Blog Archive for July, 2017

How to improve indoor air quality in your home

Categories: Blog | Posted: July 27, 2017

You might think that the air outside is harmful, but did you know that your indoor air is often more polluted? Pollutants are brought in—through vents and windows, in cleaners and air fresheners, and on clothing—and can stick around when there’s no place for them to go. The chemicals found on new carpet and furniture and a fresh coat of paint on the walls contribute to indoor air pollution. Formaldehyde is used in a wide range of products, from pressed boards to drapery fabric. Any area with standing water—like a leak under a sink or a damp basement—creates an environment for mold and mildew to grow.

Children, elderly, or people with asthma are particularly sensitive to allergens and pollutants. Make the air safer to breathe. Here’s how to improve the indoor air quality in your home.

  1. Invest in a good vacuum cleaner. Choose a vacuum with a HEPA filter, rotating brushes, and strong suction to get rid of pollen, dust mites, pet dander, lead, and even toxins like fire-retardant chemicals (PBDEs). At least twice a week, vacuum the floors—including edges—baseboard, trim around doors and windows, upholstery, and walls. Clean the HEPA filter frequently.
  2. Mop after vacuuming. It sounds like double-duty, but a good mop can pick up a lot of dirt and dust that your vacuum misses. Dampen the mop with water only—not cleaners.
  3. Put a mat at every entry. Wherever people are coming into your home, be sure you have a sturdy floor mat to catch some of the dirt and pollutants on their shoes.
  4. Leave shoes at the door. Leave a place by the door for people to take off their shoes, so you can minimize anything they could track into your home.
  5. Manage the humidity. Mold, bacteria, and dust mites thrive in a moist environment. Use a dehumidifier to remove dampness from the air, and empty the drip pan frequently. You can also reduce humidity by running the exhaust fan in the kitchen when you’re cooking, and in the bathroom during and after each shower. Vent your dryer to the outside, fix plumbing leaks, and avoid giving your indoor plants too much water. Aim for a humidity level below 50% in your home.
  6. Avoid artificial fragrances. Everything from air fresheners to launder detergent and household cleaners includes synthetic fragrances that emit chemicals and gasses into the air. Instead of air fresheners, use sliced lemons and baking soda to add a pleasant scent to the air.
  7. Bring in purifying houseplants. Certain plants actually remove indoor air pollutants, like formaldehyde, benzene and xylene. Bring in aloe vera, azalea, Boston fern, Chinese evergreen, dracaena, English ivy, ficus (weeping fig), Gerbera daisy, heart leaf philodendron, mother-in-law’s tongue (also known as snake plant), peace lily, rubber plant, and a spider plant. If you have children or pets, check to make sure the plant is safe for them.
  8. Open your windows. Welcome fresh air into your home and let the bad air out. When weather permits, open your windows for at least 20 minutes a day.

Earth, Wind & Sun – Which Direction Should Your New Home Face?

Categories: Blog | Posted: July 20, 2017

Once you’ve decided to build on your lot, it’s time to decide how to position your home on the property. Siting is critical to making the most of the homesite’s positive features. Factor in these considerations when siting your home.


A lot that faces north-to-south in relation to the street enables you to site your home facing the road and capture the desirable southern light. If your home will be located in a region of warm climates, you might prefer more windows on the north side, to avoid too much heat from the sun.

With an east-west facing lot, you’ll position your home to get the more abundant southern light. With the front of your home not facing the street, you’ll have some choices to make about the entry.

By carefully planning the window placement, you can harness the sunlight to conserve energy.


What type of earth will you be excavating? The difference between solid rock and sandy soil (and everything in the middle) will affect your bottom line for excavation, foundation, and drainage. The type of soil can vary from neighboring homesites, and even within your own property lines. Even an experienced builder can unearth surprises when the excavation begins, so keep this in mind when estimating your construction budget.


Is your homesite flat or sloped? Property with an incline is beneficial if you plan on including a walk-out basement, but it comes with a cost, depending on the steepness of the slope. When you site a home on a slope, you will need to determine how the drainage will be engineered. Pumping sewage and drainage uphill is more costly than the other direction; however, if you live in an area with heavy rains, you don’t want the water rushing to your basement.


