Solar Powered Roof Fans in York, ME

I was recently contacted by a woman from Georgia that had found me on Angie’s List about helping alleviate unbearable summer heat in the upstairs bedrooms of her family’s cottage on York Beach, Maine. The cottage has been in the family for generations and she recalled lying in sweat as a kid, trying to get to sleep after the upstairs had been collecting heat all day long. She asked what suggestions I had to help the comfort levels of renting guests. I suggested the good ‘ole wind turbine. Why not?

Well, when I was researching the wind turbines to calculate the approximate cost of the project I decided to dig a little deeper and see how much air these things can really move, knowing the massive task it was needed to do. It turns out that some of them don’t spin that well at all, and the ones that do don’t move a ton of air.

Next, I came across the solar powered roof fans. It seems that there is much price fluctuation ranging from $90 to $500. Many reviews claimed that the more affordable ones felt flimsy and cheap. The last thing I want is to spend a client’s money and for them to not be happy with the performance of the product over a long period of time. I searched for highest rated solar roof fans and came across the U.S. Sunlight model 9910TR. They were about $300 a piece and eligible for a tax credit of up to 30% of the price of the units, before installation. Once shipped to my home, I took it out of the box to familiarize myself before installation day. I was amazed at how well it met the main secondary criteria: It was so quiet that I could hardly even tell it was running while I held in my hands up to the sun.

We decided to install two: One in the largest bedroom; and one for the 2 other bedrooms to share. Here in New England, you’ll want to install them on either a south or west facing roof plane. We got lucky and have a roof plane that faces due southwest. Once installed, I waited until about 1:00 pm to adjust the rotation and tilt of the solar panel to about dead perpendicular to the sun.

From the inside, drive a screw through the roof for locating on the outside, and then protect from the mess with a drop cloth.

The fans seem to work very well, not requiring any wiring of any sort. During the heat of the day, I could easily feel the air blowing on me from the fans while I was working on the roof. They are sun activated- so when the sun hits the solar panel, the fan moves. When it’s overcast or cloudy, it slows. For our purposes, we knew it wasn’t going to be like central a/c, but wanted to keep the bedrooms tucked up under the roof from ever getting so darn hot that they can’t cool down.

Strip back the shingles and set aside for re-use, then cut the hole with a jig saw. Notice the drop cloth caught the debris.

I got the both of them installed in one long day. We may opt to install an optional thermal switch that ensures the unit runs only when the attic temperature hits 80 degrees. This will prevent the fan from running during the winter, thus prolonging the life of the fan. I’ll keep you posted as I hear feedback from the clients.





This is the final product! The shingles were a little brittle, and being right on the coast we decided to glue them back down as well as nailing.







From the inside.















Do It Yourself Concrete Wall Insulation


Every now and then we have to insulate the inside of a foundation wall. Concrete walls have zero insulation value, according to the building code. In our cold sector of the country, we have to insulate walls to an R-Value of 21. I recently had just such an occasion, to insulate a concrete foundation wall in a home that we were remodeling in Rye, NH.

You see, this foundation was built as part of an addition, some years ago. It seems that whomever built this addition didn’t pay quite enough attention to the little details. There are water pipes running through this utility area, with no insulation on these concrete walls and no heat source. What do you suppose happened to those water pipes this winter? They sure did freeze, unfortunately.

See how close the water pipes are to the exterior rim band? On the other side of that 2″ thick foam piece that we sealed around the edges of lie below freezing temps.

What did we do about it? Well, we decided to make this utility area of this addition warm. We started by determining what the vulnerabilities are, and then convert them into strengths. The rim band of the floor framing (where floor joists terminate over an exterior wall, in this case foundation wall) is a typical vulnerability. This one’s no different. We decided to use standard 2″ blue foam insulation board and fit it into these spaces between the joists. We then seal around it with the spray foam gun.

The next and only other major vulnerability is the concrete foundation. In this case, the foundation walls are exposed entirely to the elements on the other side, no earth for insulation purposes. So, if these concrete walls essentially have no insulation value, let’s rectify that. I chose to walk a nice balance between frugality and functionality. We wanted to keep the cold out and the heat in, but without spending a fortune. We also want to provide a safe finished product. Leaving most foam board products exposed would be unsafe and a code violation. They will easily ignite. I didn’t want to have to sheetrock or put plywood over the foamboard, so I decided to upgrade to Dow Thermax. You’ll have to research whether this can be left exposed in your municipality, but I chose to go with it here.

We start by applying adhesive to insulation pins. The adhesive is made specifically for this purpose and emits rather potent fumes, so take precautions. After letting the pins cure to the concrete overnight or so, it’s now time to cut and fit the insulation board onto the pins. We air seal the perimeter of each sheet with the fire resistant foam from the foam gun, and we’ve just sealed out the cold. We opted to only go with 2″ foam, which now gives our wall an R-Value of approximately 13. Not quite up to code for new construction, but probably about 500% better than it was. Also, we weren’t required to adhere to building code because we didn’t need a permit for a repair of this nature.



Finally, we decided to maximize heat that was already available, instead of install a new heat source. We cut a nice hole through the plywood that had been used to block in an old foundation window dating from before the addition. On the other side of this plywood window, there is a wall mounted on demand boiler hot water heater. The heat transmitted from the existing mechanical room was ample enough to supply the previously cold, adjacent room.

Eldredge Lumber in York, Maine carries the Thermax insulation for around $60 per 4′ x 8′ sheet, and Ricci Lumber in Portsmouth, NH special ordered in the pins and adhesive. The minimum order was 1,000 insulation pins, and we used a quart of adhesive. The total for these 2 items was under $200. We air sealed the edges of all the panels with a fire retardant spray foam from a can. We used 6 sheets of the foam insulation for the concrete walls, and 2 sheets for the rim band where the floor joists meet the exterior wall. Super simple, you can do it!!!


I don’t think I need an MBA to understand why it’s not generally a good idea for a business to publish much of anything containing social, political, or religious viewpoints.

