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Building a New Home? Did you receive your estimate as an itemized price list or by the square foot?

With the economy booming (so I hear), pricing on material is changing almost daily (so it feels). I have had this question asked of me about 10 times in the last 2 weeks: “how much will it cost per square foot to build a home”? You will hear quotes from $125.00 per SF to $225.00 per SF.  My answer: what building material are you using, e.g., stick build or truss and what do you envision for your finish esthetics, e.g., chair rails, raised panels, crown moldings, granite? This is when my client says, “well, I would like some of those finishes, but not all of them are needed”.  Okay then, this is where IF YOU HAD an agreement with the contractor at a price per square foot, it gets a little tricky and starts to fall apart.

Once you start removing and adding items it is almost impossible to adjust the square foot price for accuracy. The question now remains: are you actually paying more or less on the square foot for what you are getting. My opinion, price the ACTUAL item, product, and linear footage for accuracy. Have a plan, a physical construction set. Then, if you don’t have a general contractor of choice, price it yourself. Visit at least two local lumberyards for a price on material, and they will give you a labor estimate when asked. Keep in mind though, the labor estimate, if given, may not be the same quality you are looking for, but it is exactly what you need to consider – “labor estimate”.  The reason I believe and know this is the best way to go, is from over 25 years of personal experience.

Think about it, if you have a great room side by side with a formal dining room, both without interior walls, how would one believe the square foot (12”x 12”) estimate method is accurate?  It cannot be.  The best way to maintain your budget and accuracy in estimating is spending the time to price nail by nail and a good general contractor (G.C.) that knows quality, who is affordable and a punctual individual with a knack for maintaining their client’s budget.  Do not get into the big no-no after you sign an agreement with a G.C. and decide on upgrading items and changing the design plan!  This is where the budget wanders off course, does not come back (only climbs higher)and the G.C. can now make up for lost money and time if one so decides in order to keep the job moving along. This warning is usually the one that blows all the budgets – “on-site changes”.  So take it from me; first: take your time in planning, second: invest in what you can afford – not keeping up with the “Jones”, third: monitor and be involved in your construction process.  After all, this is your home.  Happy building and enjoy the summer!

Please consider DiPetrillo Properties for YOUR Home Building – we specialize in ground up construction!


If I want to ‘go green’, what size home should I build?


I see everything going green today: companies, cars, coffee, and so on. Though, when it comes to your home, what is your real motivation to go green? Is it a concern for the environment? As defined on the EPA’s website, – Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.
“Green is money saved”, we say – but what about the environment? In my opinion they go hand to hand. As we continue to see new technology being utilized in Green building practices, I often think about how we do not know yet what the usage of it will add to emissions and/or what toxins are being added to the environment? What type of waves do Z-waves really cause? Any health risks? The answer is NO, at least none that we know about yet. This is life though, isn’t it? We so often don’t know what harm things cause until later… It has been this way since the beginning of time I am sure. Unfortunately, we sometimes even ignore the warnings – such as those labeled right on the side of the item and we take the risk anyway!
So, back to the point at hand, when someone asks me what size home to buy because they want to go green, I ask, “Do you really?” The concept of green building isn’t new, as our great-grandparents built climate-appropriate homes, mostly with materials right on the property! Does ‘what’s old is new again’ sound familiar? Today’s green homes integrate not only climatic thinking but are resource and energy efficient, safer for occupants, and often much less expensive to maintain. Most of all a lot smaller than we’ve gotten used to building. Most new homes never need much of what we have been installing that requires a power source (even when we are not using it)!
So what does go into a green home? Some key components of a green home include:
1. Energy-efficient features: appliances, windows, water/heating systems, light bulbs;
2. Water-efficient features: showerheads, faucets, toilets, dishwashers, washing machines, irrigation systems, rainwater collection system, wastewater treatment systems, hot water circulation systems;
3. Resource-efficient features: home orientation on lot, floor plan layout, natural light design, wood species such as bamboo, recycled materials in carpets, tiles, concrete;
4. Indoor Air Quality features: The heating, air conditioning and ventilation system (HVAC) must be properly sized for an accurate and properly ventilated home. Using fans inside will cycle fresh air and release stale air. Low-VOC paints and finishes and wallpapers should be used as well. If you are unfamiliar with Low-VOC material, you may reference this site for more information ;
5. Outside the Home features: take care in preserving trees and other vegetation, proper plant selections for climate (Rhody Natives are a great choice, here’s their site to reference ) and watered as needed, driveways and other impervious surfaces should be reduced – use gravel, pavers, other permeable systems.

Bottom line – going green is not only a decision that needs to be made by the consumer, but the homebuilder must have a clear understanding of the homeowner’s desires, budget and expectations as well. These are the many “shades of green” and spending the time together (contractor and homeowner) without being rushed along in the process will ultimately accomplish an environmentally friendly, safe, and cost efficient home.

THAWING Ice Dams & Snow Covered Roofs = Potential Damage!

The thaw has officially started and we’re seeing Ice Dams everywhere.

Here are some tips on how to prevent more damage:

Icy gutters and snow packed high on roofs that are slowly starting to thaw…whats next? Warming temps create disaster if followed by a freeze! Do not break the ice from the gutters when solid. An old method that I myself have used to help with the thawing – add salt to panty hose, then lay it across the back of the gutter closest to the roof shingles to assist the thawing and create space. After separating the two (gutter from roof shingles) – move the panty hose to the top of the gutter to thaw downward. When you feel the ice is soft enough slowly break apart without adding force to the hangers or gutter. IF it breaks loose go ahead and remove it but if it doesn’t STOP and let it thaw on its own. You already broke the ice dam apart (roof from gutter) which is most important. If snow remains on the roof it will potentially fill the gap again so you may want to have that removed by a professional first? As I’m sure you already know – if you do not climb roofs regularly, do not attempt any of this on your own, it can be a hazard.

