Aging in Place: Bathroom Accessibility

Planning to age in place could mean home renovations are necessary.  Probably the most important renovation if you own a two-story home is having a bathroom on the first or lower level of the home.

If there is a bathroom on the first level, or you need to add a bathroom, there are things you’ll need to consider:

  1. Is there space on the lower level to put a bathroom? – You’ll want to ensure that not only is there enough space for the room itself, but that plumbing and electric work can be completed in that area.
  2. Is there adequate space to move around? – If you use a cane, wheelchair or walker, is there enough room to move through the bathroom without risk of causing you to trip and fall?
  3. Grab Bars – Especially at the toilet, grab bars can help with standing and sitting to help keep balance and prevent falls. You’ll also need grab bars around the shower area to help keep balance when getting in and out of the tub or shower.
  4. Accessible Shower – Most homes have tubs and showers that are not accessible for someone with mobility issues. As you age and need help with mobility, a walk-in shower can make a big difference in preventing falls.  Grab bars, shower seats and adjustable shower heads can make a huge difference in maintaining your independence and preventing falls.
  5. Walk-in Bathtub – Since it can become increasingly difficult to step into a traditional bathtub, walk-in tubs are another great alternative if you prefer baths instead of showers. There are a variety of walk-in tubs on the market that can replace your existing tub or be added to your new bathroom.
  6. Accessible Toilet – The height of your toilet can make a huge difference in assisting you with sitting and standing. If the toilet is too low, a balance issue could cause you to miss the toilet and fall.  Adding a toilet with better height can be more comfortable and safe as you age.

Aging in place does come with a lot of considerations, particularly with your bathroom.  Your contractor can help you choose an area of your home to add a bathroom as well as discuss options to help prevent falls and keep you in your home longer.

Drafty Windows: The Unseen Energy Thief

With the transition from warm summer weather into cooler fall and winter temperatures, you want to be sure your home is as energy efficient as possible.  One of the biggest drains on your heating bill come from drafty windows.

Air leaks are not always easily seen.  One way to test air leaks in your home, and especially around your windows, is to do a “smoke test.”  All you need is a lit incense stick.  To conduct the test, close all of the windows and doors in your home and turn off any combustion appliances, like a furnace or water heater.  Turn on your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans so that you create a negative pressure in your house.  This negative pressure sucks outside air into your home through cracks or openings.

Now, to check for leaks, hold the lit incense stick close to the spaces around the edges of your windows and doors and look for a noticeable change in the smoke coming from the lit incense stick.  If there is an air leak, the smoke with be drawn inwards by the outside air being pulled into your home by the exhaust fans.  If the smoke doesn’t change or remains undisturbed, you can assume that there are no leaks in that specific area.  You will want to repeat this test throughout your home, checking all windows and doorways as well as any other areas you suspect a leak.

If your windows are the source of your air leak, you will want to consider replacing your windows with a more energy efficient window.  For our area, you will want to look for at least a double pane window with argon gas that is rated for Energy Star Northern Zone.  To increase the thermal efficiency of your windows, you could choose a triple pane window or even a triple pane with krypton gas (that could even keep Superman out!).

Today, there are many window manufacturers to choose from as well as different window styles.  Your contractor can help you choose the best window for your home and insure they are properly installed.

Cold Temperatures Are a Great Time For Inside Renovations

As summer weather starts to turn to fall, most contractors are starting to plan their schedules for the cooler weather.  During the fall, there’s still time to get window replacements or siding installs.  The cold winter months are the perfect time for inside work, like kitchen, bathroom or basement renovations.

If you’re thinking of indoor renovations, you’ll want to start planning now.

First, depending on the renovation, you may need to choose items so they can be ordered.  For example, if you’re doing a kitchen renovation, you’ll need to choose cabinets, counter tops and flooring so they can be ordered in time for renovation to start.

Second, the sooner you start planning, the sooner you can get on the contractor’s schedule.  In a lot of cases, contractors already have work scheduled into the fall and winter months.  So, if you want your project completed at a specific time, it’s vital that you plan early.

