What To Look For When Scouting Land For Your Custom Home

Building a dream home can be one of the most exciting ventures in one's lifetime. Nothing compares to walking into every room in your home, knowing that it's your creation, exactly as you imagined. But this process all begins with finding the right property to build on, and there's more to locating that ideal piece of land than just looking at vacancies and picturing your home there. Far too many have learned the hard way that simple oversights regarding the property can lead to unwelcome surprises down the road. Here are some of the most important factors to consider while scouting for land for your custom home.

Zoning and Utilities

The first thing you should determine before purchasing a property is its zoning designation. Zoning regulations determine how properties can be used, and what can be built on them. If a plot is not zoned as "residential," you won't be able to use it for your dream home. Because this is such a show-stopper, it should be the very first thing you look into. After zoning designation, utilities are going to be a big concern. Urban areas have more immediate access to utilities such as electric lines and sewer systems, but this is not the case for undeveloped land. Consider the costs and challenges associated with gaining access to these utilities. While developed land is more expensive, the cost of having to get these utilities in place could leave you with a much higher bill.


It goes without saying that you can't just build anywhere, but all too often, homes are built in locations that are prone to natural disasters. When considering a property, it is very important to consider where your home will be in relation to a floodplain, as homes tend not to do well under water. Additionally, you will want to get a soil test performed to ensure the ground is suitable for a home's foundation. A home's foundation shifting can spell disaster for the homes structural integrity in years to come. Lastly, getting a survey to determine risk for sinkhole formation is a very good idea. Sinkholes are a very real threat that literally consume homes in the U.S. every day. Being proactive and making sure your home is safe from natural disasters should be among your top priorities.


The view you have from a home is one of the most important things to consider. When looking at a property, take the time to actually walk around and look at it from every angle. Many people immediately find a spot that they like on their property and start building there. A lot of these homeowners discover better viewing spots on their property years after building, and regret not having taken the time to look around in the beginning. Also consider surrounding properties. You don't have control over what your neighbors are going to do with their land, but you can use your judgement to determine foreseeable changes. Does your view contain a large quantity of vacant land that is pleasant to look at? What happens when someone purchases that land and starts building? Use a bit of foresight and determine if your view is likely to change, and how much of an impact it will have on your home experience.

Making the Dream Home a Reality

Building a dream home should be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life, and a big part of making that dream a reality is avoiding the nightmare. From zoning issues to natural disasters, simple oversights in choosing the right property in the beginning can turn your world upside down. Having an idea of what to watch out for is going to allow you to focus on what matters most: customizing your dream home to be the best it can possibly be. Gordon James Construction offers premier home construction and remodeling services. We are committed to executing the unique vision of every client. For more information, contact us at info@gordon-james.com or call (763) 479-3117 today.


What To Value When Diving Into Pool Construction

Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the plunge and build a home swimming pool on your property. Having a pool as part of one’s home is a dream come true for many. However, there are things to consider in order to avoid a nightmarish construction process, or being stuck with a non-functional hole in the ground. To help, we at Gordon James suggest that you keep the following tips in mind before jumping off the deep end:

Know What You’re Looking For

Begin with a vision you have for your pool’s size, aesthetic, and budget equips you with the necessary information to help guide you along your journey. First, decide what will be the main function of your pool: is it for a cooling afternoon dip? Swimming laps to begin your day? Or enjoying time with your family and friends on the weekends? Understanding your pool’s chief functionality will help direct your designs moving forward in your partnership with your contractor.

Understand The Mechanics

While perhaps not the most enjoyable part of pool ownership, it is essential to understand how your unique and personal pool will work. You could create the most beautiful pool ever designed, but if it isn’t functional -- or has recurring preventable filtration and maintenance issues -- you’ll never want to look at it. Knowing how to keep your pool clean, sanitary, and functioning is the foundation of pool ownership. This goes for knowing your contractor, too: don’t decide on who is going to be facilitating a major plumbing and landscaping undertaking investment on your property before meeting them and understanding how they operate.