In December of 2011, we were blessed with our little angel, Isabelle. Our family was forever changed. Below, I’ve attached my address to the audience at the celebration of my 14 month old’s life. If one additional person is moved by Isabelle’s story, it’s well worth it. I publish the following thoughts- graciously accepting whatever business consequences may or may not ensue- not as a business owner, but as a father. I’m a father who is getting back on his feet, learning how to lace up and get back in the ring again. I’m a father who is learning how to move forward. I’m a father who will never stop helping his beloved daughter to make as many ripples as she possibly can, in a world she graduated beyond.

  • Thank you all for coming. Thanks to all of the friends and family and everybody who helped us put this special day together. From the pictures and slideshow, to the balloons and food. Thank you all so much. Thanks to all of you for helping us through today, the past couple of months and ya know, life.
  • This wasn’t meant to be a speech or a sermon. Just a broken hearted dad, trying to find meaning to his daughter’s life.
  • Isabelle. Oh sweet Isabelle. We miss you honey.
  • What a gift she has been. When she was born at Wentworth Douglass on Dec. 15th, it took approximately 7 minutes for the doctors and nurses to perform cpr and bring her back. I thank God that they didn’t give up and were able to bring her to us.  Chrissy didn’t even get to hold her for like 2-1/2 days after. We knew we had a tough road ahead, but we didn’t know how tough.
  • It was about 2 weeks later, at Dartmouth, when we learned that she had a hole in her heart and she would need heart surgery. Over the next couple of days, the bigger picture started to come into focus. At first, there were a couple of other genetic syndromes that the doctors suspected. Then they told us. She had Miller Dieker Syndrome. That’s a tough prognosis right there. Whew.
  • During the days after, I had to work on the seacoast. A couple of times a week I would drive up to Dartmouth, after work. I just had to see the baby and the rest of my family. I would spend the night and then make the trek back to the seacoast to be at work for 7:30. Well, it was during one of these long drives that Isabelle taught me another lesson. I remember balling my eyes out, thinking about all the things my little princess would never do, because she had Miller Dieker Syndrome. I remember thinking that she would never climb a mountain peak. This crushed me to pieces. I’m not even a hiker,  but all of a sudden I was drowning in my own tears and could hardly see the road because my little girl was never going to climb a mountain. I guess that’s just what you think about when you’re driving through the mountains and all. But it was more than that, and I knew it. It was the fact that she would never figuratively climb a mountain that was killing me. She would never come home with a report card, beaming about having conquered geometry. She would never enjoy a lovely Saturday morning sitting down in the warm grass and picking daisies in right field, giggling at all the silly people shouting in her direction. This weight crushed me the whole 2 hour drive. But then something happened. I don’t remember how or why, but something changed as I crossed over the 95 bridge into Portsmouth. I came to realize that focusing on “can’t” was going to kill me. I needed to focus on “can.” I can’t change her genetic syndrome, so I had better not focus on it. I can give her all the love I have in me. We can give her the best life and best chance that we possibly could. She can touch people’s lives and have a positive impact on this big family of brothers and sisters that we all are. She can leave this world a little brighter.
  • Chrissy and I had to meet with doctors and nurses and other medical professionals over the next few days to talk about the future for Isabelle. They did what they were obligated to do and explained that we had options for how far we wanted to go for her, if you know what I mean. But by now, Chrissy and I had been blessed with very firm resolve. We explained that our faith in God meant that we believed she was here for a beautiful purpose, that we were hand selected to host her. We also explained that even if we didn’t believe in God, we did believe in balance in the universe. We told this story about the little boy Chrissy and I both know, that wasn’t given much of any chance. They asked the mom if she wanted to terminate, because even if he survived, his life would be only hardships. But that boy’s heroic and courageous parents said no way! Today, you could see this adolescent young man… hurting… people’s… cheeks… everywhere he goes. People just seem to smile so much bigger when he’s around. So while he may be a step behind his peers, this is more than compensated for when he lights up this earth in a way that none of the rest of us in this room  could ever hope to. Chrissy and I would finish our declaration to the team of doctors by stating that we recognized that Isabelle would never accomplish anything according to the typical standards. But we also recognized that if the greatest accomplishment that a human being could possibly hope for was to leave an enduring legacy of love, a legacy where people’s hearts and souls have been touched to the point that they no longer spin on the same axis, that their course has been slightly altered, a legacy of inspiring hope and courage and strength, if this type of legacy was the greatest a human could shoot for, then this little girl was already on her way to accomplishing more in her life than I could ever dream of. So yes, Chrissy and I were going to do all that we possibly could to allow this little girl to blossom and touch as many lives as possible.
  • My friend Paul also tried to teach me something during the early days after bringing Isabelle home. But he tried to teach me with words. You see, the baby slept a lot, so he would sometimes stop over and we’d talk while sampling one of his latest homebrews or something on a wintry Saturday afternoon while holding the baby. It was great. One of these afternoons found us chatting about priorities, of course. He explained that he and his wife had informally adopted a stance to try to never say no to their kids’ requests, unless there was actually a good reason. I understood this to be sage advice, but my life was just tooooo stressful and busy to convert this recognition into an actual change in actions. Well, I tell you right now that what Paul was trying to tell me with words, Isabelle’s passing has cemented into my DNA. Yes Preston, I would love to play Super-Mario with you. And Yes Julia, I’m happy to do arts and crafts. You’ll both just have to teach me what to do.
  • And then it slowly started to happen. The future that the doctors told us about, started to become our reality. We would have to call the ambulance every now and then to bring her to Wentworth Douglas, and then the team from Dartmouth would come and get her. At first, we protected Julia and Preston from seeing the ambulance come and get her. We had friends help take the kids while one of us was dialing 911. But circumstances wouldn’t allow this protection forever. Eventually, we had to place calls to 911, without being able to shield the kids. They watched as we cranked up the oxygen and tried to get some color and life back into her gray little body. We were balling and asking her to please come back to us the whole time. Yes, Julia and Preston’s perspectives were destined to change. They’ve seen a lot. And you know, when I was a kid my mom always told me to say a little prayer every time an ambulance passes with its lights on, because you never know when they may be going to help someone you love. There were many, many times when these heroes came and helped someone we love. Thank you.
  • Her physical strength was something to behold. Sure, her body had the deck stacked against her the whole time, but she was a fighter. Born 6 weeks early at just 4.1 pounds, I remember watching her on her belly in the isolette. This was when I first caught a glimpse of her strength and spirit. I watched as she lifted her head, while laying on her belly, and swung her head to flop over to the other side. I was in awe. I guess we all love the cool side of the pillow. We would bring her to the hospital and they would do all the things and run all the tests that they had to. She was so strong. She would be poked, prodded, needled, the works. Every single time, she was completely content the moment you stopped. She never held on to any of the negative stuff. It was remarkable. The most amazing part, however, was when we would take her home after either a couple days or a couple weeks at Dartmouth. As soon as we would get her home, her blood oxygen saturation numbers would jump another 8 points, for a few days. Normally, her oxygen saturation numbers would be in the low to mid 80’s when she was at her best. But for a few days after coming home, every time, her numbers would be in the low 90’s. They would never reach the 90’s, but she was always so ecstatic to be home again that her entire body would thrive.
  • She taught us to make the most out of everything. This past year, we had many family vacations. It’s been great. Every so often we would pack up the minivan and go spend a couple of days or a week up in the mountains… at Dartmouth Hitchcock. While we would certainly be concerned about the baby, we all made the most out of these vacations, happy just to be together, all the while knowing that this family as it was then, was living on borrowed time. Yes, we did the best we could to enjoy our time in the mountains at Dartmouth Hitchcock.
