Monday, October 1, 2012

Thinking about winterizing your home?

After one of the hottest summers on record, fall is a welcome relief to many.  Soon, winter will be here.  Now is an optimal time to winterize your home.  By completing some easy preventative maintenance projects now, you will not only keep your home efficient during the cold weather but also save money from any future and costly repairs.  Smart homeowners know that diligent maintenance adds to the beauty and longevity of their house.

Here are ten tips that will help you prepare your home for winter:

1) Furnace Inspection

•Call an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace, humidifier pads & water heater.

•Stock up on furnace filters. I recommend the pleated paper filters.  They are more efficient and can be replaced every 3 to 6 months depending on style.

•Consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat.

•If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly and when water appears, close them.

•Remove all flammable material from the area surrounding your furnace.

2) Prepare Your Fireplace

•Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.

•If the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote. This prevents dangerous and messy chimney fires.

•Buy firewood or chop wood and store in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.

•Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing.

•Check the mortar between bricks and tuck point, if necessary.

3) Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows

•Inspect your home exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes. If any cracks or openings are found, seal them.

•Use weather-stripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home.  Caulk your windows as well.

•Replace cracked glass in windows and, if you end up replacing the entire window, prime and paint exposed wood.

•If your home has a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields. Locate and clean drains of debris.

•Switch out summer screens with glass replacements from storage. If you have storm windows, install them.

4) Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts

•If the temperature dips below 32 degrees in the winter, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.

•Check for flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home.

•Replace worn roof shingles or tiles.

•Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.

•Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away to at least five feet away from the home.


5) Service Seasonal Equipment

•Drain gas from lawnmowers.

•Service or tune-up snow blowers.

•Perform a test-run on your generator at least 2-3 times per year.

•Replace worn rakes and snow shovels.

•Clean, dry and store summer gardening equipment.

•Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt / sand.

6) Check Foundations

•Remove all debris and edible vegetation from your home’s foundation.

•Seal up entry points to keep small animals from burrowing under your house.

•Tuck-point or seal foundation cracks. Mice can slip through spaces as thin as a pencil.

•Inspect sill plates for dry rot or pest infestation.

•Secure crawlspace entrances.


7) Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

•Smoke detectors are recommended in every sleeping room, on every level and near heating equipment.

•Buy extra smoke detector batteries and change them when the time changes in your area.

•Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and / or water heater, in the same room as a fireplace and on your sleeping level.

•Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work. Replace every seven years or   when plastic has yellowed.

•Buy fire extinguishers or replace an extinguisher older than 7 years.


8) Prevent Plumbing Freezes

•Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.

•Drain and disconnect all garden hoses.

•Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.

•If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.


9) Prepare Landscaping & Outdoor Surfaces

•Trim trees if branches hang too close to the house or any electrical wires.

•Ask a gardener when your trees should be pruned to prevent winter injury and prosper next spring.

•Plant spring flower bulbs and remove those that cannot sustain the winter. 

•Seal driveways, brick patios and wood decks.

•Don't remove all dead vegetation from gardens as some provide attractive scenery in an otherwise dreary, snow-covered yard.

•Move sensitive potted plants indoors or to a sheltered area.


10) Prepare an Emergency Kit

•Buy indoor candles and matches or a lighter for use during a power shortage.
· Never use a generator in an enclosed space or near an open window to your home due to carbon monoxide.

•Find the phone numbers for your utility companies and put them in a prominent place where you can find them or put them in your cell phone contacts or inside the phone book.

•Buy a battery back-up to protect your computer and other sensitive electronic equipment.

•Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-access location.

•Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency. 

Now sit back and enjoy a hot chocolate beside the fire place. Enjoy winter!

Learn how Archispeak can help you with your next project by calling 847.205.9844 for a free consultation or email

Monday, September 24, 2012

7 Habits of Highly Successful Aging in Place People

I came across a very interesting and well written blog by Patrick Roden, PhD.  He took Stephen Coveys concepts on how to create a better human being titled “The 7 habits of highly effective people” and applied it to Aging In Place. Read Patrick’s version below of “The 7 habits of highly effective people Aging  In Place.”  If we all could follow these “Habits” we would all be in a better place. Enjoy!

