Tag Archives: cape cod custom homes

Say WHAT? Learning to Speak ‘Builder Lingo’

If you’ve ever watched Flip This House on A&E, you’ve probably noticed that builders speak their own language. When they talk about a “doghouse dormer” or a “header,” they’re not referencing canine housing or an Olympic dive.

Confused? Read on and we’ll break it down.


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In general, a dormer raises a portion of the roof in a home, creating added interior space. When a home has a steeply pitched roof, so common in New England, this is a cost-effective way of increasing space without raising the overall height of a structure, a crucial consideration in adhering to zoning laws. In the photo above, a home we built, two “partial dormers” were used. The smaller one, on the left, allowed added windows and floor space in the bedroom shown.

A “shed” or “full” dormer, shown below, runs nearly the full length of a home, greatly increasing the interior living space. A “doghouse” dormer (beneath) adds visual interest to the exterior and is a great way of adding a nook with a window seat to an upstairs room.

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Cabinetry: Custom, Semi-Custom, Stock

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In virtually every kitchen, whether in a new home or renovation, cabinetry is the priciest element. Custom cabinets are the most expensive and allow complete flexibility in style and size. “Stock” cabinets, those that are pre-made, offer the least flexibility. But as available options have increased in recent years, stock cabinets, like those in the kitchen we built shown above, can be a great way to trim costs.

The middle ground in cabinets is “semi-custom.” These are also pre-made and then delivered to a job site, but have many, many options available for style and finish. With the variation in size increments of semi-custom cabinets less than one inch, compared to three-inch variations in stock — which can lead to wasted space — semi-custom cabinets are the perfect middle-of-the-road option for most homes.

Roofing & Siding

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When it comes to roofing and siding, shingles and clapboard are the primary materials used for homes on Cape Cod. Each has its pros and cons.

  1. Cedar Shingle Siding | Cedar Shingle Roof: Pros – This is the quintessential Cape Cod look. The shingles will weather to a natural silver color. Cons – Although they will last for decades, salty sea air can cause rot and curling; they need to be power-washed every couple of years to get rid of mold.
  2. Dipped Cedar Shingle Siding | Cedar Shingle Roof: Pros – With “dipped” shingle siding, you can opt for natural or a color; they last longer than untreated cedar shingles and are not prone to mold. Cons – They are pricier than untreated shingles.
  3. Dipped Cedar Shingle Siding | Asphalt Shingle Roofing:Pros – Asphalt roofing shingles like these come in a variety of colors and are the least expensive roofing option. Cons – They can look “flat” on a home.
  4. Clapboard Siding | Architectural Shingle Roof:Pros – Clapboard siding adds a regal look and works beautifully for both antique homes and more contemporary styles; architectural roof shingles are also made of asphalt, but they add depth. They also last longer. Cons – Clapboard siding needs to be painted every few years.

Decorative Woodwork

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Decorative woodwork — or “millwork” — is just what it sounds like: purely for aesthetic value, rather than serving any structural purpose.

  1. Beadboard: The ultimate Cape Cod add-on, beadboard can be used in virtually any room for added texture and visual interest (though it can warp in full baths because of steam).
  2. Shiplap: Chip and Joanna Gaines created a nation-wide love of shiplap with their show Fixer Upper.Like beadboard, shiplap is lengths of wood joined together, but the pieces of wood are much wider, and shiplap is often installed horizontally rather than vertically.
  3. Chair Rail & Crown Molding: While chair rails, wood trim installed at waist height around the entire perimeter of a room, can serve a practical purpose — they were initially used only in dining rooms so that chairs wouldn’t ding the walls — they are now primarily ornamental and work in most rooms. Crown molding wraps around a room where the ceiling meets the walls. Both add a rich finishing touch to a space.
  4. Coffered Ceiling: Woodwork arranged in boxes on a ceiling, creating the look of a grid. Always an exquisite addition to a space, coffered ceilings can help delineate spaces within an open floor plan living area.