  • She also taught us about how many incredibly wonderful and loving people there are out there. We live pretty insulated lives, not really getting out into the world too far beyond New Hampshire. But we’ve now seen a little glimpse of the force and magnitude and far reaching and fully encompassing love that God has given us as brothers and sisters. We’ve seen how people take care of each other when the chips are down. We’ve seen it at David’s House, the beautiful and charitable home on the campus of Dartmouth where we were able to stay as a family when Isabelle was up there. Everybody has a tough story up there. Every parent is living a parent’s worst nightmare, with a sick kiddo at Dartmouth. But there is so much strength and love to be found in talking with the other parents at David’s House. Everybody is there to lend an ear, do whatever they can to help you through it. And quite often, people from the community would bring home cooked meals for the guests at David’s House to enjoy. You would even find groups of teenagers and college kids having a great time, coming to spend a Friday evening cooking for all of us at David’s House. You could see that the experience did as much for their souls as it did for those of us on the receiving end. You could just feel it, it was beautiful.
  • We’ve also seen how many incredibly wonderful and loving people are right here at home. Our friends and family, and this community, and the American legion, have literally overwhelmed us with so much support and love. We are truly blessed. It’s true that this particular journey was meant for us, for our family alone to walk and that nobody could walk it for us, but we have also known that there was a large support group walking beside us. To pick us up, anytime we might fall. We’ve also felt blessed to have been chosen to host this little angel. We are so happy and thrilled that God chose us, even if it was only ever meant to be for a short time.
  • Back before Isabelle, Chrissy and I had talked for a couple of years about trying to bring Julia and Preston to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Tennessee. But it certainly didn’t seem to be something we were going to be able to do. Lack of time, money, you know. Well, Isabelle had an important job to do here on Earth. Maybe it was to help adjust the perspectives of Julia and Preston, to give them a different lens through which to see the world. I can’t know exactly what was the important impact that she was destined to have.
  •  But I do know that she taught me to just go for it, let go of fears that hold me back. Not everybody will ever have an opportunity to have a dream that they can work towards. Not everybody has the option of letting go of their fear and taking that terrifying leap, and seeing where they land. Not everybody can pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and go back in for some more. Some people will never get out of a crib, or bed, or a wheelchair. Some people will never see the light of day, or hear the magical sound of a child’s laughter. No matter what does “it” for you, go for “it.” Go for “it” with everything you’ve got, hold nothing back. Some people were loaned to us just to remind us of all the golden opportunities we truly have. Please don’t be selfish with your beautiful gifts and talents. They were given to you for a reason.
  • As far as reaching our potential, maybe Isabelle plays a passive role in that lesson as well. You see, if the rest of the world is anything like me, we tend to keep the painful stuff, the heart wrenching stuff from really getting into our head and subsequently our hearts. Maybe we were given conscience for a reason. Maybe we’re supposed to act on this in whatever way our hearts tell us to. I remember hearing a story about a year or so ago about Somalis fleeing their famished country. After decades of civil war and multiple seasons without rain, their crops and livestock were depleted. With no hope left at home, they traveled many, many miles on foot down dirt roads to Kenya and Ethiopia. Along the way, many of the children were not able to continue. Unconscious but alive, their mothers had to do the unthinkable. Mothers had to leave their children on the side of the road, so that they may have a chance of saving the babies, still conscious and strapped to their backs. They would say a prayer and, in their words,  “leave their little ones for their God.” How heartbreaking. So heartbreaking, in fact, that if you’re anything like I was, you try not to absorb it too much.  But maybe we’re supposed to absorb it. Maybe that’s why we have been given conscience. Maybe we were put here to help our brothers and sisters. Maybe we shouldn’t look to the government or the UN or any organization to solve all the world’s problems. Maybe we just need to banish the fear from our hearts. Maybe if we’re not afraid to absorb these stories, maybe if we’re not afraid of our courses that we have so meticulously plotted being changed, maybe if we’re able to accept the notion that our hearts and minds were meant to evolve, constantly changing according to our own individual journeys, then we can truly begin to harness the stores of greatness we each have deep inside. Maybe if we’re able to absorb these tough stories, keep them with us and allow them to change us, allow them to change how we raise our children, we can truly change the world. Maybe that’s the reason for seemingly tragic stories like these.
  • Through this journey, so many of you have told us how strong we are. And we graciously thank you. But you should know now, we don’t thank you because we agree with your analysis. Sorry. We thank you to avoid having to correct you. We’re sparing you from having to hear about how a person just crumbles sometimes, when dealing with this loss. We’re also sparing ourselves from having to form the words, making it an actual real thing, in yet another dimension. It’s almost like the pain is bearable if it’s just in our hearts and minds, but if we have to speak it out loud, well that just tips the scales too far. Yes, you may continue to tell us we’re strong if you feel that way, but I’ll tell ya what, if falling apart were an Olympic sport…Chrissy and I would be battling for gold medals. But it’s pretty amazing how it all works. Only one of us ever crumbles at a time. We don’t plan it, or compensate for the other. I don’t think we could. It just happens that way. It’s like we’re not in the driver’s seat. It’s on cruise control. And it’s a phenomenon that’s not exclusive to us. When we were in the cardiac ICU in Boston, we asked other couples from around the country if they break down together or take turns somehow. They all experienced the same phenomenon, not understanding how it all works, but it happened just the same. Maybe that’s another lesson we can learn from her, that we were put here for each other. We just have to rely on each other.
  • As far as strength goes, Chrissy was blessed with more than her fair share. I’ve always known it. During Isabelle’s last day here with us, Chrissy somehow found the words to help me learn yet another lesson from sweet little Isabelle. See, we had to come to the conclusion that it was Isabelle’s last day on this earth. Our little girl was never going to come home again. In that hospital room that afternoon, as this realization came crashing down on us at what seemed like lightning speed, our world was getting very sad, very dark. I was balling, we all were. But at one point, I was drenching myself with tears because our baby, our cute, pink, loveable, cuddly baby was going to be lifeless soon. She was going to leave us forever, to watch over us from above. Chrissy found something beautiful. She said that she could feel angels filling the room. They were everywhere. She could feel angels all around, preparing to usher this baby to her next beautiful home. But I was angry. I wailed that if the angels were all around, how come I couldn’t feel them? How come they couldn’t help us? How come it has to feel this awful, the most terrible thing in the world? How come this feels like the worst tragedy ever? Chrissy explained to me that it isn’t a tragedy. It’s a love story… It’s a love story.
  • You know, if you really think about it, that’s all she ever gave or received from this world…love. Sure, she needed and received tons of medical help. But of all the gifts God has given us here on earth, all the blessings that the rest of us enjoy, she only ever really experienced love. Maybe that’s how it all is supposed to work. People who are accomplished in so many worldly ways, well maybe they have a hard time leaving a profound mark on this world. Sure, maybe a statue, but how about a profound mark on our hearts. Maybe all the varied accomplishments, personality traits, and charm, all these positive things, just tend to cloud the picture. Maybe it takes a little angel baby named Isabelle, whose life only ever revolved around love to teach us the greatest lesson, in the greatest way.
  • Isabelle. Sweet Isabelle. We miss you little honey. Your mom and dad, Julia and Preston, we miss you so much. We know that you’re in heaven, probably riding the reindeer, cracking the whip and having a great time, but we miss you so much down here, everyday. Our house is empty without you, our hearts are heavy without you. I know we’ll meet again, and illness won’t prevent you from running up to us and hugging and squeezing us. Until then, enjoy bouncing on your great grampy’s lap. Isabelle’s great grampy Harvey Mick passed away just last night. We love you Grampy. Rest in peace. It’s sort of comforting to know they will have each other up there, along with my Nana and Grampy, and Delia’s Nana. We love you little Honey. You truly changed us and we will love you and learn from you forever.