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Synopsis: Take initiative in life by realizing your decisions (and how they align with life’s principles) are the primary determining factors for effectiveness in your life. Taking responsibility for your choices and the subsequent consequences that follow.
Aging in Place: Be Proactive; day-in-and-day-out you are faced with “choice points” that will have a cumulative effect on your independence. If you choose what’s easy now (not take that walk and stay on the couch—or not install that light on the stairs and put up with the dark steps); life will be hard later. 
Many people wait until a crisis to begin the aging-in-place remodeling projects; and crisis-driven interventions are seldom as effective as proactive ones. 
Proactivity is being anticipatory and taking charge of situations; adaptivity is about responding to change, proactivity is about initiating change. 

 Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Synopsis: Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envisioning the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life.
Aging in Place: Begin With the End in Mind is making the future a part of your current philosophy. According to the Aging in America study of several years ago, seniors fear nursing homes over death; so for most, independence is a deeply held value and goal.
Think seriously about how much you value the rituals and natural rhythms of your simple daily living at home that you’ve cultivated over the years. Coffee in the morning and reading the paper in your favorite chair perched in the front window; after you let the cat out. Or shopping at the grocer where the clerk knows you by first name—then imagine life without them.
Look around the house and determine what is going to potentially be a challenge in the coming years. Do an aging-in-place assessment and make a priority list of action items.
Is adding a bathroom on the first floor, installing a lift on the stairs, or an access ramp, something I can do now that will keep me in my home 5-10 years from now?
Hosting family over for traditional life events; and being able to have grand kids stay whenever you choose. Does being a grandparent mean having a home where grand kids can find refuge and a place to stay?

 Habit 3: Put First Things First

Synopsis: Planning, prioritizing, and executing your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluating if your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you towards goals, and enrich the roles and relationships elaborated in Habit 2.
Aging in Place: Prioritizing remodeling goals with budget in mind. What are the “biggest-bang-for-the-buck” aging-in-place remodeling items?
Consult a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS);  Architect specializing in Universal design; or Ocupational Therapist trained in aging-in-place design.

 Habit 4: Think Win-Win or No Deal

Synopsis: Genuinely striving for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Valuing and respecting people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten their way.
Aging in Place: Win-win means considering the concerns of spouses as well as adult children. Staying in one’s home may not be the best solution for all parties. Sometimes aging in place is not possible.

 Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

Synopsis: Using empathetic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening, take an open mind to being influenced by you, which creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.
Aging in Place: Listen to partner/spouse and understand their wants and needs for aging-in-place remodeling; as well as to CAPS remodeling professionals for suggestions prior to making decisions.

 Habit 6: Synergize

Synopsis: Combining the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone. How to yield the most prolific performance out of a group of people through encouraging meaningful contribution, and modeling inspirational and supportive leadership.
Aging in Place: Synergize with other family members by sharing aging-in-place goals; ask for feedback and input; form a team-work approach with CAPS professionals.
Make the community part of your aging in place team strategy; employ senior services like meals-on-wheels; the local area agency on aging; AARP chapters; churches; See Aging in Place HELP for more resources.

 Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Synopsis: The balancing and renewal of your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable long-term effective lifestyle.
Aging in Place: Keep up on new technologies for aging-in-place; visit web sites for developments in universal design; and educate yourself about what’s available in the aging in place market. Aging in Place Technology Watch will Keep you up on the fast changing home telemetry sector.
Keep physically and mentally fit (your body and mind need to be available to you) for successfully aging in place. 

These 7 habits applied to aging-in-place can be a guide to independence and a more rich-fuller expression of who you are in the years to come.

Now get started…


Learn how Archispeak can help you with your next project by calling 847.205.9844 for a free consultation or email

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Where to start when remodeling your kitchen

Thinking of remodeling your kitchen? It’s quite an experience with the dust, the noise, and all the workers coming into the house. And of course, you have to live without a kitchen for a few months. But when it is all done it is worth it. People tend to spend most of their time in the kitchen with family and friends.

You can’t do anything until you figure out how much you’re able or willing to spend. That means doing your homework — read magazines, visit showrooms, talk to friends and neighbors who recently remodeled. It takes a lot of time to do all this. But I can tell you, it’s worth the investment.

Pretty much anything you dream up can be executed with the help of a contractor or design professional with a creative eye. Whether your space is large or small, you'll do best if you stick close to the following basic recommendations:

  • Try to keep the work triangle length between the sink, fridge, and cooktop between 12 and 23 feet.

