stain get rid of some of the rough spots? Can you replace a few rotting boards? More than a few rotting planks, sagging or other structural problems likely mean a new surface is needed.

Next, decide if you need an entirely new deck from the ground up, or just the planks under foot. Most decks use treated lumber for the framing underneath. As long as this framing is in good condition, you will only need to replace the surface. Signs of an unsafe deck or compromised frame aren’t always obvious, so you might want to consider hiring a professional to evaluate the structure.

If your deck was built before 2004, it is likely built of lumber treated with chromated copper arsenate. If the finish is flaking or worn in spots, you will want to hire someone trained to safely refinish the surface, or remove and dispose of the lumber.

Choosing a decking material

Most decks are built of wood because it is versatile, sturdy and affordable. If you don’t want to worry about maintenance, however, composite, plastic or aluminum may be the better choice.

Wood is the most affordable decking option, costing homeowners about $225 to $825 per 100 square feet. Treated pine is the most common choice, but for a little more, homeowners can get cedar, redwood or other exotic woods like Brazilian ipe, tigerwood or garapa. Wood has a great look, but will stain, discolor and possibly crack if not stained or water sealed every other year. If you like the look of wood that weathers to a gray color, you may be able to avoid the maintenance of applying stain or sealer every two years. 

Composite gives homeowners the look of wood without the need to stain and refinish. They cost about $425 to $650 per 100 square feet, and offer a wider range of colors and designs than wood. Composites are stain resistant and durable, but some types of composite materials are not as sturdy as wood, sagging and flexing over time. Composites can also be more slippery or less resistant to mildew.

Plastic decking costs about $525 to $625 per 100 square feet, is lightweight and great for resisting staining. The downside is that plastic decking can look cheap, can be slippery and will sag over time.

Aluminum decking costs about $700 per square feet and is the most durable option. This isn’t the choice for you if you like the look of natural wood, though.

Factoring in maintenance

Some homeowners know that staining a deck every two years is too much work for them, and for these people, surfacing a deck with another material is the way to go. But for homeowners watching their costs or who consider themselves handy, the added work may not be a factor. As well as considering the labor involved, you should also look at the cost of maintenance.

Hiring a professional to stain your deck should be added into the overall cost of the deck. Stripping and sanding the deck every six years or so adds to the cost as well. If doing it yourself, consider the cost of the stain, which is minimal, as well as the cost of the stripping and sanding equipment. Finally, think about the time needed to do the project. Wood decks require giving up a weekend every other year for maintenance. Is that time worth the extra money for a composite deck?

When it comes to replacing or building a deck, homeowners have a wide range of options. If you’d like more information about the materials, cost and time involved in replacing a deck, give Dube Plus Construction a call.

How to Finance your Remodel or Addition

Homeowners often dream of a new kitchen, home addition or master bath remodel, but put it off because they think financing is beyond their reach. What they may not realize is there are a number of ways to finance a home renovation other than the traditional home equity loan. By choosing an affordable financing method, homeowners can improve their home – and the value of their home – for a reasonable monthly cost.

First steps to financing your construction project

Before meeting with a lender, determine the scope of the project and get an estimate on the cost – then add 10 percent for cost overruns. If you are doing the work yourself, make a comprehensive list of all materials and permit fees. Add 20 to 30 percent on top of that for unexpected problems and cost overruns. Remember to factor in the schedule and estimated time of completion. If the project will take a few months to complete, that could influence your financing decisions.

What are the financing options?

A home equity mortgage has long been a reliable means for homeowners to fund large improvement projects. By working with your bank or credit union, you can borrow money against the balance of your home’s equity, paying it off over 15 to 30 years in some cases. These loans are tax deductible and carry a fixed interest rate, but that rate is usually higher than a conventional mortgage.

A home equity line of credit is a flexible option for lengthy renovations and DIY projects. These loans work like credit cards, where a lender provides a loan and homeowners can borrow multiple times up to the total value of the loan, paying back what they borrowed typically over 8 to 10 years. Before signing on to a home equity line of credit, make sure to review the APR, closing costs and other loan details carefully, as some lenders market low-cost lines of credit only to increase interest rates or add fees to the overall cost later.

FHA 203(k) mortgages are federally-insured loans that allow homeowners to simultaneously refinance their first mortgage while combine it with the improvement costs into a new mortgage. These loans base the amount a homeowner is able to borrow on the value of the home after improvements, allowing homeowners to borrow more than they would be able to with a traditional home equity loan. However, these loan limits tend to be low and can vary depending on where you live.

Borrowing from a 401(k) is another option, especially for homeowners with a few years of work savings under their belts. Both the money borrowed from a 401(k) and the interest are repaid to you, instead of a bank. Some financial experts aren’t keen on this because it removes money from a retirement savings account, instead of letting it grow. These loans are typically repaid in 5 years, but if a homeowner changes jobs or loses a job, the loan may need to be repaid in 90 days or the owner could face early withdrawal penalties.

