Thursday, March 21, 2013

March Into Spring Maintenance

As we welcome spring with our annual spring cleanups, take a few additional steps to save money on energy bills this summer, improve your home's appearance, and ward off big-ticket repairs later with spring maintenance.

Check your AC - For about $75 to $200, a technician will tune up your cooling system to manufacturer-rated efficiency -- and you won’t sweat the first hot weekend with an out-of-commission air conditioner.
Replace your thermostat - Energy Star says that for an initial investment of $50 to $150 for a programmable thermostat, you can save about $180 annually on cooling and heating bills -- if you can live with higher indoor temperatures in summer (and cooler temperatures in winter). Set the "hold" or "vacation" feature for a constant, efficient temperature when you’re away for the weekend or on vacation.

Re-caulk as necessary - If the gap around a door or window is wider than a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. Check window-glazing putty, too, which seals glass into the window frame.

Clean the gutters - Nature’s debris-- decomposed leaves, twigs, and spring petals and seeds (think maple tree "helicopters") -- may be worse in spring than in fall. Keeping these clean helps prevent everything from rotted fascia board to foundation leaks.

Repair the roof - An easy way to inspect the roof to find damaged, loose or missing shingles without risking life and limb is to use a pair of binoculars. Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too.
Pressure wash the exterior – Clean your home's exterior to remove accumulated dirt, mold, and stains from the siding, deck, sidewalks, driveway and garage floor, fences, and lawn furniture. You can rent a pressure washer for $40 to $75 a day from local home improvement stores.
Wash the windows - It's only when the windows are clean and the spring sun shines in that you'll realize how dirty they were. If you try washing with a scrubber and squeegee like the professionals – you’ll never go back to window cleaner and newspaper.

Before washing the glass, clean out the sills and window tracks with a soft brush or vacuum attachment. Pour a small amount of water into the sill to ensure that weep holes, which drain rainwater to the exterior, aren't clogged. If the water doesn't exit, use a piece of thin wire to gently clear the hole.
 Repair driveway, sidewalks, and patios - Fix any breakdown in concrete or asphalt before it worsens. You can patch or fill surface cracks, chips or flaking in concrete yourself using cement-repair products, such as those made by Quikrete. For deeper cracks, settling or sunken concrete, or frost heaves, when moisture beneath the concrete has frozen and elevated the slab, call a professional.

Check the deck - Resealing is always a good idea to protect the wood. But more important, before you invite the neighbors for the first party of the year, make sure your deck can handle the load. Deck components inevitably age, and heavy snow can cause stress damage. At a minimum, test several areas of the deck for decay, especially those that tend to stay damp. Two signs: The wood is soft and spongy, and it doesn’t splinter if you poke it with an ice pick or screwdriver.

Prepare to mow - A dull lawn mower blade doesn't slice, but instead tears grass, leaving it vulnerable to disease, sun damage and insects. A blade typically needs sharpening once or twice a year, or more often depending on how big your yard is, how frequently you mow and the type of grass you have.

You should also tune up your lawn mower to increase its efficiency and reduce polluting emissions. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to change or clean the spark plugs, oil, and oil filter.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hot in the Kitchen

Homes have become kitchen-centric. The heart of the home now serves many roles – entertaining destination, command center, home office, and of course…food preparation headquarters. Likewise, homeowners have become ever-willing to devote a greater share of thought, square footage, and budget to design kitchens that will ease this lifestyle integration. Going into 2013, there are several trends that are cooking up a storm.

White Kitchens - White kitchens are always in style. They’re clean, bright, and work with every design style. White painted cabinetry has always been the most popular of all painted cabinetry.

Glass Backsplash – High gloss is ‘in’ for cabinets, appliances, and backsplashes.Whether it is glass tiles, sheet glass, or back-painted glass, glass is becoming very popular. Easy to clean and maintain, glass is a clear choice for kitchens. 
Dark FinishesWhile a dream kitchen might be "bright and sunny” to some, others prefer dark finishes in their kitchens, and these finishes are on trend, too. These bold spaces often have an air of elegance and provide a sense of coziness.

Touch Activated Faucets – Dirty hands have met their match. While pop-out faucets reign supreme, the trend toward touch activation is coming on strong.

Multi-function Islands – Big islands are moving functionality to another level. By providing additional storage, bridging kitchens and living spaces while upping the entertaining factor, and hiding appliances, it is easy to see why these anchors of the kitchen are on trend.