  • Position the sink between the other two appliances, since it's used most often. (The sink's location may depend on pre-existing plumbing lines.)

  • Allow for 36 inches of counterspace to the right and 30 inches to the left of the range and sink if at all possible; if not, allow a minimum of 24 inches and 18 inches.

  • It's tempting to place a tall fridge and built-in wall oven next to each other, but try not to; the refrigerator needs its own landing space on both sides of the appliance for safety.

  • Try to include a minimum of 10 linear feet of both base cabinets and upper cabinets.

  • Utilize lazy Susans to make potentially wasted corners fully functional. Blind cabinets are not very functional.

  • Use pull-out drawers rather than reach-in, conventional cabinets for greatest convenience. If you're retro-fitting existing cabinets, have pull-out trays installed.

  • Consider barrier-free design and products. They make life easier for you, your children, pregnant women, and seniors as well as individuals with disabilities. They'll also add to the longevity of your kitchen.
  • Trash, dishwasher open and sink have to be accessible at the same time.

  • Improve lighting – General lighting, task lighting and accent and ambient lighting should all be used.

  • What are (or will be) your traffic patterns.

  • Child safety consideration: Avoid sharp, square corners on countertops, and make sure microwave ovens are installed at the proper height—3 inches below the shoulder of the primary user but not more than 54 inches from the floor.

  • Over powered exhaust fans can cause serious health and safety risks to your family including back drafting of your fireplace snuffing out pilot lights. 300 - 400 cfm is suitable for most decent size kitchens. Over 500 cfm requires a fresh air replacement intake device.

  • Outside access consideration: If you want easy access to entertaining areas, such as a deck or patio, factor a new exterior door into your plans.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

How to lay a laminate floor

Now that you have selected the appropriate laminate flooring, it’s time to install!  This blog will simplify how to lay the flooring.  Good luck! 

Here’s a list of the tools that you will need to lay your floor: 

·         Laminate flooring shear or a powered chop saw (these can be easily rented)

·         A small mallet or hammer for very gentle persuasion

·         An offset setting tool

·         Pencil

·         Tape measure

These are the materials that you will need to purchase:            

·         The total square feet of your space plus 10% for simple rectangular rooms and 15-20% extra for complicated layouts.

·         The total square footage plus 5% of foam padding for vapor barrier and sound transmission reduction.  It is important to note that some brands have the padding adhered to the underside and don’t require separate padding. Materials must be acclimated to the space for at least 48 hours.

·         Pry Bar

Now you’re ready to lay the floor.  Believe it or not the hardest part of this project is the initial layout.  There is a reason behind laying out the flooring prior to installation. You will want to ensure that there is an efficient yield of flooring so that you don’t end up with small or narrow pieces that can’t attach or stay down on their own. Trust me, this process is necessary and will save you a lot of time. The end result will be an attractive floor!

Here are some easy ways to make sure that the pieces are the appropriate size and are laying the right direction:

·         If some of the end pieces can be less than 1/3 of the standard length, then you can use these cut offs as starters for the next row.

·         Pieces narrower than 2” usually don’t lie correctly as one single piece.

·         Entrances and along the wall are the most visible areas of a room.  Laying the flooring parallel is critical.

The following pre-work should be done prior to installation of your laminate flooring:

·         Any base shoe must be removed and replaced after the floor is installed to cover the ¼” gaps you’ll have at the baseboards. Occasionally, the baseboards will need undercutting which can be done with a flush cut flooring saw or a powered tool such as the RotoZip with a Zipmate attachment for rotational cutting or a multi tool which vibrates the cut.

·         Make sure the existing floor is free of dirt, debris and dust.

Now it’s time to lay your floor! 

Step 1: Lay underlayment flat on your existing floor. Some manufacturers call for sealing tape and some do not. Be sure to follow the instructions as directed. While some may advise you that it is okay to admit this step, I would not recommend it. Underlayment provides soundproofing and keeps the room from having a hollow feel or echo when walking.

Step 2: Measure your room with a measuring tape and find the halfway point. This will let you determine how wide the first and last rows of laminate should be to ensure your layout will look, even when completed. Wear your safety goggles at all times when cutting the wood.