How does the wind impact your property? Where does it hit with the most strength? Winter winds normally come from the north. Position your home to avoid the strongest gusts—particularly with relation to outdoor living spaces and structures—and plan to add trees and tall hedges as windbreakers.

Your architect and engineer work with you to achieve energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, and curb appeal.

5 Outdoor kitchen trends for 2017

Categories: Blog | Posted: July 13, 2017

Outdoor living spaces have evolved dramatically in the past decade. The backyard grill has transformed to an outdoor kitchen, complete with everything you need to prepare, serve, and clean up after full-course meals.

Thinking of updating your al fresco culinary space? Here are the latest outdoor kitchen trends for 2017.

Expand the function. A kitchen requires more than a grill and a prep area. This year, homeowners are adding refrigerators, ice makers, sinks, dishwashers, side burners, smokers, and pizza ovens, so they can handle all the kitchen tasks outdoors, and avoid running in and out of the house. They’re installing more elaborate cabinetry for the added storage they need in the expanded outdoor kitchen (powder-coated metal cabinets offer style with durability). They’re adding or upgrading countertops, with materials like granite, soapstone, concrete, and stainless steel. Quartz, although a popular choice for the indoor kitchen, doesn’t stand up to direct sunlight.

Hatch an egg. The Kamado-style grill—like the Big Green Egg—has caught on in recent years, but the concept has been in use for thousands of years. These versatile ceramic grills can be used as a smoker, grill, and even a pizza oven. The design enables a broad range of cooking temperatures, from low (for smoking) all the way up to 800°.

Entertainment is a bigger priority than ever. You’ll be spending more time in your upgraded space, so your outdoor kitchen might include a separate bar or drink station, a large-screen television, wine cooler, and keg.

Fan the flames. An outdoor fireplace or fire pit add form and function to your outdoor living space. Cook over the open flame. Cozy up by the crackling fire. Mount your outdoor TV above the fireplace mantle. What better place to enjoy football games in the fall?

Chandeliers have stepped outside. While you’re installing or expanding the electrical wiring in your outdoor living space, now is a great time to change your exterior lighting. Chandeliers have found their way outdoors, and enhance the aesthetics.

Most commonly overlooked home maintenance chores

Categories: Blog | Posted: July 6, 2017

Owning a home comes with lots of responsibilities. In addition to paying the bills, you also need to keep up with the upkeep. There are some basic, routine maintenance chores that will increase your peace of mind while also decreasing the repair bills that come with neglect.

Here are the most commonly overlooked home maintenance chores.


Gutters. Dirt and debris builds up in your gutters and prohibits the flow of rain and melted snow. If the water backs up, it can cause damage to your home. Clean your gutters in both the spring and the fall.

Exterior dryer vent. You might remember to clean the dryer’s lint trap after every load, but don’t forget that lint is also collecting in the exterior vent. A clogged dryer vent is a fire hazard. Have your exterior vent checked and cleaned once a year, or when you notice that your laundry isn’t drying properly.

Refrigerator coils. Dust collects on the coils on the back of your refrigerator, reducing the appliance’s efficiency. Twice a year, summon up your courage and go where very few people ever venture.


Curled or damaged roof shingles. Twice a year, inspect your roof as a proactive measure. Replace any shingles that aren’t in stellar condition, because ignoring this task could lead to leaks.

HVAC filters. A dirty filter makes your air conditioner and furnace work harder, which not only boosts your energy bill but reduces the air quality and the life of your HVAC system. Replace the air filtert monthly.



Water heaters. Sediment—sand, grit, and other minerals that haven’t dissolved into your water—collect at the bottom of your water heater. By flushing the water heater once a year, you enable your system to function at its best.

Outdoor faucets. Water expands when it freezes, and this ice can lead to burst pipes. Before the cold winter arrives, turn off the shut-off valve and drain any water remaining in the line.


Water pressure. Excess water pressure can burst hoses (e.g., washing machine). Low water pressure causes that rush of cold water in the shower when someone flushes a toilet. Use a simple pressure gauge to check your water pressure once or twice a year, or when you’re experiencing water flow issues.

Invest a little time in your home to keep everything working safely and efficiently. After all, you’ve invested so much in it already.

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