“Mahogany” Window Sill Repair

This is the condition of the pine trim repair after just a few years.

Many of our customers in Rollinsford, Portsmouth, Rye, Newcastle, and Rye Beach, NH, and South Berwick, ME have gorgeous historic homes. Some of these clients are open to the idea of pvc trim replacement for rot prone areas and some would prefer to stick with good old fashioned wood. What’s our official Meticulous position when asked if

The building envelope was well done. My predecessor had used a self adhering and self sealing membrane to keep the water from getting into the house. This is also what the bead of caulking looked like before we screwed the new sill nosing into place.

we prefer to use wood or pvc? Our answer is a resounding “Yes.” We would prefer to use wood or pvc, as opposed to…I don’t know, cardboard.

We can’t escape the understanding that there are many benefits of using pvc to replace rotten exterior trim. We also understand that today’s pine is absolutely NOT an option for longevity. But using pvc trim will never be the same experience, for a carpenter, as working with wood.

This is the profile of the new nosing. The rear notch at the top edge is to account for fitting around a lip on the window unit. The notch on the bottom rear edge is to fit over the siding, properly overlapping. The middle groove on the bottom edge is called a rain drip. This is to create an edge for the water to drip from before traveling further back to the siding.

We recently consulted with a great do it yourself homeowner in historic South Portsmouth, NH. Not long ago, he had replaced window sill nosings on the east face of his home that takes a brutal beating from mother nature, being only a couple dozen yards from the river. The work he did was with pine, unfortunately, so it didn’t take long to rot again. He wanted to stay away from pvc and asked what else we could offer. I suggested the solid but pricey “Mahogany.” I wrap this in quotations because I actually purchased a product called Red Meranti at Selectwood in Portsmouth. The way that I understand it, Red Meranti is not actual Mahogany, although is commonly referred to as Mahogany. Actual Mahogany is increasingly rare due to the strict forestry controls put in place after decades of over-harvesting in South America. Red Meranti hails primarily from Indonesia and Malaysia and is a nice solid, stable, insect and decay resistant choice for a sill nosing application, not to mention dense enough to not absorb tons of water. People often ask about cedar. I stay away from cedar in this application because cedar is a very soft wood and has an open grain structure. In my opinion, cedar readily absorbs water, even though it has the ability to resist rotting better than many species. Red cedar is much easier to work with because it’s lighter and softer and thus doesn’t require pre-drilling, but because sill nosings take a beating, I think Red Meranti’s density and close grain structure make it a superior choice.