Lights, Lights, and More Lights – Great lighting has always been important in the kitchen, but now lighting is being layered with a mix of task lighting and ambient lighting. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are energy-saving light sources that last for years and offer tremendous flexibility. Under cabinets, under open shelves, recessed lighting, toe-kicks, and even in drawers are just a few areas lighting up for LEDs.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fully Loaded

Since we do more than 35 billion loads of laundry each year, it is time to bring the laundry room out of the basement.   While new home owners can plan for a multi-functioning laundry room, remodelers need not be left out.  Careful planning and design can bring a fully loaded laundry command center to you, too.


Washers and dryers can be placed anywhere…in their own room, in a closet, in a bath, and even in the kitchen depending on the space you have.  With many homeowners downsizing, interesting nooks are being found in all parts of the house to accommodate a washer and dryer. Considerations of noise, possible leaks, and humidity need to be taken, but proper planning can make a clean break from any dirty worries.

Make your closet your laundry room. Tossing in the dirty clothes could never be easier, and when they come out, hanging them up is a snap.

Adding a stackable washer and dryer to the master bath keeps water lines together and the humidity in one room. Plus, doing a load of towels could never be easier.

Carving out a space in the kitchen allows the laundry to be done in the center of the hub of activity.  Whites can be soaking while pasta is boiling with no unnecessary steps in between - the ultimate design for multi-tasking.
Once you decide on where your washer and dryer will be, now all you need to determine is what features will make the space most efficient for you.

Counters – A long, uninterrupted counter gives plenty of space for sorting and folding.  A window keeps the space nice and bright.

Drying rack – A designated space for hang-to-dry items keeps door frames and shower bars free from hanging items.

Ironing board – For such a small item, the ironing board creates big dilemmas.  Having a drop down design keeps the ironing board in the laundry room, and putting it away just takes a second.

Dog bath – If you have the space, and the dog, a wash station may save money and headache in the long run. Dirty paws are easily washed in this raised space.


Laundry sink – If you find yourself doing a lot of hand washing or soaking, then adding a sink may be just the feature for you.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home
No matter if you are a young family, a multi-generational family, an active adult, or baby boomer planning for the future, universal design just makes sense.  Dorothy said it best; there really is no place like home, and universal designs easy, attractive, and adaptive environment makes your home safe and accessible for everyone, regardless of age, physical ability, or stature.
Universal design is about creating an attractive, stylish space that everyone, regardless of age, size, or ability, can live in or visit. A home with universal design makes it easier for residents to live in, and for guests to visit now and in the future as everybody's needs and abilities change.
Seamless Inclusion
Accessibility design features began in the public sector with ramps and grab bars but today, accessibility design features have gone private.  While these features used to stand out, now they blend seamlessly and are nearly invisible to the casual observer.  In fact, many of the design elements make a home feel more spacious and all make for easier living. 

Zero-step entry - Whether you’re maneuvering a stroller through the front door, carrying a load of  groceries, or navigating your mother’s wheelchair, a zero-step entry allows for easy transition from outside to in.

Lighting - Add more lighting for close-up tasks such as cooking, reading, hobbies (knitting, fly-tying) and working from home. Plan for natural, ambient, and task lighting for an effective lighting plan.

The bathroom- A bathroom becomes accessible for guests of any age with a no a threshold shower, a handheld showerhead, and shower rails.

The kitchen – Generous counters, work spaces of varied heights, and appliances appropriately leveled allow all cooks in the kitchen.

Other essential features of universal design include:
  • One-story living. Places to eat, use the bathroom and sleep are all located on one level, which is barrier-free.
  • Wide doorways. Doorways that are 32-36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass through. They also make it easy to move big things in and out of the house.
  • Wide hallways. Hallways should be 36-42 inches wide. That way, everyone and everything moves more easily from room to room.
  • Extra floor space. Everyone feel less cramped. And people in wheelchairs have more space to turn.
  • Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for people with poor hand strength. But others like them too. Try using these devices when your arms are full of packages. You'll never go back to knobs or standard switches.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shedding Light

Exterior lighting not only provides an added layer of safety and security, it also creates a visually interesting aesthetic for your home. If you are just beginning to think about exterior lighting, start by asking yourself a few questions…What are you trying to accomplish? What environment are you trying to create? What is the right type of light to do the job?
Safe, Secure, and Spectacular
Keeping you and your house safe and secure, while making a spectacular statement with lighting, is achievable with a solid design plan. For example, motion-detecting security lighting mounted near the garage provides illumination when you get out of your car at night; the same function deters intruders while enhancing the architectural detail of your home. Motion detecting switches can also be applied to landscape lighting to illumine shadowy areas should anyone walk nearby while highlighting landscape features that greet guest.