To safely remove snow from roofs, the Office of the Governor, RIEMA, HEALTH and OSHA recommend the following tips:

Tips for Residents:

• Hire a professional. Licensed and insured roof contractors are the best source of professional snow removers.

• For roof snow removal, use a snow rake with a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing on the ground. Snow rakes are available at most hardware stores.

• Don’t use a roof rake while on a ladder and don’t attempt to scale your roof to remove snow.

• If you must use a ladder, make certain that the base is securely anchored.

• Roof drainage systems should be kept clear to minimize the risk of future roof ponding in the event of subsequent heavy snow melting. This is especially important for flat roofs.

• Make certain not to contact electrical wires.

• Don’t attempt to clear snow from your roof during periods of strong winds.

• Snow removal equipment meant for pavement should never be used on the roof since they can damage the roof cover system.

• When using products, such as ROOFMELT, read all manufacturer’s warnings and product safety information carefully. These products can be harmful to skin and eyes if used incorrectly.

• “When in doubt, stay out, and evaluate”  *If you feel that your roof is in danger of collapsing, get out of your house and contact your local building commissioner or a roof contractor.

Tips from OSHA for Businesses:

• When possible, use snow removal methods that do not involve workers going on roofs.

• Evaluate loads exerted on the roof or structure (e.g., total weight of snow, workers and equipment used), compared to the load limit of the roof.

• Require that workers use fall-protection equipment.

• Ensure that workers use ladders and aerial lifts safely.

• OSHA standards require employers to evaluate hazards and protect workers from falls when working at heights of four feet or more above a lower level or 6 feet or more for construction work.

• For more detailed information on safely removing snow from rooftops and other elevated surfaces, please see information available at:

How to Recognize Signs of a Potential Roof Collapse:

• Sagging roofs

• Severe roof leaks

• Cracked or split wood members

• Bends or ripples in supports

• Cracks in walls or masonry

• Sheared off screws from steel frames

• Sprinkler heads that have dropped down below ceiling tiles

• Doors that pop open

• Doors or windows that are difficult to open

• Bowed utility pipes or conduit attached at ceiling

• Creaking, cracking or popping sounds

In addition, remember to shovel out nearby fire hydrants and storm drains and please offer to assist elderly family and neighbors with shoveling and snow removal. The elderly or those with functional needs seeking assistance with shoveling should contact Serve Rhode Island

DiPetrillo Properties Ice Dams

Thawing ice dams

at (401) 331-2298. Please note that Serve RI will not assist with removing snow from roofs.

DiPetrillo Properties – Planning, Investments, Construction

Do you really trust your contractor? Really? How well do you know him?

Finding the right contractor for the right job task is sometimes difficult. Let me re-phrase the statement – finding the right contractor, one that you can trust when you are not looking over their shoulder or in areas that you can’t see, is sometimes (or often) difficult. It seems everybody is about price these days, “How cheap can I get the work done for?”… Even though the contractor is not registered, has no insurance, only a few complaints filed against him, “ummm, he’ll never do me wrong”.  NOT TRUE, actually this may be the furthest thing from the truth!  Do you know most complaints filed are those against referral contractors or people you ‘just know’ do the type of work that you need done? Why is it that even when people ask you, you advise against it, they often still go ahead and hire these ill equipped contractors? Human nature I guess? Then who gets the call when it goes bad? You guessed it, the first contractor – the one that had proper insurance, a valid license, no comments or violations filed against him, and not your weekend specialty – but has been doing it for many years “the seasoned professional”.

Sometimes cheap, as we all learn in so many different areas in life, is not the best way to choose for your home? Know your contractor. Check them out prior to hiring them. View the RI Contractor’s Registration Board website to really research them – you will be surprised what they do not want you to know, the one’s that “cut the corners” anyway!

As a certified Rhode Island State Building Inspector, though not active, I see what my colleagues deal with first hand and hear the stories on a monthly basis. They are YOUR stories, the one’s that end up costing you a lot of money at the end!  Do your research up front. Have everything in writing. Do not give any money until the day they show up for work with ladders ready! If they claim they need a large amount of money up front, to me, they are not established. I suggest anything paid other than material that you have on your site to be used, is called labor and, personally – I get paid at the end of the week after working all week.

I know, some say “…how bad can it be?” Well, as an example let me tell you about a job that I recently inspected for insulation. Talk about missing some areas or having a few gaps! This is a job that involved electrical, including installation of a new bathroom exhaust fan. When I inspected this attic, there was a loose piece of plywood laid over the exhaust box. Upon removing the plywood, not only were the wires not properly installed, within a junction box with the correct wire nut sizes, but the exhaust vent was never installed! This will contribute to moisture and mold in the attic…

Sometimes you may think you were successful and drilled the price down but at the end, if the contractor is not honest and unless they are caught – will end up beating you on price! Don’t lack quality for a decent price. Get 3 bids for each job from reputable contractors that you checked out completely. Ask for copies of insurance and license and each person on site should have a license as well. Don’t have the corner pub customers with nothing to do filling in as laborers on your job.

Craig DiPetrillo – DiPetrillo Properties – Planning, Investments, Construction

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