Small trim screws through the face for holding power. There IS clear primer on this before installation, and notice the intentional bead of caulking to bond the trim to the bottom edge of the window.

In this instance, we were working on a wall system that was already well waterproofed. All we had to do was focus on doing the carpentry repair in a manner to stand the test of time… and the elements. Once we had test fitted the sill nosings to be splendid, we opted to use a higher-end primer that does a nice job of blocking the tannins from the Meranti from bleeding through the paint down the road. We chose to use a product called Trim Magic by manufacturer XIM. This bonding primer adheres very well and also does a nice job of blocking the tannin bleed. It goes on milky white and dries clear to milky white. The nosings don’t appear to be primed, but certainly are on all edges before installation.

We also tried to do the painter a favor and put a quick coat of white exterior paint inside of the bottom notch before installation makes this very difficult to do.

Today’s breeds of windows don’t really have a sloped window sill or a sill that notches out over the face of the siding underneath. So, even though the building envelope underneath was very well done, we still want to keep the water traveling out over the face of the siding. Because the bottom of the window unit is completely flat, we want to bond the new trim to the bottom edge of the window and stay bonded, so water doesn’t run in behind the nosing. This can’t be done by just a nice tight carpentry fit, so we have to leave a touch of a gap to bond the two with a tri-polymer caulking. Like I’ve said in the past, our favorite caulking is Lexel. By the way, did you know that tri-polymers are self-healing? This is because they stay so permanently flexible and gooey that if a bead of this caulking gets sliced somehow, the two ends will bond back together if they just touch. What’s next, are they going to start making cars that can parallel park themselves, or something?

Yes, we do prefer to do these repairs in wood or pvc. There are lots of pros and cons for each. Sometimes pvc is just a no-brainer; sometimes the pvc doesn’t make any sense. If we’re going to use wood, we just want to think about what species to use for the occasion. Cheery-O!


Common Repair in New England Architecture



One of the mainstays of quintessential New England architecture is the “Colonial” style home. We also see a terrific array of “Greek Revival” homes. Both of these styles may have some common architectural features, including cornice details. I suppose it may be prudent to start with a quick discussion about nomenclature. The “rake” line of a

Things are starting to pull away.

gable wall refers to the trim running up the angle of the roof. In this case, there is a rake overhang. The bottom portion of this particular rake overhang intersects with the fascia and soffit at the eave line and then “returns” back to the wall section away from the fascia and gutters at the eave line. This small and almost flat section is called a “rake return.”

After tucking the seamless lead flashing, we anchored the new frame in place.

The rake return is a detail that very commonly requires a little bit of TLC here in NE. Way back when, these details were often built using antique heart pine, exponentially denser and more stable than the garbage available today. It would have been painted in an

oil based paint that allows the wood to breathe and moisture to escape through the paint. Today’s latex paints don’t afford that luxury, but are much more environmentally friendly. Sometimes, they would cover the rake return with tin or even lead. This would usually last a century…not bad.

Ready for paint.

When Meticulous Remodeling is called upon to repair or rebuild a rake return on a historic home, such as the small roof sections here in Portsmouth, NH, there is generally a need to just rebuild it by the time we get there. If we rebuild it, we’ll always anchor the simple framing to the home and to the other framing members with screws, for greater holding power. There are 2 other very critical components to making sure

No more gaps, and with screws as fasteners, there shouldn’t be any in the future.

this project will be bulletproof for another century. First, we must use flashing that will seamlessly cover the entire surface. Second, we must make sure that this lead is seamlessly tucked up in behind the siding board at the house and tucked up in behind the rake soffit that comes down onto it.

For us, this is virtually impossible


to do without removing the existing rake return structure to provide access for us to tuck this special order 16″ lead flashing in behind these adjacent planes without tearing it. Once the flashing is in, we’ll then slide the pre-built frame up underneath it and fasten it to the wall. Next, we add trim- in this case we used pvc trim boards. Finally, we might as well paint everything while we’re up there anyway.


Just in Time for Holiday Entertaining…

The homeowners used blue tape to visualize their idea.

We were delighted to receive an email from an interested customer that found us on Angie’s List with a great idea to improve his holiday entertaining. I met the homeowner in South Berwick to scope out the project and gather some info in order to provide a proposal. He and his fiancee’ have a formal dining room, with access through a cased opening from the kitchen. They wanted to cut a hole in the adjacent, structurally supporting wall that separates the dining room from the living room.

Dining room “before,” as seen from the kitchen.

I was excited about the opportunity to do this project. The customers had a great vision that would fit their home perfectly, their budget was perfectly realistic, and a simple one week project would offer great improvement in how the home serves its owners. What’s not to love?

Dining room “after.”

The first thing we were going to have to do would be to build temporary support walls in order to cut the existing structural wall. The temp walls would also serve as dust protection. We gently opened small troughs in the ceiling drywall on either side of the supporting wall, to determine proper locations of temporary supporting walls. We built the temp walls and stood them to be held by a nice friction fit- no screwing through floors or ceilings. We sealed them up with plastic and we were ready to make a confined mess.

The clients were great to send us these photos of the finished product.

We marked the opening to be centered on the wall and so that the height would match the existing cased opening from the kitchen. Next was removing all the drywall, studs, and top and bottom wall plates. Now it was time to install the new engineered beam and supporting studs in order to carry the load of the floor joists above. The final construction step required installing new sheetrock pieces and taping and mudding to a smooth, paintable finish.

Finished product as seen from the fireplace looking into the dining room.

The clients were excited when we finally took down the temp walls and plastic. They could finally see and feel how half of the first floor was transformed when traffic patterns were dramatically changed in just one week.