Step 3: Cut the tongue side off of the first piece of laminate flooring you will be using (again, wearing your safety goggles at all times when cutting the wood). This process needs to be done for each piece of laminate that is facing the starting and finishing walls

Step 4: Place your first full piece of laminate (tongue removed because it is against starting wall) against wall with side that used to have the tongue pressed against the wall. Before laying this piece you may have to cut it to size to ensure even laying (as noted in Step 3).

Step 5: Place 1/3 piece of laminate flooring in the 2nd row, sliding tongue into groove of existing piece (the piece you have placed in the first row) and snap into place like a jigsaw puzzle. Carefully tap into place with a hammer. The 3rd row starts with a 2/3 length piece. The 4th row starts with a full piece again.  You will continue this alternating pattern for the entire room.

 Step 6: Place ¼" spacers between wood and wall. These allow for expansion later, which happens naturally with temperature fluctuations within the room. It is important that you put these spacers in as you work your way around the room.

 Step 7: When putting in the very last piece of the room you will have to nudge it into place with your pry bar.

 Step 8: Install T-molding where room opens up into another space/room or reducers if the space entering is carpeted.

Step 9: When the flooring is all in place, it’s time to put in either your moldings or trim, or replace your baseboards. I recommend using trim that matches the new floor color: It’s easy to install and gives the room a sleek and finished look. If reinstalling baseboards, do not secure them to the laminate flooring. The baseboards will be sufficient to hold the floor in place, as these floors are specifically designed to be floating by nature. Directly securing them with anything at all will produce unwanted results.

 Congratulations! You have successfully installed your laminate flooring.  Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning and overall care instructions.  Enjoy!  

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Selecting the Right Laminate Floor

Are you considering putting a laminate floor in your home, apartment or condo?  While having a professional carpenter install the flooring is often faster, laying it yourself is possible.

When selecting the proper laminate flooring for your space, it is important to know which type is best.  You will need to determine if the area where you will be installing the flooring is dry or damp. These factors will determine the type of flooring you will want to install.

Selecting the right laminate floor can be daunting with the many choices available.  There are many brands and types of manufactured self-locking flooring systems.  Typically, retailers carry different brands of flooring so as to not have to compete with each other on the same product. Plastic laminate, very similar to a Formica countertop is one of the most popular floorings and also the most durable finish. Laminate is typically bonded to a medium density fiberboard (MDF), a fine particle board substrate.  This type of flooring holds up quite well in dry environments.

Engineered flooring is a laminate or wood veneer bonded to plywood substrate. The plywood is a stronger and more stable substrate, more suitable for an occasionally damp setting such as a kitchen or basement. The decorative wood veneer can be very thin and it is important to note that this type of wood can never be refinished. There are some solid wood veneers up to a 1/8” thick and they may be able to be refinished once.  Many laminate flooring systems have a shelf life of ten to 15 years.  A traditional hardwood strip floor can be refinished many times and may last over one hundred years.

Floating floor means that they are assembled together and not affixed to the building’s subfloor. The benefit of floating laminate floors is that the flooring expands and contracts independently of the building and therefore the seams won’t open up seasonally or crack when the building settles or moves. The panels are locked together with a space if left around the perimeter to allow for expansion.

Learn how to lay laminate flooring in our next blog.

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© Architecturally Speaking 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Now That I Have A Contractor

Congratulations, you have selected a contractor for your project!  Now what?  Well, there are some details that are important to know in this next phase.

Here are some questions and things to ask and consider:

1.      What is your budget?
Contractors generally tie their costs and expenses to the materials and features selected, labor costs, timeframes, also known as deadlines and the level of quality you expect.  You should be up front and candid about these so that your budget remains within what you can afford to get your project done. Also plan on a contingency fund of 10-15% to cover unforeseen expenses.

2.      What features of the project is primary, secondary and just wishful thinking?
Remember, there is a fine line or rather The Continental Divide between what you want and what you can afford.  Be practical when figuring out what you really need and can swing financially done versus what you would like yet is way out of your budget.  Both you and the contractor will be happier in the long run. Remember something can always be added at a later time when the funds become available.

3.      What can or should I expect with a bid proposal?
In the cases of contractor proposals, brevity is not a virtue.  A professional and responsible contractor will include all of the details with the actual steps needed to be taken in a bid.  Further, the responsibilities of all parties involved (the home owner, contractor and subs) need to be clearly defined in writing.  And, the necessary prevention steps to protect your home from any dust or other unforeseen damage should be included in the bid.

