Summer Open-Air Patio

The Many Options in Designing Your Dream Patio

Patio season is upon us! Now is the time for entertaining, grilling, and embracing the outdoor elements of your home. If you are considering your own custom open-air patio or deck design for your home, we at Gordon James suggest you consider the following details to make your new favorite room in your home, outside of your home itself:

Summer Patio


Let The Outside In

A patio that connects seamlessly to the flow of your home can set your home in paradise. Whether converting a garage area or an old atrium into a more open-air design, the result is a transformational transition from your home to your yard. Additionally, keeping a covering for your patio allows you to take advantage of the space no matter the weather.

Outdoor Patio

Incorporate What You Have

Utilizing the makeup of your space not only can elevate some of your yard’s uniquenesses, it will also be what makes your open-air design singular to you and your home. Functional retaining walls become the backdrop of your new dining area. Sloped or hilly yards need not be leveled, but rather can serve as two-tier patio settings. A pool need not replace your patio, but serve as a centerpiece to your future cabana theme. Working with what you have already, rather from trying to start from scratch, is what will make your custom design pop.  

Play With Fire

No, not literally. But when designing an-open air patio or deck area, centralizing around your ‘hearth’ is a natural predilection. Whether a large bonfire, a stylish pit, or an interior/exterior chimney that connects the home to its outdoor deck, your source of fire will help dictate the focal points in every design. Choosing your hearth will clue you in to what stones, wood, or other materials will set your patio’s foundation, allowing you to expand from a focal source inspiration to create a cohesive aesthetic.

Home with Summer outdoor Patio

Mix and Match Styles

Bringing in accent pieces of various aesthetics to work together in your overall aesthetic is one of the joys of patio and deck design. Wish to pair a long communal table with exotic ferns and a showpiece you picked up on vacation last year? A patio allows you the flexibility to express yourself by combining aesthetics that embrace the feeling you wish to convey while entertaining or relaxing. Before rushing out to buy a new and uniform set, see how your favorite pieces work in conversation with each other. You very well may be on to something.

Outdoor home view with lawn

Let Us Help

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

Country Elegance by Gordon James

You’ll Be Floored - Refinishing vs. Resurfacing Hardwood Floors

Many older homes, originally constructed with aged hardwood floors, are now showing their age. If this is happening to your hardwood floor, you may wonder if the solution is to completely resurface your flooring or just refinish the wood. Resurfacing and refinishing are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings. The innovative builders at Gordon James are intimately familiar with hardwood floors, and how best to care for them to bring out their natural beauty. Before viewing our gallery, “Medina Masterpiece,” for example photos of a renovated hardwood floor, consult the following article to learn more about the basics of each process, and the differences between them.

What’s the Difference?

  • Refinishing involves sanding down the uppermost layer of the floor and applying fresh stain and lacquer over the existing wood. It’s a fairly simple process, requiring only a basic drum sander, stain, and lacquer to make the top of the floor look shiny and new again. You can undertake refinishing yourself — but the professional treatment is sure to leave you most satisfied.
  • Resurfacing your floor involves more than just putting a layer of polish on top. It may require removing old floorboards, grinding down uneven boards, and reinforcing wood planks with new nails. This process is more time-consuming and expensive — it requires an investment in wood-grinding equipment, lumber, a nail gun, power saw, and other special tools. In other words, this a job best left to professionals like the experts at Gordon James.

What’s Best for Me?

Your floor can be refinished if it has only superficial scuff marks and discoloration. If the planks are fairly even and smooth, all it needs is a light sanding and few new coats of stain and lacquer. Conversely, if your floor exhibits a number of the following signs, a full resurfacing may be the best solution:

  • The floorboards are noticeably warped, bent, water-damaged, or rotted.
  • Following sanding, some or all planks still have an unattractive or uneven color.
  • Some or all planks contain cracks, holes, or missing pieces.
  • Nails are missing from the floorboards.

A floor that needs resurfacing will still look very uninviting if you only apply a coat of stain and lacquer. While installing laminate flooring in a hardwood style on top of the existing floor is another do-it-yourself option, laminate simply doesn’t have the same richness and depth as well-maintained wood.


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’re guaranteed to be floored by the results.



The Ups and Downs of Staircase Renovation

When undergoing an extensive interior home renovation, it’s important to remember that even though your staircase(s) might be partially obscured, the design elements should be renovated to be brought into line with the new aesthetic of your home. The innovative builders at Gordon James are no strangers to staircases, and ensure they remain as stylish as they are functional. Consult the following article to learn more about the basics of the process.


Old Bones, New Character

An existing staircase can be rehabilitated if its framing is still solid and strong. Components such as the handrail, balusters, and newel posts may need to be refinished or replaced entirely, depending upon the nature of the project. For more information about the terms used in this article, see the graphic below.

a photo of staircase terms

Stringing Along

As an example renovation task, our hypothetical staircase will receive a new stringer (also called a skirt board) along its exposed side. It will be installed over the existing stringer; if removal of the original stringer would be ideal, the wall underneath would likely need to be touched up prior to installation of a new stringer. Treads, handrails, balusters, and newel posts will be removed, refinished, and put back in place--as each of these elements is removed, its original location should be marked, so that re-installation is as seamless as possible. Original risers will remain in place.

The new stringer will be long enough to reach from top to bottom of the staircase run and wide enough to span the tread width and riser height. Typically, a 1x12" board is used. Because a staircase is often a showpiece fixture in the home, quality lumber is the best choice; “clear, A-grade” lumber (containing no knots) would be ideal.

The new board is temporarily affixed to the exterior edge of the staircase, and markings are made where the stringer meets the risers and the tread tops (with the tread lines then lowered one inch to fit under the existing treads). After the board is cut at 90-degree angles along the markings, it is test-fitted against the existing stringer. The board should fit snugly below each of the treads, and the riser cuts should be flush with the face of the original risers. Further alterations are then made if necessary, and once a proper fit is achieved, the new stringer is affixed to the staircase (typically using a combination of wood glue and 2-1/2" finishing nails).

Prior to being reinstalled, treads are temporarily placed in their original locations to be test-fitted against the new stringer. Alterations are made if necessary, and treads are then reinstalled--first with construction adhesive, then with nails. If the treads are hardwood, predrilling holes ensures a quality finish.

Finally, the handrail, balusters, and newel posts are reinstalled. Hollow newel posts are often fit over existing support bases. The lower end of the handrail is affixed to the bottom post, the balusters are each set and fastened into their corresponding treads, the handrail is attached to the baluster tops, and the upper end of the handrail is affixed to the top post. The renovated staircase is now complete!

Beautiful Kitchen & Living Room by Gordon James

Orono Distinction, a custom home from Gordon James


Wayzata Cottage Classic - A Custom Home by Gordon James

Wayzata Cottage Classic - A Custom Home by Gordon James

Wayzata Cape Cod by Gordon James


Though the considerations listed above may seem complex, rest assured that Gordon James will handle all the “ups and downs” of construction with skill and technical acumen. Contact us today to begin your own home renovation journey!


Flowers & Garden

Time to Garden!

Happy April, folks! It's time to get out there and make things happen in the garden.  Click on the link below for some inspiration and great tips from our friends at Midwest Living Magazine.

April Garden Calendar