Please let us know if we can provide you with additional information, or if you would like to arrange a complimentary consultation.

Minor Upgrades, Maximum Impact

Updating your Cape Cod home doesn’t necessarily require a huge, floor-to-ceiling renovation. The team at C.J. Riley Builder can make minor upgrades to your home that pack a serious punch, taking your space from passé to perfectly polished. If you’re looking to make a big impact with a not-so-big project, these are just a few of the updates our expert team can tackle that can transform your home.

Fireplace Renovation

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As the centerpiece of your communal space, your fireplace is important. A dated surround and mantle can drag down the look of the entire room, while a new fireplace can revamp the space in no time, making your living room all the more inviting. In the above left project, we maintained a traditional, sleek look. In the above right, we combined hearty stone with modern white trim to provide eye-catching contrast.

Refinishing/Re-Staining Hardwood Floors

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Freshening the stain on your hardwood floors can brighten up any room and give it a more modern feel. A current on-trend look is striking, ebony-hued floors. But if that’s not your style, our team can refinish or re-stain your floors in a variety of options, including the rich finish pictured above.

Garage Door Refacing

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Minor exterior changes can revamp your home as well. The first thing your friends and family see when they arrive at your home is your garage, which is why refacing your garage doors makes a massive difference. We replaced these standard garage doors with stained wood alternatives to put a fresh face on this home. The rich wood really pops against the surrounding shingling and creates a more sophisticated look.

Outdoor Gas Light Fixtures

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Outdoor lighting details can add a more finished, Old-World look to your home. The authentic lanterns from these projects run off natural gas and produce real flames. Their warm light casts a soothing glow on cool summer evenings and chilly winter nights alike.

Powder Room Shower

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Creating an additional full bath curbs morning mayhem as your family races to get out the door. It also increases your home’s value exponentially. If you’re finding your powder room lacking, consider adding a shower to create a full bath. In these bathrooms, we added space-efficient walk-in showers. The glass doors to make the space feel open and lighten the visual footprint.

At C.J. Riley Builder, our experienced team is ready to make thoughtful upgrades to your home with expert care.

Our Small Jobs Division

As a Cape Cod custom builder, we know Cape homeowners have projects both large and small that require expert care. While many builders will pass on smaller projects, we have an entire division devoted to making sure they’re done right.

At C.J. Riley Builder, our small jobs division is here to help you through every step of the smaller building projects required in your home. A few of the jobs we can take on for you:

Window Replacement

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Replacing your windows can completely transform your home while increasing its value. New windows can help you save on energy costs. And apart from the obvious visual upgrade, new windows are easier to use and clean. As in the above project, your new windows can be historically correct and seamlessly blend with the rest of your home, a relatively recent development in custom building.

New Deck/Deck Replacement

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New England summers are fleeting. Adding a deck to your home, or upgrading your existing outdoor space, is a perfect way to make the most of Cape Cod’s favorite season. In this project, we placed the deck at the same level as the door to blur the line between indoor and outdoor entertaining, and budgeted plenty of room for a tented seating area for those hot summer days.

Basement Finishing

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Don’t let all that space go to waste! We can transform your basement into a welcoming home-away-from-home for summer guests, an activity room for the kids on rainy days, or a secluded man cave—it’s all up to you. C.J. recently upgraded his own basement, warming up the space with recessed lighting and cozy carpeting.

Hardware and Trim Replacement

It’s the little things. Replacing dated hardware in your home, like cabinet pulls and hinges, works wonders in updating a space. The same goes for replacing or refinishing your trimwork. You won’t believe the difference these seemingly small changes make.

Roofing and Siding

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In our seaside climate, it’s very important to keep your roofing and siding in good condition. When left untreated, cedar shingle siding is prone to rot. We can keep your roofing and siding updated and your mind at ease.

We understand the pride you take in your home, and we’re here to make your vision a reality, no matter the scale of your custom building project.