4.       How many bids should I get and which bid do I chose?
If you have worked with the contractor before or have experienced their work one bid may suffice.  Otherwise, my recommendation is getting a maximum of four bids on larger projects.  One bid will be a goofball who really isn’t interested in the project.  There is usually a significantly higher bid as well as an extremely lower bid with other bids somewhere in the middle. Those contractors with little interest in your project will often bid higher just to cover their costs and see if anyone “bites.”  Low bidders are often appealing to cost-conscious clients who may not be aware that the contractor has left out certain features or will recoup his profits with substituting sub-standard products and labor, leading to excessive and expensive change orders when the client is up against the wall during the construction phase.

What you need to look for are those bids from quality, competent contractors.  If you have done your research on which they are, you should know that they are reputable and their bids should be within the ballpark of the others. Smaller contractors are usually in better control of job costs and will produce a fairer bid without the costs of higher overhead and profit margins.

What is their process for change orders? Changes are inevitable. It is important to know how, when, at what cost and who is responsible for the changes that need to be made.

By following these suggestions and asking some important questions, your project will operate that much smoother and both you and the contractor will know expectations, costs and timelines.  Communication is the most valuable component in any remodeling project.

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© Architecturally Speaking 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

An Easy Guide to Selecting the Appropriate Contractor for Your Next Remodeling Project

You’ve decided that your remodeling project needs to get done.  Now you need to determine which contractor is the best man or woman for your needs.  Making sure that you do your homework and take the time to follow some simple guidelines will result in a successful relationship for you and the contractor.

Following these simple steps can save you time and potential aggravation:  

Who are your friends using or recommending?
Word of mouth referrals from friends or family are at the top of the list when choosing a contractor.  If they like their work and you have seen what their contractor has done, this is a huge testament to the contractor.  Chances are high that if your friends or family liked them, you will too.

How long has the business been around?
Another important question to ask is how long has the contractor been in business?  Do they have a credible website?  You want to make sure that their history is solid and what they purport it to be.  Check for onsite testimonials.

What type of car does the contractor drive?

Yes, I said to make sure what type of ride the contractor has.  Hopefully he or she is driving a late model van or pickup truck which is common since reputable contractors need to house their tools and supplies in their vehicle.  If they drive a Hummer or something as impractical, you may want to think twice about handing over a hefty down payment that may be spent on something else other than your job.

Check your local Chamber of Commerce or other community organizations

Your local chamber of commerce can be a tremendous resource for credentialing your potential contractor as well as finding one to use.  Most established contractors are members of local organizations like a chamber of commerce.

Check out the insurance ($0, $150K or $2 mil)

It is important that your contractor is insured.  In the event that anything should happen, you certainly don’t want to assume any liability, or worse, not be able to get it corrected because the contractor carried no insurance.  Insurance amounts can range from $150K to in excess of $2 million.  What’s your house worth? It is your responsibility to make sure that they are insured and have the valid documentation to prove such.

Make sure that you can review a portfolio of recent projects

If the contractor has a credible website, they should have an updated portfolio of their recent projects.  By viewing their work online you can have a better sense of their work and how the finished product looks.

In some cases, contractors may be able to take you to past clients’ homes to see their work.

Make sure that your contractor is certified

As simple as this seems, many people make the assumption that the contractor that they are working with is certified and trained.  Ask to see their credentials.  Certification indicates additional training and continuing education insures current knowledge of the contractor. Architecturally Speaking has the following credentials:

  • NAHB - National Association of Home Builders
  • CAPS - Certified Aging In Place Specialist
  • NAHI - National Association of Home Inspectors
  • CRI - Certified Residential Inspector
  • Illinois State Licensed Home Inspector
  • Degreed Architect
Taking the time to follow these steps when selecting a contractor can make a significant difference in the end result!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Smart home monitoring becoming mainstream

Do you have an elderly loved one who you can’t check on as often as you would like?  Are you aware of whether they are getting out of bed in the morning or if they are taking their medications regularly? If they have caregivers, are they performing their duties responsibly? We all worry when we cannot be there.  

Technology has advanced and made home monitoring a popular solution in residential elder care.  Many of the elder’s family and caregivers benefit from the varying elements of home monitoring such as: 

·         Doctors can monitor activity levels and verify medicine usage as well as perform many of the diagnostic tests regularly done in the doctor’s office via a home monitoring system.