As part of the planning process, your contractor will work with you on choices you need to make and arrange for things like permits, subcontractors, etc., and keep you updated on specific timelines for your project.

Remember, work is usually scheduled and completed in the order contracts are signed. So, if you are planning indoor projects this winter, call your contractor today!

Spring Fever Brings Home Renovation Ideas

With the warm February temperatures we are having, many people are getting outside and working around the yard.  That time outside gave many people a chance to think about Spring and Summer projects.  If one of those projects includes an addition to your home, you’ll want to start talking to your contractor now.

There is a lot of planning that goes into renovations and additions to your home.  Most projects will require architectural drawings that can take time to be prepared and approved by your local codes office.  It’s important to give enough time for preliminary items to get completed so projects can be started and/or completed on your timeline.

It’s important to remember also that contractor’s schedule starts getting busier when warmer weather hits.  Most contractors complete work in the order the contracts are signed.  So, getting your project planning started early, gives you a better chance of getting your work completed sooner than those who didn’t.

If you’re unsure what items will be required for your renovation project, contact your contractor.  They will guide you through the entire process and make sure you’re happy your renovation or addition.

Home Addition Considerations Before Construction Starts

Home Addition

What You Should Know Before Construction Starts

 

9812ea3430172dc45d6f85278247fca0Love your house but wishing you had more room?  Wishing you had a place for a home office, larger family room, or master bedroom?   An addition could be a great idea.

If you love your home and want to live there long term, an addition could be a great way to create more room and give you the additional space you need.  Before you make final plans, it’s important to know what may be involved in the construction.  Here are a few considerations:

  1. Building Codes – You have a good idea what you want and maybe even know where you want the addition, but you first need to consider any building codes for the area where you live. Every municipality has their own set of regulations for building.  This would include required setbacks from your property line, electrical codes, underground utilities just to name a few.
  2. Design – Once you know the building codes you need to follow, you need to made decisions on the design of your addition and the specific location you want it built. You want to ensure it’s in a location that is convenient to access from the other living space of your home, especially if you are adding two or more stories.
  3. Impact – Will the location of your addition encroach on any utility access or affect any future zoning and planning requirements.
  4. Other Considerations – does your current home have the mechanical, plumbing and electrical capacity to handle the addition you want?

It is best to talk to a contractor as you make these decisions.  They can help answer a lot of questions before you begin and help you design an addition that will not only look good on your property but fit the design of other homes in your neighborhood.  He can also contact your municipality for information on codes and zoning.

Your contractor should also have access to an architect or engineer that can help ensure the addition is built correctly and consider any and all safety factors.

Choosing the right contractor will make the construction run smoothly and help you make the best decisions for your home and family.  This will ensure you get the best possible addition that you will enjoy for many years to come.

Choosing the Right Vinyl Siding Contractor

You’ve decided add new siding to your home.  You have an idea of what you want as far as style and color.  Now you need the right siding contractor.

Siding is a big investment.  It can change the appearance and value of your home.  So, choosing a siding contractor involves much more than just your cost.

A contractor that improperly installs siding by taking shortcuts may void the manufacturer’s warranty.  Checking your contractor’s references and evaluating their siding education and history is important in ensuring you get the best result.  Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor questions.

VSI Siding Installer LogoOne way to ensure you will get the best results and your siding will be installed correctly is to hire a Certified Vinyl Siding Installer.  This accreditation is achieved by successfully completing and passing an examination by the Vinyl Siding Institute.

Choose a contractor who is knowledgeable in all aspects of vinyl siding.  Choose a Certified Vinyl Siding Installer.

You can find a Certified Vinyl Siding Installer in your area by visiting www.vinylsiding.org/vsi-certified-installers

VSI Certified

Does your home have sufficient ventilation?

Three Ventilation Strategies to ensure the air in your home is safe to breathe.