The homeowners decided to remove the baseboard heat and handle all of the staining and painting themselves, thus keeping the budget down to approximately $2,000 for this great project…just in time for Thanksgiving and all of the season’s entertaining. Thanks for the fun project James and Melanie.


By John Bradshaw


PVC Window Trim Replacement

An overwheleming majority of New England homes will have to undergo some sort of rotten exterior trim replacement at some point. One of the most common needs is replacing rotten window casings and sill noses, especially on the north and east faces of a home. This article aims to instruct how to replace your exterior window trim with glued and screwed pvc window trim, in a manner that will withstand the elements.

This Portsmouth home needed rotten exterior trim replaced with something that would hold up, being just a few feet from the river.

This home in Portsmouth, NH was in need of these repairs. Although I have no photos, the first thing to be done is remove the existing window casings and sill nose, gently, so as to not destroy the existing jambs, etc.. I use my Fein reciprocating saw to slice through these components, for easier removal. The sill nose must be trimmed flush with the jambs.

After measuring for the new trim and cutting and labeling the new pieces, it’s time to begin the assembly. The first thing I do is to assemble the bottom of each side window casing to the sill nose. In this case the bevel angle is 15 degrees. The glue we use for pvc welding sets up relatively quickly (in about 5 minutes), so we’ll want to start our screws before applying the glue. Because the sill nose (made by Royal Moldings) is only about 1-1/8″ thick, we can screw from the underside of the nosing into the casing. The rest of the pvc trim is Azek brand.

Make sure not to use so much glue that it oozes out.






This pvc glue also fits nicely into a carpenter’s tool pouch when on a ladder.







This is the solvent we use for cleaning off any excess glue. Clean it quickly because the glue will “melt” into the face of the trim after a few moments. This is also the cleaner we use for wiping down the trim after final installation, cleaning our dirty paw prints off of it!








Window sill and bottom of casings.






Predrilling the pockets.

For screwing the tops of the casings together, we rely on what’s called a “Kreg” brand pocket screwing kit from the back side of the casings. We first drill the pocket holes for the screws on the back of the side casings. Next, we make sure we’re using the right trims in the right spots, that’s why we mark such as “TR” to mean Top Right corner of the window. Now start the screws into their pocket holes before applying glue. Glue it up, and then use the special clamp and a backer block to protect the face of the trim during clamping. Screw it together and that one’s done!

We now have a pre-assembled window trim package ready to install.










Next, we must prep the face of the window jambs and sill nose before applying the new trim. We use Lexel brand adhesive caulk exclusively for anything that has to hold up to the elements. It has tremendous adhesion, uv resistance, and flexibility. The flexibility is key. You don’t want to use an epoxy paste or

Notice we don’t pre-paint the sill. We want the adhesive and the new trim to bond to solid wood, not to a layer of paint or primer.

anything that won’t move and expand and contract with the movement of the vinyl and wood components. We apply this liberally to the sill nose and bottom portion of the jambs.



By making sure that there is total caulking squeeze out along the entire seam, we can ensure that the joint will keep water out.

It’s time to install the trim. We use screws for greater holding power to stay bonded tight to the wood. The screws we use are made for pvc trim. They use a special driver to recess the screws into the face of the trim. Then you gently tap a matching pvc plug into the hole, and the hole has vanished! We clean up all the excess caulking using mineral spirits and a clean rag. Remember not to leave solvent soaked rags bunched up

These are the plugs.

in the sun or high heat (like an attic during the summer). The rags will spontaneously combust. Instead, drape the wet rags to dry immediately after use.

Wait, where did the plugs go?









This is the final product.

Once all the plugs are in, we wipe down the trim with the Goof Off, and then install the storm window and it’s complete. The total time for this project (an easy first story window) is under 3 hours. The total cost for this window was around $200. In this case, the critical joint between the new sill nose and the existing sill is hidden from the majority of the elements behind the storm window. If there is no storm window, I recommend checking the integrity of this joint and re-caulking if necessary every few years, just to err on the side of caution. I warranty this project for ten years, but you can expect it to last much longer.

By John Bradshaw


Builder: A Changing Definition

I don’t care for the term “builder” anymore. I recognize that my perspective on this may be miles away from where the public is at. The term brings me such a negative feeling, now, largely because today’s “builders” are building half a million dollar homes that can’t keep water out for a full ten years. And maybe it’s because I’ll talk to my windows dealer or kitchen cabinetry dealer to find out which options are available to meet a client’s needs and they will start by offering the “builder” grade products at the bottom of the crap heap. Sorry, but not really, because it’s true.

It wasn’t always this way. A builder used to be a revered craftsman. As a matter of fact, they would absolutely HAVE to build quality homes. Why? Because a builder didn’t have these new “super materials” to hide behind. A builder used to have to know how to keep water moving out over the face of the roofing and siding. Super materials are things like ice and water shield that can seal out all sorts of moisture, when properly incorporated. Ice and water shield is not entirely new, having been on the market for probably thirty something years. The thing is, though, that a layer of ice and water shield should never, ever be anything more than a magnificent insurance layer. Water should really never touch it, but always be directed out over the face of the shingles, or siding, etc..

And if one of the builder’s homes did leak, he was in for it. It would be a big deal because technology and a diverse array of power tools were not there to get him through it quickly. Building and repairing were much more labor intensive. And without ice and water shield to slow the water down, the leak would rear it’s ugly head before the one year anniversary. There would be no insurance company taking the hit, just the builder. These painful lessons are sometimes the greatest for personal growth.

That was how it used to be. Then, what happened to those good old days? Well, I believe that the building boom of the 80′s featured a perfect storm of crap. People had been laid off from their jobs due to a recession. Eventually, the real estate and building markets came roaring back with a vengeance. The big kingmaker this time around was the proliferation of building technologies. We now had all sorts of power saws and nail guns for framing, siding, roofing, and finish work, and ice and water shield to cover one’s hiney on the roof. The net result was that any old Joe was now either a carpenter or a builder.

