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Dickson Development Celebrates 45 Years of Innovative Quality Construction

45 Years

Richard Dickson Is at Home Being a Truly Local Builder.

Princeton Construction Company Celebrating 45 YearsTimes change. Styles change. But your home should always be your personal sanctuary, says Richard Dickson.

When Richard established Dickson Development in 1972, the all-American dream home was either a suburban split level or a Colonial. It was a time of rapid social and cultural change. The sweeping growth of technology was redefining every industry, with new home construction being no exception.

Yet, Richard Dickson isn’t all that interested in nostalgia. At age 70, this builder is still looking ahead. “I build with a young boy’s enthusiasm and an old man’s experience,” says Richard.

He loves building and renovating homes for families as much today as he did when he started. “Your home is a major part of who you are and how you see and define yourself,” he says. “Because of the importance of home, I think there must be something special about every one I build–some element that is unique–for each of my clients.”

He applies this philosophy to every project and remains true to his commitment to be a local builder. He believes he can provide the highest level of service by working with a select group of trusted suppliers and trade partners, many of whom he has contracted with for several decades. Richard limits new projects to a 7-mile radius of Princeton, so that he and his team can be on-site throughout every project. It is how he keeps each job on time and within budget.

“This approach to building delivers quality construction and gives us the time and opportunity to develop relationships with our clients, and that helps us understand their goals and needs,” he says.

Custom Home Builder in Princeton NJ

Richard began as a builder of single-family homes in the ‘70s, established his company as a leader in energy-efficiency design in the ‘80s, embraced the design-build model in the ‘90s, and earned a solid reputation for quality home construction and renovation work in recent years.

“New materials and technology have changed over the years, making all kinds of things possible, especially in the area of energy efficiency,” he continues. “We can build a better home today because of these innovations. Energy efficiency in home construction has been an area of interest of mine since I built the Sunrise Development in West Windsor, NJ, in 1986. It was the only energy-efficient subdivision in the region back then.”

Dickson Development continues to build and renovate homes to fulfill the dreams of homeowners of different ages, backgrounds, lifestyles and tastes. Many of today’s design concepts embrace open, flowing floor plans that create a central living space. “Other desired features include master bedroom suites with beautiful bathroom spaces, as well as high-tech touches such as home controlling systems,” says Richard.

Our changing world continues to inspire Richard Dickson to design better living solutions for every client who engages him. It’s what makes his work as interesting to him today as it was the day he framed his first house.

Family Room Renovation - Princeton NJ“Your home is a place where you go for sanctuary. It is a place to be alone, a place to be with your family, a place to be with your friends. It is your private place. I believe the desire to have a home is a basic human need that we all have, and I am proud to be a part of creating homes for my clients,” he says. “After all these years, this is still why I find building and renovating homes most rewarding.”

To find out more, call 609-799-0220.

Which Home Improvement Projects Offer the Highest Return on Investment?


The desire for a better life motivates most homeowners to remodel, yet adding value is just as important.

Home Improvement - Return on InvestmentWhen people choose to remodel, it’s likely because they have envisioned a better version of their home that provides the family more options and a richer life. So it’s no surprise that a 2014 National Association of Homebuilders survey identified “desire for better and newer amenities” as the motivation behind most home improvement projects. At the same time, however, most homeowners also want to know how improvements will impact their home’s value. Fortunately, there’s an answer.

Remodeling Magazine’s annual “Cost vs. Value Report” publishes data on 27 popular projects in 100 markets nationwide. It includes real-world pricing estimates from professional remodelers, along with the average value each project will add to the home in each market. The March 2016 report shows homeowners recouping more value for their remodeling dollars than at any time since the 2008 housing crash.

“Research shows that when home prices rise, remodeling projects add more value,” says Richard Dickson.

That’s a big change from recent years, which saw returns on remodeling slump across the board. “This year’s report shows that an average 64% of a project’s investment dollars should get recouped if the home is sold within a year,” adds Craig Webb, the magazine’s editor-in-chief. “That’s up from 62% in 2015 and the second-highest return in eight years.”

Exterior upgrades offer the highest percentage returns. Adding manufactured stone veneer siding will increase home value by an average 93% of the installed cost, a midscale garage door replacement returns 91%, and a steel entry door replacement returns 91%. Larger projects add more dollar value to the home but have lower cost-to-value ratios, with major kitchen remodels returning an average of 65%. One reason is that what makes a good kitchen or bath depends on personal taste and budget. Another is that labor is a much higher percentage of the job cost. It’s far more complicated to renovate a kitchen than to replace a door.

For homeowners looking for improvements that will make the home more saleable, Cost vs. Value is an obvious first stop. But it’s also a useful resource for people intending to stay put. For one thing, the report gives average real-world costs for work done by professional remodelers—a needed reality check to popular television shows. “It helps the homeowner understand that the cost of a professionally managed project has little or nothing in common with projects that you see on HGTV that are finished in a weekend at bargain basement rates,” says Webb.

The point is that while return on remodeling probably won’t be a make-or-break factor for most people, it can be a useful addition to any homeowner’s decision toolbox, regardless of how long they plan to live in the home.

5 Steps to a Safe, Stylish and Accessible Bathroom


Dickson-662-EditUniversal Design with Universal Appeal.

Today’s accessible bathroom designs can be both beautiful and provide for universal accessibility. Sleek grab bars and other modern bathroom fixtures transform routine functional products into elegant design elements. They make it possible for more people to live at home safely and independently, regardless of age and physical limitations.

The bathroom has traditionally been a potential danger zone for older adults, seniors and those with other special needs. Bathroom falls remain one of the number one reasons for visits to the ER.