·         You can have a peace of mind and be assured your loved one is mobile and performing their regular routines and be informed when they’re not.

·         The resident  themselves can be reminded to follow their routine.

Check out this article from  Sunday’s Chicago Tribune discussing smart home technology and how it can benefit the elderly in our community. Many devices already exist to aid those in need.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Time to come out of hibernation – Getting your home ready for spring!


 • Do a walk-a-round to inspect your siding, roof shingles and windows for excessive ware due to Old Man Winter. Repair any wood damage. Check the caulking. Re-caulk to keep moisture out and energy in.
• Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts for debris and damage before spring showers. Does drainage path lead away from foundation.
• Open crawl space vents for three seasons of the year to ventilate and reduce moisture built up over winter. Check for water trails into crawl space and repair.
• Chimneys experience the brutal effects of winter through expansion and contraction due to excessive heat, cold, moisture and dryness. Check exterior masonry for cracks, flashing at the junction with the roof, interior flue for rain cap and liner integrity.
• Clean the deck. Reseal after fully dry. Be very careful with pressure power washers. If used incorrectly can cause excessive ware to the wood surface. Synthetic surfaces then to manage better but still need cleaning.


 • Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Pushing the “test” button only tests the electrical connection from the battery. Replace any unit over seven years old. Dated label found typically on unit. The half-life of the radioactive element in the detector is about 8 years and therefore only about 50% effective at detecting smoke. CO detectors build up a residual level and often give false reading. • Adjust timers on lights and thermostats
• Clean air filters and circulate air throughout the house. Even leaving a bathroom fan on for a period of time will slowly provide some of the necessary air changes required. Inspect HVAC equipment to get ready for summer air conditioning season. You should only test the AC system when it has been over 60° overnight otherwise compressor damage may occur.
• Clean the fireplace and inspect the damper and visible flue for damage. Have professionally cleaned seasonally if used regularly.
• Flip mattresses and wash pillows. Deep clean carpets after spring mud traffic.
• Painting may be needed both on the exterior and interior. Fresh colors can often freshen up a room’s décor.

A licensed home inspector can be a valuable source for information, advice and a referral source for professional service providers. Architecturally Speaking can assist you in performing all the proper maintenance and inspections needed for you to enjoy your home year round. Give us a call at (847) 205-9844 and visit us on our website and Facebook page for our current promotions.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Single Floor Living - The New Normal

Do you know what the current real estate trend for the baby boomer generations and their aging parents is?  I can give you a clue - it doesn’t include stairs. Give up?  It is single floor living.   

In many subdivisions throughout the country where land is plenty, the multi-story home has been the popular floor plan, built several feet above grade.  However, city dwellers typically reside in three to four levels due to the scarcity of land.  These many levels have many stairs that are often steep without a functional handrail. Perhaps this was avant garde when built, but as these residents age their physical abilities become restricted.  

As all of us age, we are figuring out that negotiating stairs can pose problems.  For many seniors who suffer from arthritis, maintaining their balance and cardio-related symptoms suddenly find the traditional multi-story homes not only exhaustive but quite inconvenient.  And, whether it is one flight or multiple flights of stairs, they can limit mobility of many. 

What are the options for this demographic?  Many empty-nesters are considering a smaller, one level home for simplicity.  Those that wish to remain in their multi-level home can modify the current arrangements of rooms that will accommodate their physical limitations.  Consider converting the main-floor family room to master suite.  The same can be done with first-floor bathrooms.  Laundry rooms can be easily transferred to the main living area, reducing the need for carrying heavy laundry baskets up and down stairs. 

Single level living is quickly becoming the new normal for baby boomers and their parents.  Through thoughtful planning and consulting with an Aging in Place contractor, simple modifications in existing homes and condominiums can make a significant difference. Imagine your parents being able to remain in their home while living their daily lives without having to trudge up the stairs?  Everyone will have peace of mind knowing that they are safe and happy.

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© Architecturally Speaking 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Will your house look like this?

An interesting piece on how much glass plays a role in our everyday lives.

Watch and tell us what you think!

A day made of glass - Corning Glass

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© Architecturally Speaking 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Aging In Place catching on!