I remember being just a puppy in the trade in the 90′s. Having a classical education from a 3rd generation, old school German carpenter, even a puppy like me could pick out some of these 80′s garbage houses from the good ones.

Alright, where does that leave us today? Today, being a “carpenter” or a “builder” is well within the reach of anybody that believes it can be bought in a big box store. “Yup, I just got me a new nail gun, a couple of saws, a new truck, a contractor’s insurance policy for $700 and now I’m a contractor.” Well lucky duck! And as far as being a “builder,” this term lost all prominence with the association of “builder grade” product lines. I’ve been hired time and time again to solve rot and water infiltration problems at the personal homes of “builders.”  Their own homes aren’t lasting more than ten years before being stricken with rot.

Nowadays, you rarely see a builder saving some select hardwood trees on the lot for either a little shade or character for the home. Builders don’t bother to learn about how to position the home in relation to the sun, how to orient the interior layout to maximize the sun (like having a sun filled kitchen or breakfast nook in the morning to get your day started), or how to properly incorporate soffit overhangs to allow for solar heat gain from the low winter sun, but still provide protection from the higher summer sun.

A builder, these days, often means nothing more than a guy or a gal with a checkbook, a vision, determination, and a lack of respect for the craft. They buy the lots, pick a home plan from a generic book, and hire the subcontractors and “carpenters” to build it. How do they hire these tradespeople? Well, I suppose if I didn’t know there was any difference I might hire according to the bottom line.

Unfortunately, the craft of carpentry is being dumbed down as well. When I was first learning the trade, a carpenter had to know how to use surveyor’s tools to layout and position the concrete forms for the foundation. He would then frame, roof, and side the building. Next, it was time to move indoors for insulating, followed by interior trim work and finally building his own kitchen cabinetry in place. Now, guys and gals need only know four skill sets: Framing, roofing, siding, and interior finish and cabinet hanging. That would be absolutely wonderful if the guys and gals calling themselves “carpenters” actually had training and experience in these four areas. Unfortunately, we’re becoming an instant gratification nation. Nobody’s interested in paying their dues. If you want to be a carpenter, just buy a nail gun, watch a YouTube video, and just as if a magic wand had been waved over your head…Boom! You’re a “carpenter!”

Although there’s a vast library of material to draw from, there’s no need to get into tons of examples to back any of this up. Indeed, most people that have been homeowners more than five years have some first or second hand knowledge of this.

Are there “builders” out there, today, that are REAL craftsmen and women? Absolutely. Finding them will be a whole other issue; they are such a dying breed. The best advice I can give would be to listen to the counsel of your friends and family. Remember, however, that your friends and family may not be in the best position to judge the competency of a builder. You see, just about every project sparkles the same for the first few years. It’s usually after the first five years that problems will begin to surface. So, those friends and family members that have been using a builder long term, well their endorsement should carry more weight. Most importantly, have patience and speak with long time clients to find out how their homes have performed. and how the builder has responded to any issues arising.


By John Bradshaw


Plywood ‘vs OSB (Waferboard)

Sometimes choosing the building materials that suit us is a difficult decision. In the case of plywood ‘vs OSB, it’s a no brainer.

The home is a system, exterior claddings, framing and insulation, and interior claddings that all interact with each other on some level. The most important variables playing into this equation are: Air movement into and out of the building envelope (factoring heavily into heat loss), vapor transmission to and from the building envelope, and strength.

Air movement- how drafty your home will be- is the same for either plywood or OSB, theoretically speaking. The most important thing to remember is to properly nail the plywood on the outside walls and roof. That means extra nails at all edges, and adjusting the depth setting on the framing gun from super deep setting for framing, down to relatively shallow for shooting ply or OSB. Otherwise, your nails will blow most of the way through it and you’ve lost strength.

Speaking of strength, there is a difference between OSB and plywood. I’m no engineer, so let me relay my personal experience. I was fresh out of high school in the early 90′s and learning about framing houses on the coasts of Beverly and Marblehead, Massachusetts. We often had to build to withstand hurricane force winds, incorporating shear walls to resist lateral wind pressure. When we built the walls laying down, we had one of two choices for bracing it against the wind (no complaints about Bob Seger stuck in my head right now). We could use plywood and lay the sheets across the studs and stagger the joints every four feet in each successive course of real plywood and the stength of the plywood would brace the wall; or, we could cut diagonal bracing into the wall studs from top plate to bottom plate before sheathing with cheap-o OSB. Hopefully this information gives some perspective as to strength.

Next is vapor transmission. This is slightly more involved. Wood can absorb moisture just fine and, when allowed to properly dry out, can repeat this cycle indefinitely. It becomes a problem when the wood doesn’t have the opportunity to dry out. Therefore, the drying process is critical.

Your home is built almost entirely out of building components that hold moisture. The amount of moisture that they hold depends on: The types of materials used, the amount of humidity created by inhabitants (about 70% of a home’s humidity is from occupants cooking, showering, watering plants, dog dishes, perspiring, etc.), the relative humidity in the atmosphere, and of course the amount of air flow in and out of the home.

To allow the home to dry out, we must allow for slow vapor transmission through the building materials. This is why we should never use a vapor barrier on the warm side of a wall system. We don’t want to block all vapor diffusion. This would cause the vapor to hit that sheet plastic “vapor barrier” and condense, with no where to go. After condensing, the next step would be mold.


What we need to incorporate into walls and attic floors are vapor retarders that simply slow down vapor diffusion. We must allow the building and all of it’s components to dry out. So, we don’t use sheet plastic on the inside of the walls. Fine, but what does all this have to do with plywood versus OSB? Well, I was laying down a little building science theory, necessary for understanding the importance when choosing a wall or roof sheathing.

If we want to allow the building to breathe, which is the better choice? OSB is made up of wood wafers and glue, then treated with a film of wax to buy some time for exposure to the elements during construction. OSB has a perm rating (the means of measuring how much vapor will pass through a material) that remains very low and constant. When the relative humidity rises, it continues to allow the same miniscule amount of vapor to pass through it.