As you start to plan your exterior lighting design, consider the following:

A well-lit front entrance enables you to greet guests and identify visitors. Wall lanterns on each side of the door will give your home a warm, welcoming look, while assuring the safety of those who enter. Under a porch or other overhang, you can use recessed, chain-hung or close-to-ceiling fixtures. A separate rear or side entrance can be lighted with a single wall lantern installed on the keyhole side of the door.
Landscaping and trees make stunning features whether illumined from below or given presence by a light mounted in the tree itself.

Highlight architecture through the use of uplighting. Uplighting is dramatic because we expect light to shine downward. Used in moderation, it’s a great way and landscaping features. If using on architecture, aim the fixtures so that the light is captured by your eaves to lessen light pollution.
Steps, paths, and driveways should be illuminated to make sure family members and guests are able to move about easily and safely after dark. You can install path lights or post lanterns or attach lights to the side of the house.
Create inviting spaces by turning decks and patios into evening retreats by concealing low-voltage mini-lights under steps, railing or benches. Another idea is to install a spotlight in the branches of a nearby tree.
To help improve any element of your home, contact Westenhaver Construction at 573-302-0040 or contact us here.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fall Back into Good Home Maintenance

Leaves are dropping, temperatures are dipping, and that means just one thing…your to-do list is doubling.  With fall arriving and winter knocking, the proverb, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is certainly true for home maintenance. 

Where there is a will, there is a way
Water has more will than anything.  Be sure to clean gutters and downspouts frequently throughout fall to prevent buildup of leaves and other debris. Neglected gutters can lead to wood rot problems, pest infestations, wet basements, foundation damage and many other expensive complications. Be sure water is not coming down behind gutters and that all support brackets are securely in place. Check to ensure water drains properly and doesn't pool, which can cause damage to foundations, driveways, and walkways.
A penny saved
The biggest energy loss occurs through windows and doors.  Inspect and repair any loose or damaged window or door frames. Install weather stripping or caulking around windows and doors to prevent drafts and lower heating bills. Clean and lubricate garage door hinges, rollers, and tracks and be sure screws are tight.

A good beginning makes a good ending
Nothing is worse than having a heating emergency when temperatures have fallen to single digits, so begin now to ensure that doesn’t happen.  Replace the filter in your furnace. Consider having a heating professional check your heating system to ensure optimal performance and discover minor problems before they turn into costly major repairs. Clean your ducts to better your heating system's efficiency as well as to reduce household dust and to provide relief to those with respiratory problems. Also check for air leakage especially around joints. Clean your thermostat's heat sensor, contact points, and contacts. Check accuracy and replace if necessary.  The number one factor that affects a person's bill is the heat they use in their house. Heating accounts for approximately 70% of a person's energy bill. Turning down your thermostat at night or while you are gone during the day will go a long way to reducing your energy bills. It is recommended keeping your thermostat at 68-72 degrees for heating purposes and dropping it lower at night. By turning your thermostat down at night, you reap the savings of a lower winter utility bill. If you have trouble remembering to turn the temperature down, consider installing a programmable thermostat to do the work for you.
Forewarned is forearmed
A little work on the front side can eliminate a potential problem in the future. To prevent pipes from freezing and bursting, ensure that the pipes, as well as the wall cavities where they reside, are well insulated. Be sure that you know how to locate and turn off the water shut-off valve in case pipes do freeze. Garden hoses should be drained of water and stored indoors. Make sure your outside water spigots are completely turned off and capped to prevent freezing.
Strike while the iron is hot
In this case, strike before you heat up the iron.  Call a professional in to inspect and clean your chimney. Fireplaces that are regularly used during the season should have an annual cleaning to prevent dangerous chimney fires. Test your fireplace flue for a tight seal when closed. Consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm near the fireplace and furnace.
There’s no time like the present
Grab the ladder, or pull down the access, and crawl into the attic. Be sure attic insulation doesn't cover ventilation vents in the eaves to prevent winter ice dams on the roof. Then head to the roof. Be sure ridge vents and vents at eaves are free of plants and debris .Check bird and rodent screens for attic vents to prevent any unwanted guests.
Seize the moment
Now is the time.  Although grass appears to stop growing in the fall, the roots are actually growing deeper to prepare for winter. Now is the best time to fertilize and reseed your lawn. Prune your trees and shrubs after the leaves turn to encourage healthy growth in the spring. Trim any tree limbs that are dangerously close to power lines or the roof of your house. Heavy snow and ice can cause damage in the winter.
To help improve any element of your home, contact Westenhaver Construction
at 573-302-0040 or contact us here.