The Archdiocese recently recognized a shift from nursing homes to managed care at home. With a decline of 350 nursing homes over the past six years and the New York Archdiocese closing two of its nursing homes in favor of opening seven adult daycare facilities, the elder care industry is embracing Aging-In-Place as the cost effective and beneficial solution to the high cost of traditional managed care.This will have an enormous effect on many industries such as the real estate, home building/remodeling and private managed care industries.

Will the government step up and support, through Medicare/Medicaid and other subsidies, those looking to reduce costs of their care?

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© Architecturally Speaking 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What's in your attic?

Antique door knob
With spring soon upon us, many use this season to clean up basements, garages, attics and any other spaces that need organizing.  Instead of throwing some of your forgotten attic treasures, junkyard finds or discount store overstock in the trash, hold on to them.  Yes, I said, hold on to them. 

Many of these items can be re-purposed into stylish décor that can spruce up your existing home, condo or apartment.   How many times have you found precious items with a design that you love, but don’t know what to do with it or how to incorporate into your current home style? 

For years, I have been fascinated by discarded industrial or commercial fixtures and the endless possibilities for their new purpose.  Perhaps it is my frugalness from my college days, but I have always tried to find innovative ways to transform traditional items into something else.

$15 Close-out vase found at Homegoods
I had found a black and stainless steel payphone stand (quite old school) and turned it into a bedroom valet stand complete with compartments for watches and jewelry, a rack for suits slacks and other clothing.  The hardest part was figuring out how to get it home from the flea market since I only owned a bicycle.

Fast forward to now, and I am still refurbishing trinkets and oddball pieces of furniture.  My most recent project involved turning a contemporary mosaic glass vase into a hanging lamp fixture.  As you can see, it serves this space well as an affordable yet interesting lighting option. 

Enclosed are some architectural artifacts
Other projects I have done in recent past have been converting a vintage pulley wheel into a coffee table where I simply had the glass cut to fit what is now the base of this vintage piece of furniture.  By placing a plywood base underneath the wheel I was able to create a shadow box to showcase additional artifacts. The industrial casters allow the table to be moved with just a push of a knee. Other fun ideas include salvaging antique door knobs (easily findable at antique stores) and drilling them onto finished wood that can serve as coat hooks, drawer pulls or depending upon the size as a great way to hang jewelry.

Do you have something in your attic, basement or garage waiting to be re-purposed?

Please comment and share your ideas, photos or successes.

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© Architecturally Speaking   2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Infinite Love, Energy & Happiness

While we live in a world where we all seem to want more, I am of the belief that each of us has a finite amount of energy. Of course, the amount of this energy varies based upon an individual’s age, diet, metabolism, lifestyle, overall health and other factors.  As we age, some of our energy levels seem to decrease over time.  Of course, making the appropriate food choices coupled with exercise and vitamins can stabilize these energy levels.

For many of our older population, a significant amount of their energy is dedicated to simply performing their daily routines in their home life.  Simple tasks that many of us don’t give a second thought to such as getting up from a chair or a bed; multiple trips up and down stairs; overhead reaching to get items out of cabinets in the kitchen or bathroom can exhaust seniors’ energy.

When thinking of low energy, a solution of conservation comes to mind. Imagine if your elderly or disabled parent, relative or friend could reduce the amount of energy used during their typical day, possibly by 30% or more. What could they do with that saved energy? Go dancing. Visit with friends. Walk in the park.  Spend more time on their hobbies?

What if their existing homes could become easier to manage, navigate and operate? Through proper and professional design and even a few simple home modifications barriers can be removed, vastly improving the functionality of their home.  Small changes can make a big difference to your elderly loved one as to how they can use their home and conserve their energy.

Simple improvements to a home can make both the elderly and the disabled exert a lot less energy. Home modifications such as brighter lighting, safe egress to and from the home, reducing the amount of stairs used can and easy access to areas can make a vast improvement to their quality of life.

Consider their current kitchen or bathroom.  Chances are that these rooms are not currently designed for ease of use.  A change in counter height can be a significant improvement for many users as well as converting a tub into a useful shower accessible to all.

What are you doing to help make your loved one’s homes easier to navigate and manage?  

If you’re interested in exploring some of these projects in your home call Jim Butz with Architecturally Speaking at 847.205.9844 for a free design consultation and make your space your own! Like us on Facebook