Make It Safe

The difference between a functioning and a functional pool area is the consideration of one fundamental element: the people are going to be using it. Equipping your pool with the proper steps and ladders, safety equipment and slip- and erosion-resistant landscaping take into consideration the preparation needed for a safe and comfortable setting.

Prioritize Quality

One of the easiest mistakes to make on a construction project is to confuse a cheap quote for good value. Most mechanical, safety and aesthetic mistakes or headaches that arise in pool ownership can be traced to cutting costs and cutting corners. Recognize the investment that you are making in your home, and be proud of going the extra mile to ensure that what you’re paying for is sustainable and of great quality.

Make It Yours

Don’t forget that this new amenity replacing a large part of your yard is part of your home, and not a separate extension of it. Incorporating the design of your home into your pool area elevates the level of luxury and satisfaction that the pool is meant to provide. Consider tying in your home’s color scheme with a stone footpath, or tiling your pool’s interior to make your morning swim uniquely yours. These aesthetic touches pay infinite dividends in the value of your investment to your home.

Let Us Be Of Service

You dream. We deliver.  Our experienced team is ready to assist in making your poolside concept a reality. Contact us with any questions you may have: don’t be shy, the water’s fine!

IDC Garage Doors

No exterior of a home would be complete without a durable and stylish garage door. We turn to IDC Automatic Doors for many of our home builds. They offer designs that match any home's style - modern, elegant, rustic, you name it. They truly are "the garage door place".

Now that it's spring, it's time to tackle your to-do list, starting with cleaning out the garage. With IDC doors, it doesn't have to be such a chore. Having an easy-to-use automatic door is great when you want to get a breeze going through the space. No more manually lifting the door or using a dated, rusty key pad outside. Here are some of our favorite projects with IDC doors.

Which style is your favorite?





Getting the Hang of New Lighting: A Chandelier Installation Guide

Whether delicate and ornate or sleek and modern, the chandelier retains the same associations today as it has for centuries: those of a statement piece in interior decor, a centerpoint of strong lighting and a room’s aesthetic. Many of our recent projects have featured chandeliers in a variety of styles and settings. If you plan to include a chandelier in your interior renovation, read on to learn the basics of installation. While the instructions below apply most directly to a do-it-yourself approach, the information provided remains useful even to those leaving installation to the professionals.

Installation Basics

As a first step, remember to always turn off the electricity to the circuit you're working on at the main electrical panel. Never attempt to work on live wires. Go to your house's main electrical panel and turn off the circuit breaker that controls the room where you'll be working. Test the light switch in the room to confirm that the power is off. 

If removing a pre-existing light fixture, unscrew and lower its canopy (the decorative, bowl-shaped disk against the ceiling) to access the electrical box. Carefully remove the twist-on connectors from the wiring, check the current again with an electrical tester, and remove the fixture (handing it to another person if you’re on a ladder). Next, remove the old electrical box, install the fan brace (if one is being used), and then install the new electrical box, making sure the assembly is secure.

Next, the chandelier’s wiring will be connected to the electrical box. Prior to this, shorten the wires and remove chain links so the chandelier will hang at the right height, and temporarily remove any shades from the chandelier before installing it. Thread the nipple first into the chandelier’s chain holder, then into the fixture-mounting bar. Feed the chandelier wires through the nipple. Lift the fixture and screw the mounting bar to the electrical box. Wrap the cable's copper ground wire around the grounding screw, tighten it, then connect the wire’s end to the chandelier's ground wire. Next, strip ½ inch of insulation off the chandelier's wiring. Use a twist-on connector to join the chandelier's white wire to the cable's white wire. Do the same with the chandelier's and the cable's black wires. Carefully fold and tuck the wires up into the electrical box. Slide the chandelier's canopy up the chain and press it tight against the ceiling, making sure the wires aren't poking out from the canopy. Push the retaining collar up the chain, thread it onto the chain holder, and hand-tighten the collar to hold the canopy tight against the ceiling. Finally, install the lightbulbs and shades, then restore the power to the room. You’re finished!