Plywood, on the other hand, has a decent perm rating and is able to ride a very nice curve. It is made of real, unpulverized wood layers that are glued together in opposing grain directions with an exterior glue. Because it is real wood, when the relative humidity rises, it’s ability to allow vapor to pass through it rises in kind. It allows the home to dry nicely under normal conditions.

Next, let’s talk about mold. Mold is a fungus. Fungi need food. Wood can be food, especially when sopping wet and beginning to break down. Additionally, when wood is pulverized, a sugar like byproduct is created. This is sugar like to mold. Oh wait. OSB is made up of pulverized wood and glue. The more and more that wood is pulverized down, the more sugary wonderful it is to mold. That’s why mold will very easily grow on the paper facing of drywall in a moist bathroom. OSB is far more susceptible to mold than plywood.

Let’s round this out by talking about the all important bottom line. OSB for wall sheathing can cost less than half of what plywood is going for. Let’s say we’re building a decent sized two story addition requiring 70 sheets of 1/2″ sheathing for walls and roof. At current rates, it would cost $525 for OSB and $1,330 for plywood. Now knowing this building science, who would choose to save the $805 and go with OSB?

Let’s consider two more things: Interior subfloor application over floor framing, and the introduction of red type (roofs) and green type (walls) super waterproof OSB sheathing.

First, the easy one. I always use OSB for interior subfloor applications. For this, we are inside of the building envelope and vapor is not struggling to pass through it. It also is cheaper and flatter for floors, making it a great choice and a green choice.

Finally, let’s discuss the introduction of super waterproof OSB. This is becoming incredibly popular for builders. I will never use it. First, you’re still not allowing the home to dry out properly via vapor diffusion. Second, it doesn’t adhere to the most fundamental of all building principles: Every single building component should be overlapped by the one directly above it in elevation. This utilizes the physics of gravity to keep the home dry and has been successful for centuries.

Then how does this other system work? First, the OSB is coated with some special magic potion to keep water out. Fine, wonderful, remembering that this also means that it keeps vapor in. What about the joints between sheets? Well, this is the kicker. It means that the carpenters must use a special- and expensive- proprietary tape gun to apply the special tape to the seams. That’s where we no longer overlap materials. You see, with plywood or regular OSB sheathing, we apply a rainscreen over the sheathing, such as tar paper or Tyvek, etc.. We overlap this rainscreen, maintaining the most fundamental principle of building. Conversely, the tape that is applied to the special OSB relies entirely on adhering over the surface of the plywood, a non glossy surface.

If you hang out at the lumber yard long enough, you’ll hear other guys asking what to do when their finicky tape gun no longer works properly. They dread shelling out the big bucks for a new one. Yes, these applicators don’t always apply the tape to create a watertight seal. And what if the sheathing has a film of sawdust on it’s face? I don’t know, you tell me. If you pay attention to addition jobsites, builders that are using this new super OSB with the taped seams on a roof with a finished living space underneath are still tarping the roof until they get the shingles on  it. How much confidence do they seem to have in the product they are using on the roof? When roof plywood, on the other hand, is properly covered with ice and water shield and roof underlayment paper such as synthetic tar paper, the building will stay dry during construction every time.

Why would the lumber industry offer a product like this? Because they want to sell to the ever growing demographic of builders that don’t understand how to properly and permanently water proof a building. The lumber industry is dumbing down the products. Yes, we should all write our representatives in congress.

In conclusion, plywood made of real wood is by far the best thing for your exterior walls and roof. It only needs elementary attention to waterproofing details, and will then allow your home to breathe properly. OSB is the best choice for interior flooring substrate.

This material was largely a result of an education from Joseph Lstiburek, Ph.D., P.Eng., ASHRAE Fellow. He has been widely renowned as an international building science expert for decades. If you want to learn more about building science or cure insomnia I’m just kidding, some of the writings on the site are actually very entertaining), visit his website at


By John Bradshaw




Jobsite Humor

Back around the turn of the milennium, (No, this is not the opening screen scroll type thing at a Star Wars movie), an excavating company was working on digging and backfilling a big cellar hole In Exeter, NH. It was around coffee break time when Ronnie decided he had better not delay any longer. He would spend the first part of his break trekking about a hundred yards to the edge of the River. He sought cover from the couple of saplings and overgrown brush, in order to take care of some business that was going to be a bit more than could be tended to up by the foundation.

The rest of the crew sat on the foundation wall, enjoying a little coffee, light banter, and the view of the river. I’m sure the sight of the procrastinator, that decided to wait until all eyes would be focused in his direction, offered up a nice little conversation piece on a silver platter.

But it would get better. Ronnie crouched, trousers in hand, to clean his soiled jeans the old-fashioned way: By hand in the river. He reached up just high enough to throw his wet trousers over whatever sapling branch seemed sturdy enough. The boys were being treated to quite a show for coffee break that day

Anybody know what comes next? The skibbies needed to be cleaned, of course. What a disturbing treat! That silver platter was really serving up a doozie, but it was about to be crowned with jewels.

Of course the view at the river level didn’t provide the advantage of elevation that the guys- who were now rolling off the masonry with belly laughter- enjoyed from the foundation. Poor, poor Ronnie had know way of seeing around the bend. The UNH women’s crew team was rapidly approaching. They usually practiced about 1/2 a dozen boats at a time, either 7 or 9 kids to a boat, with a coach being chauffeured in a motor boat alongside. And there it was. The guys were in total disbelief that this was actually happening. Not a dry eye in the building at this point!

I know coaches are there to help, but can this coach legally suggest that the kids use bleach to scrub this from their memories, or are they all going to have to endure lifelong counseling?

A special thanks to my father in law, Harvey, for this one. I don’t know what to say, except, “Keep ‘em coming.”


By John Bradshaw