Here are 5 things to consider when remodeling your bathroom to meet your changing lifestyle:

1. Choose unique fixtures. Look for grab bars and rails in beautiful shapes and finishes, faucets with lever handles, and a sprayer attachment for your showerhead.

2. Light it right. Make sure the light switches are easy to access. Consider the use of motion detectors as well. Good lighting is essential to bathroom safety.

3. Size up your space. Transform your accessible bathroom design by adding wider doorways for easier access, proper support bars and accessible height toilets. 

4. Keep it clean with a curbless shower. Curbless showers complement universal design principles and are easy to install when remodeling a bathroom.

5. Don’t fall for the wrong floor. There are many attractive nonslip and textured floors available. A nonslip shower floor is one of the best ways to prevent falls.










Project Price Reality Check

Home Improvement Project

Ask a Builder: What’s the Best Way to Keep Remodeling Costs in Check?

Consulting with a remodeler before drawing the plans will save expense and headaches.

Most remodelers have had clients show up at their office with a set of finished plans for a major project that, in reality, will cost 25% to 30% more than their target budget. Fortunately, this problem is easily avoided. Working with the remodeler on a pre-budget can eliminate unpleasant surprises and help the clients get the result they want at a price they can manage.

Pre-budgeting is essential because a lot of people base their budget expectations on average remodeling project costs they hear from acquaintances or find on the Internet. This approach may yield an accurate rough estimate for a simple project —a basic rectangular deck or a bathroom facelift, for example—but it’s not very helpful when planning a major custom remodeling job.

Specialized contractors like roofers, window replacement companies, and even some cabinet replacement firms can advertise prices for jobs on homes they haven’t seen because their jobs are all basically the same. The work is repetitive, so crews can complete it quickly and efficiently, holding down labor costs. These companies also often buy materials in bulk, which qualifies them for volume pricing.

The professional remodeler working on a major custom job operates in a vastly different world. Each project has a unique design and often includes engineered structural features as well as custom products and finishes. The homeowners are able to get exactly what they want, but project costs can vary widely based on the features and products they choose.

Remodeling costs for the same type of job can also vary from one home to another. For instance, it might take more time to add a feature, such as a dormer or cathedral ceiling, to a particular home because of its existing structural condition.

With a major custom remodel, it’s best for customers to ask a professional remodeler to review their initial vision and inspect their home before they get plans drawn. The remodeler can suggest value-engineering approaches to shave structural costs, as well as ways to save money on products and materials. Years of experience have taught the pro the most efficient approaches and—just as important in a remodel—the potential problems they might find once they start removing parts of the existing structure. Understanding about potential concerns will let the homeowners know how much of a contingency to include in the budget.

And while most remodelers don’t buy products in bulk, they are highly skilled purchasers who know how to get the best available pricing. They can suggest brands and models that look and perform as well as those the customers have in mind, but that are kinder to the budget.

Once the actual design process gets underway, it’s a good idea to have the remodeler do spot checks at different stages. A design-build company will do this as a matter of course, and many architects and designers will involve a contractor in the design. Be sure to ask. If the design firm doesn’t offer this service, then insist on having it done. If the remodeler hasn’t been chosen yet, paying one a consulting fee may be a wise investment.

The bottom line is that involving a professional remodeler at the earliest stages of the design is an investment that more than pays for itself.

The New Science of Remodeling

Kitchen remodeling

Kitchen Renovation in Princeton Junction, NJMaking a home durable and efficient is no job for amateurs.

There’s a common but flawed perception that tightening up an older home to make it more energy efficient will make it more susceptible to mold and moisture. Nothing could be further from the truth. The few homes that have had problems share a common denominator: The contractors who worked on them didn’t understand how to get the most out of contemporary materials and construction practices. That takes an educated pro.

In ancient times—30 or so years ago—it was much easier for someone with basic construction knowledge to build or renovate a home. No more. Today, the combination of contemporary building materials and code-mandated construction practices has made the job more complex with less margin for error.

First, consider the evolution of materials. Suppliers used to sell framing lumber cut from mature trees that could absorb a lot of moisture without problems, a quality known as hygric buffer capacity. Builders and remodelers put that lumber into drafty walls where any moisture absorbed by the wood could escape before it caused problems.

But those mature trees have all been harvested. Today, a new room addition will likely be built using a combination of engineered boards and dimensional lumber cut from fast-growing species—neither of which can store and release as much moisture as old-growth wood could. To complicate things further, energy codes mandate that those materials be put into well-insulated, nearly airtight walls.

These are not drawbacks. Engineered wood offers real structural advantages, and the insulation and air sealing that are a necessary part of a major remodel, addition, or energy upgrade will make a home more comfortable and efficient. No modern remodeler or homeowner would want to do without them. The materials and insulation aren’t the problem; the problem is contractors who don’t know how to work with those materials.

That makes it crucial to hire a remodeler who understands the basic principles of moisture-related building science. Yes, good design and construction is now a science as well as an art.

Professional remodelers use bulletproof roofing, siding, and flashing that keep water out of the structure. They also know how to craft efficient wall systems that can handle the large amount of moisture put into the home’s air by a typical family (from activities such as cooking and showering) without problems.

These remodelers understand that drying potential is as important as moisture resistance, and that wall systems must be optimized for the local climate. For instance, if any of that airborne moisture works its way into a wall, it needs to dry primarily to the outside in a heating climate but to the inside in a cooling climate. The educated pro knows how to make sure that happens.

The bottom line is that the structure needs to stay dry no matter how wet the weather or how many long, steamy showers the occupants take. Back in the ’70s or ’80s, industry standard practices meant that someone could renovate a home and avoid moisture issues without much building science knowledge. That’s no longer the case.

Does your remodeling professional understand this?