How-to-have-clean-air-at-homeProper ventilation is very important in an energy-efficient home. When sealing and caulking to prevent air leaks, you can reduce air leakage to a point that contaminants with known health effects, like formaldehyde or radon, are sealed inside the house. Ventilation also helps control moisture, which can lead to mold growth and damage to the structure of your home.

So, how do you ensure your energy efficient home is ventilated enough?

  1. Natural ventilation – This is the uncontrolled air movement in and out of the cracks and small holes in your home. When sealing cracks and holes to make our homes more energy efficient, ventilation is necessary to maintain a healthy and comfortable indoor environment.

Natural ventilation is unpredictable and uncontrollable since you can’t rely on it to ventilate your home uniformly. Natural ventilation depends on a home’s airtightness, outdoor temperatures, wind and other factors. During mild weather, some homes may lack sufficient natural ventilation for the removal of pollutants. During windy or extreme weather, a home that hasn’t been air sealed properly will be drafty, uncomfortable and expensive to heat and cool.

  1. Spot Ventilation – This can improve the effectiveness of natural and whole-house ventilation by removing indoor air pollution or moisture at its source. Spot ventilation includes exhaust fans, such as those used above kitchen ranges and in bathrooms.
  1. Whole-House Ventilation – This is typically motivated by concerns that natural ventilation won’t provide adequate air quality even if some areas are controlled by spot ventilation. Whole-house ventilation systems provide controlled, uniform ventilation throughout your home. These systems use one or more fans and duct systems to exhaust stale air and supply fresh air throughout the home.

Ventilation systems come in four types:

  • Exhaust Ventilation systems depressurize your home and are usually simple and inexpensive to install.
  • Supply ventilation systems pressurize your home and are usually simple and inexpensive to install.
  • Balanced ventilation systems introduce and exhaust approximately equal quantities of fresh outside air and polluted inside air.
  • Energy recovery ventilation systems provide controlled ventilation while minimizing energy loss. This reduces the costs of heating ventilated air in the winter by transferring heat from the warm inside air being exhausted to the cold supply air. During summer months, the inside air cools the warmer supply air to reduce ventilation cooling costs.

If you’re concerned about your home’s ventilation, talk to your contractor. He can help guide you to the best system for your home.

Is your home losing energy?

Is your home losing energy?

Five tips to check your home for energy saving opportunities

 

home-energy-audit2Do you feel a draft in a room or wonder why your energy bills are so high? Especially during the winter months, you may tend to wonder if you can do anything to make your home more energy efficient.

A home energy audit is the best way to determine where your home is losing energy and what you can do to make your home more efficient. A “do-it-yourself” home energy audit is not as thorough as a professional assessment, but it can help you find areas that need addressed.

  1. Check for Air Leaks – Make a list of areas that you have obvious drafts. Check for indoor air leaks like gaps along baseboards or junctures of walls and ceilings and flooring edges. There can also be leaks outside of your home, especially where two different building materials meet.
  2. Seal all air leaks – Any holes or penetrations for faucets, pipes, electric outlets and wiring should be plugged and caulked. Look for cracks and holes and your foundation and siding. You’ll also want to look for leaks around windows and doors. You can seal all of these areas with sealant and caulk or by applying weather stripping.
  3. Check for Insulation –If the insulation levels of your home are less than the recommended minimum, you will sustain heat loss through ceilings and walls. Insulation was likely installed when your home was built. But given today’s energy prices, the level of insulation may not be adequate, especially in older homes. Check your attic to see how much insulation may be there. Also check for weather stripping and ensure it closes tightly. Check any openings for items such as pipe, ductwork or chimneys and ensure they are sealed. You can seal any gaps with caulk or other permanent sealant. Be sure to use non-combustible sealant around chimneys or other heat producing devices.