A diverse approach to financing a project

For some homeowners, the money to pay for a renovation might come partially from savings, partially from a line of credit and partially from another source. Funding a home repair with a variety of sources can reduce your overall debt.

If you have questions about the cost of a home renovation or addition, Dube Plus Construction can answer your questions. Give us a call today.

Design Considerations for a Bathroom Remodel

The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in the house. It’s where we get ready in the morning and end our day each night. It’s where we give our children a bath and where we relax in a hot shower. Bathrooms range in size from a spacious master bath to a tiny powder room. Remodeling a bathroom can be complicated, but it needn’t be stressful with the proper planning and builder to do the work.

Here are a few considerations you should make before laying the first tile.

What do you wish you had and what are your must-haves?

If you’ve always dreamed of a claw-footed tub or a steam shower, put it on the list. Things can always be scaled back in the design phase, but getting it on the list helps the designer know what you are looking for. Next, come up with a must-have list. These can include added storage, better lighting, a new toilet. During this process, don’t put anything you don’t need on the list. If you aren’t big on baths, do you really want a tub? A modern shower may better suit your needs.

Vanity or pedestal sink?

An old rule of thumb was that smaller bathrooms, like half-baths, should have pedestal sinks and full-baths should have a vanity. Not necessarily so. If you prefer the look of a sleek pair of pedestal sinks in your master bath, say so. The storage lost with a vanity can likely be made up elsewhere. On the other hand, if you’d like the storage of a vanity in a smaller bathroom, that may be possible with a smaller vanity, custom vanity or floating vanity.

A vanity counter that includes areas for applying and storing make-up should be considered as well. Standard vanities today are 36-inches tall, but dressing tables are usually 30-inches, so look for a taller stool if you’d like a place to sit.

Storage, hooks and bars

You will need places to store cleaning products, toilet paper, towels and soaps. Will it be open shelving, a closet or a free-standing storage unit? Think about how you’d like to hang hand and bath towels and where they should be placed.

Is this a bathroom you can grow old in?

For homeowners who plan to age in place, consider incorporating features that will support this choice. Adding safety features doesn’t mean sacrificing style. Today’s bath fixtures include modern and attractive grab bars that will fit right in with other fixtures. Consider adding a shower seat and zero-threshold shower as well.

Will you keep the same layout?

Keeping the bath tub, sink and toilet in the same spots may not be the best design for your needs. If you’d like to move any of these elements, let the designer know.

What kind of materials will you use?

Materials is where costs can add up quickly. A good way to decide where to splurge and where to save is thinking about who will use the bathroom. Spending a little extra on a master bath will improve not only your enjoyment of the home, but it will also increase the home’s value. On the other hand, saving a little money on the materials in the family full-bath makes sense if you have young children who care little about custom fixtures.

Hiring a builder

Bathrooms are a complicated mix of plumbing and electrical fixtures. Even people highly skilled at Do-It-Yourself projects will need to hire professionals for some of the work. If you are undertaking a full bathroom remodel, consider hiring a design-build firm. These companies work under one contract from the design phase throughout completion. It makes things simpler for the homeowner, who communicates with one lead builder instead of numerous professionals.

Dube Plus Construction is a design-build firm that can answer your questions about bathroom remodeling. Contact us today with your questions.

How to Choose Kitchen Cabinets for Remodel

Quality matters when choosing kitchen cabinets. Think of them as furniture used every day in a harsh, wet, hot environment.

Kitchen cabinets can be the most costly part of remodeling a kitchen, but today’s kitchen cabinet makers also offer hundreds of style combinations and special features. Whether your taste is modern or traditional, this guide will help you decide which cabinet is right for your new kitchen.

New cabinets, new doors or just a coat of paint

Before undertaking the cost of new cabinetry, think about what you can save from your existing cabinets. If they are relatively new and in good shape, consider staining or painting them. This can be done yourself over a weekend, or you can hire someone to do it. New paint, hinges and hardware is an affordable way to spruce up a dated looking kitchen.

If the doors are dinged, warped or no longer close like they should, consider buying new. If the cabinets themselves are sturdy and hung in an arrangement you like, you can save a little by buying just new doors and resurfacing the cabinets. While this does cut down costs a bit, doors are the most expensive part of the cabinet. For a little extra, you can buy all new cabinets and get the layout and design you want.

Style matters

Knowing what door style you like will help whittle down the choices in your cabinet search. The most common style found in kitchens today is the Shaker-style cabinet. This style gets its name from the clean and simplistic furniture style well-known in New England and gives any kitchen a polished look. For homeowners looking for a more modern look, there’s the flat-style cabinet. These cabinets come in a wide range of laminates and wood colors, giving homeowners a wider palate to work with. Another modern style for those who like a more architectural look is the louvered-style door. These have horizontal slats across the front of the door and can be a good choice for any area that needs ventilation, such as a laundry space.