Design Characteristics and Tips

There are several varieties of fixtures that fall under the category of “chandelier.” Classic chandeliers most typically refract light via the use of crystal prisms, contemporary chandeliers feature a more minimalist design (often of metal), and modern chandeliers combine these elements to varying degrees. As a general guideline for sizing purposes, add up the length and width of the room in feet, and use the same number in inches for your fixture’s diameter. In the case of a dining-room chandelier, opt for a fixture one-half to three-quarters the width of the table, and hang the light 36 to 48 inches above the table. Choose the lower number for more intimacy, the higher one if you want to stand when toasting.


Now that you’ve got a more solid background on the design and installation process of chandeliers, you’ll be able to select a beautiful and functional fixture for your home. Though the considerations listed above may seem complex, rest assured that Gordon James will handle all facets of installation with skill and technical acumen. Contact us today, and we’ll light the way to a lovely new home interior!

Note: This article uses information adapted from original articles by Joseph Truini of This Old House magazine and Emma Kelly of RealSimple.com. Links to these articles may be accessed below.




Entertainers Dream by Gordon James

All About Archways

If you’re looking to add perceived space to the interior of your home by creating a larger opening between rooms, or simply hoping to add a bit of design flair, converting a typical entryway into a curved arch accomplishes either or both of these goals in a subtle and elegant manner.

The innovative builders at Gordon James will not only construct such an archway, but do so efficiently, precisely, and beautifully. Before viewing our featured gallery, “Orono Artisan,” for design inspirations, consult the following article to learn more about the basics of constructing an interior archway.

Generally speaking, you’ll need to frame a curved arch, bend and fasten a strip of drywall to the curved framing, and then install a flexible corner bead. First, cut away the drywall along the inside edge of the opening, in order to expose the framing. Don’t worry if you break it back a few inches on the walls. Determine the style and size of the arch (half circle, partial circle or ellipse), and make a pattern out of cardboard - it’s always better to visualize the project before fully committing to alteration of the architecture! Tape the template over the entryway, making sure that the design is pleasing and leaves enough remaining headroom.

Next, use your cardboard template to mark out and cut two plywood arches, each ½ inch thick. Cut a 6-foot two-by-four down to 2½ inches wide (or 2 inches narrower than the total wall thickness). Cut one top block and two side blocks and nail them to the door framing, centering them so that the plywood arches will sit flush with the existing framing. Now nail the arched plywood into place on both sides.

Cut short arch blocks and screw them between the plywood arches, at approximately 6 inch intervals. Then, cut strips of ⅛ inch hardboard (such as Masonite) and nail them to the arch blocks, making sure to follow the curve of the plywood. The hardboard will provide a smooth, solid backer for the drywall and eliminates creases. Run it all the way down the sides to the floor. It’s best at this stage to use short drywall or underlayment nails.

Next, fasten the drywall over the face of the arch. Let it overhang into the archway and then cut out the curve of the arch with a drywall or keyhole saw. Now, cut a strip of drywall the same width as the total thickness of the wall. Because the drywall will be applied to a curved surface, it will need to be bent, and therefore wetted. If you’re using regular ½ inch drywall, wet the backside of the strip, and lay it between two objects of identical height (for example, sawhorses), so that it can sag as the water soaks in. You may need to wet it several times and let it slowly bend for an hour or two. Alternatively, ¼ inch drywall designed to bend is also available.

While the drywall is still flexible, affix it to the hardboard; start 6 inches below the curve of the arch, pushing the drywall firmly against the hardboard, then drive a pair of nails every 6 inches into your blocking around the curve. Use straight strips to finish the sides, and apply flexible plastic corner bead to both edges, running the bead all the way to the floor. Start at one end and fasten the bead with a staple gun, driving 9/16 inch-long staples every 3 inches. Keep the bead centered on the corner and tight to the drywall. This step gives the arch its final shape, so take your time.