    1. Make sure your attic vents are not blocked by insulation.
    2. You’ll also need to check your walls for insulation. You can check this by selecting an exterior wall and turn off the circuit breaker for any outlets on that wall. Ensure the outlet is off and remove the cover plate. Then, gently probe into the wall with a thin, long stick or screwdriver. A plastic crochet hook works great and will retrieve small bits of any insulation material for easy identification. If you encounter a slight resistance, you have insulation there. This method will not tell you if the entire wall is insulated or if the insulation has settled. This will only tell you if there is something there.
  4. Inspect any heating and cooling equipment in your home annually. For example, if you have a forced air furnace, check your filters and replace them as needed. Filters should be changed about every month or two, especially during periods of high usage. If your furnace is more than 15 years old, you may want to consider replacing it with a newer, energy efficient unit. Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces.
  5. Are you using the most efficient lighting? – Energy for lighting accounts for about 10% of your electric bill. Check the light bulbs in your home and consider replacing inefficient bulbs with more efficient bulbs, like CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) or LEDs (light-emitting diodes). Consider the brightness of the bulbs you want and check the labels for lumens. While LEDs may be more expensive at first, your savings will pay you back.

Your contractor can work with you on checking areas of your home for air leaks and recommend the best method to make your home as efficient as

 

Aging in Place – The Latest Trends in Home Renovation

001_seniorsThe Center for Disease Control defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

Many senior citizens prefer to remain in their homes and not have to enter a nursing home or move in with a family member…at least not until they absolutely have to. In order to make this happen, your home made need renovations or modifications to ensure it is a safe place for you to live.

In the common household, there exist many risks for injury to older adults which impacts their capability to successfully age in place. Among the greatest threats is falling. According to the CDC, the leading cause of injurious death among older adults is falls. This makes fall prevention crucial to one’s ability to age in place.

Some common features in an everyday household that create possible dangers could be the lack of support in the shower or bathroom, inadequate railings on the stairs, loose throw rugs and obstructed pathways. Some modifications to your home can greatly decrease the risk of falling or other forms of injury.

Examples of home modifications include increased lighting, ramps, railings, grab bars, nonskid flooring, stair lifts and walk-in bathtubs. Other modifications can be made as well depending on your home and anticipated needs. Also, for multiple story homes, a first floor bathroom and/or bedroom may be added to your home.

Speaking to a good contractor can help you decide the specific needs and make plans for your home. Depending on your specific home, recommendations can be made to help you stay in your home longer.

Interior Water Pipes: Preventing and Dealing with Freezing

indexWith the bitter cold temperatures this time of year, frozen water pipes are a huge problem.   Freezing pipes can create even more problems if the pipes burst from the pressure.

Water expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on pipes, causing them to break. Even with insulation, your pipes can be at risk of freezing. Some ways to prevent freezing pipes inside your home include:

  1. Keep your house temperature at 68 degrees or higher – even if you are leaving your house for an extended period of time.
  2. Open cabinet doors below sinks – this will allow heat from inside your home to circulate and keep pipes warmer.
  3. Allow water to drip from faucets – both hot and cold. If water is moving, there is less chance it will freeze. It is also important to note that hot water may freeze before cold water. So, leaving both drip will help keep water from freezing.
  4. In colder areas of your home, like a basement, put a heat tape around pipes.
  5. Identify cold air drafts coming from a flue or chimney chase that may be near pipes and caulk the gaps, or use spray foam insulation.

If you have had issues with freezing pipes in the past, you may want to add a recirculating pump. Although it’s purpose is to provide instant hot water at your faucet or shower, helps to keep pipes from freezing but helps by keeping the water circulating constantly through both the hot and cold water lines.

If your pipes freeze:

  1. Try thawing the pipes under the sink with a hair dryer. Make sure the faucets are still on so melting water can drip out.
  2. Heat a pot of hot water on the stove and soak towels in it. Wrap the heated towels around cold areas of the pipes.

It is important to eliminate any drafts in your home that will allow cold air to enter. Ensuring your house is sealed properly with new windows, caulking, insulation, etc., should help when cold temperatures hit. Contact your contractor for a home inspection to ensure your home is energy efficient.