Perhaps you want open shelving, or glass in your cabinet doors to reveal dishes inside. These are popular options for people who like a cottage or vintage kitchen look. The wood and glass in these style cabinets now come in a variety of styles.

Also think about how you’d like the doors to be hung. Framed cabinets are hung outside the frame of the cabinets, typically hiding the hinges. Frameless or inset cabinets have doors set within the frame of the cabinet. This typically exposes the hinge and can be more expensive. We find this is a popular look, however, because it provides more space when opening the cabinet.

Get your hardware

Take a look at kitchens you like and think about how the drawer pulls, handles and knobs will fit into your kitchen. Will you go with simple brushed nickel knobs or are you looking for more splashy colored glass? Some cabinets come with hardware included, while others allow homeowners to select their own.

Think about the inside

Drawers for easily accessing pots and pans, spice racks and other cabinet accessories can help make your kitchen easier to use. Think about how you use your kitchen, what you like about your kitchen now and what items in your kitchen you wish were easier to access. This can guide you toward picking the right cabinet accessories.

Need more storage?

If you just don’t seem to have enough space in your current cabinets for all the food, dishes and gadgets you need, think about adding an island, hutch-style cabinets, pantry or other storage. Perhaps you need a space that doubles as a home organization center for mail, phone charging and family calendar. There are cabinet layouts that can add storage and usability for a wide range of tasks.

Have questions about what cabinet is right for you? Dube Plus Construction can provide further information to help you decide which cabinet fits your style and budget.

Choosing Energy Efficient Windows for New Construction

Homeowners want windows that are attractive, easy to clean, and above all, energy efficient. Windows are an expensive part of new home construction, so choosing the right one can sometimes be a stressful chore. It doesn’t have to be, if you have a few terms under your belt and know what each material delivers in quality and efficiency.

Window basics

The first thing you need to consider is what style of window you’re looking for. Double hung windows are by far the most common style, especially in New England’s older homes. With this style, both the upper and lower parts of the window open up or down for optimal ventilation. Single-hung windows are also available for a lower cost, but are limited in that only the lower half moves. The upper half is sealed to keep out the weather.

Casement windows are typically found in kitchens, bathrooms and more modern homes. These windows swing outward on a side hinge with a crank. They provide good ventilation, high efficiency and are easy to clean. Awning windows, similar to casement windows, swing outward on a hinge on the top. The benefit of awning windows is that they can remain open in rain and are also air tight.

Fixed windows are those that do not open, such as a picture or bay window. These too are come in a range of materials and energy efficiency ratings.

Energy efficiency terms decoded

When you start your shopping for windows, you’ll see lots of terms that are meant to help you select the best option, but can be confusing.

U-factor – How well the window can keep heat in your home. Also known as the U-value, it ranges from 0.2 to 1.2. The lower the number, the better.

Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) – How well the window can block unwanted heat from the sun. Usually rated between 0 and 1, having a lower the number is better for homes in warm climates; a higher number is fine in cold areas.

Visible transmittance (VT) – How much visible light a window lets into the home. Rated between 0 and 1, the higher number means more light is let in.

Low-E coating – A transparent coating added to the windows to keep heat in or out. In warmer climates, it’s added to the outside and in colder climates, it’s added to the inside. Although it is transparent, any coating added to a window decreases visibility.

Double or triple glazing – These windows have a sealed space between two or three panes of glass that is filled with air or gas. The gas provides insulation, reducing noise significantly and heat loss. Double glazing is more common, but triple glazing provides more protection. The added cost of triple glazing is not usually justified except in areas that are extremely cold or are regularly subject to loud noise, like near an airport or interstate highway.

Materials matter

Wood is a popular choice for window frames because they are the most energy efficient. They also require the most upkeep. Homeowners will need to paint or stain the windows every few years, and in wet climates could be susceptible to rot. But in general, most wood windows last for many years.

Vinyl frames get a bad rap for their looks, but when it comes to value, a quality vinyl window is a good deal. It requires less upkeep than wood and a well-constructed vinyl window can provide great energy efficiency.

Aluminum frames are less energy efficient, since heat and cold transfer more easily through metal than wood or vinyl. They are a good choice in places that may sustain high winds, such as a beach-front home or in areas susceptible to hurricanes.

Wood-clad frames offer multiple benefits. With vinyl on the outside, they are low maintenance and with wood on the inside, they are energy efficient. For homes in wet climates, wood-clad isn’t the best choice. Water and moisture can get in between the vinyl and wood, causing the inside to rot. They are also tricky to install, increasing the likelihood of water damage to your home.