Finally, mix up some setting-type joint compound and cover the corner bead. Apply second and third coats of joint compound, letting it dry between coats. Sand the entryway down - at this point, the new entryway will be ready to paint!


As this article shows, the do-it-yourself approach to creating an interior archway can be laborious! Rest assured, the experienced home builders at Gordon James will handle all facets of construction with skill and technical acumen. Contact us today, and see how a professionally created archway can open up your home.

Note: This article uses information adapted from an original article found on FamilyHandyMan.com. A link to this article may be accessed below.


Wine Lover's Paradise by Gordon James

Home Wine Cellars - Building Basics

As the creation, tasting, and appreciation of wine are on the rise in the United States, the adventurous homeowner and wine aficionado often desires to install a wine cellar in their home. The innovative builders at Gordon James will not only construct this space, but fill it with comfort and character. Before viewing our featured gallery, “Wine Lover’s Paradise,” for design inspirations, consult the following article to learn more about the basics of constructing a home wine cellar.

Location, Location, Location

Contrary to popular belief, a home wine cellar doesn’t necessarily have to be in your basement. It’s important to remember, however, that the location that you choose will have a future impact on the cost of maintaining your cellar.  A wine cellar should be placed in the coolest and most humid place in your home. The closer you are to maintaining a temperature of 55°-58° F and a humidity percentage of 55-75%, the better off both your wine and your wallet will be.

Wine Lover's Paradise by Gordon JamesConstruction Considerations


Our accomplished team of builders will obviously take care of every step in the process of construction. To give you a general idea of what’s in store, here are some quick facts about a few elements:

  • Walls - To cover the walls and ceiling, you will need to utilize material that is resistant to the high humidity conditions. The most common choice for wall and ceiling coverings is water resistant drywall (the same type of drywall that is utilized in bathrooms and kitchens). The drywall should first be covered with primer, followed by a water-based, exterior-grade paint; oil - or solvent-based paints can leave a lingering odor in the wine cellar.
  • Alternative Wall & Ceiling Coverings - A decorative option is to cover your walls and ceiling with so-called “tongue and groove” material, complementing the wood, stain, and/or lacquer that will be on your racking. In addition, you might also install a raised panel ceiling and/or soffit. Raised panel ceilings can be made to fit any room configuration, whether it is a square, rectangle, octagon, or circle.
  • Flooring - When installing flooring in a wine cellar, you want to ensure that it will withstand the high-humidity environment. Carpeting and vinyl flooring are both poor choices, as moisture may make carpeting rot and vinyl buckle. You can utilize a bare concrete floor, as long as you seal the concrete. If you want a more decorative option, it is common to utilize porcelain tiles, cork, or hardwood flooring. Expansion of some of these materials may occur; allowing wood to acclimate to the wine cellar conditions for 48 hours will minimize said expansion.
  • Doors - You will need to install an exterior-grade door, sealed on three sides with weather stripping, and on the bottom with a threshold and door sweep. If you choose a glass door, it will need to be thermopaned to ensure proper insulation and minimal risk of condensation. Solid wood doors are also an option (though acclimation, as discussed above, is recommended).
  • Electrical Outlets - Outlets in a wine cellar are best placed in the spaces at the corners where the wine racks come together. At the same time, it is important to follow your local building code for outlet placement.
  • Lighting - There are very few limitations when it comes to lighting options for a wine cellar. There are some concerns about the harmful effects of UV lights on long-term storage, but more research must be done before a scientific consensus is reached.

Wine Lover's Paradise by Gordon JamesWine Lover's Paradise by Gordon JamesConclusion

Though the considerations listed above may seem complex, rest assured that Gordon James will handle all facets of construction with skill and technical acumen. Contact us today, and you too could soon be enjoying a glass in your own “Wine Lover’s Paradise.”