In the sun

No, I’m not on vacation. I’m sitting in my morning room – in the sun. We intentionally bought this lot 9 years ago because of it’s orientation to the sun. We knew our morning room would face the south to southwest. Why? Because the sun plays an important role for us. I like it because I can effectively heat the house using no fossil fuels, just the good old fashioned passive solar energy. This is the most cost effective design decision anyone can make whether they’re designing a new kitchen/family room addition or a new home. Finding a lot with the correct orientation is as simple as looking at site map or plot plan. If you can’t find one of those, take a compass to the site or around the house and figure out just were the sun is going to play it’s part in your design.

Afternoon sunshine washes in 2/19/11. Cellular blind down in the middle.

My dog loves this room. What dog doesn’t like sleeping in the warm sun on a blisteringly cold day!

Love the sunshine!

The rest of the family just migrates to this room on a sunny day in the winter to escape the winter blues. The sunshine also promotes a calm sense of well being. Yes, like lying on the beach in the summer. Ahh….(where’s the Corona 🙂

Summer, speaking of summer, this room changes. The warm sun can actually heat up the room more then you want, driving your air conditioner to work hard to keep the house cool. Yep, we went through this when we moved in on a hot July morning. The A/C never quit until I got blinds up. And not regular mini blinds or wood slat blinds. Nope, we went for the hollow core cellular blinds (sorry for the ad). These blinds have amazing insulating qualities. I’ve found that they can add a significant amount of R-value to your windows. The exact amount, I’m not sure, but you can hold your hand up to them in the summer or winter and not feel any significant change in temperature. They even make them without cords. Great for all, not just for children. I still get my cords caught on various things.

But it’s winter, or at least the winter thaw. This means take advantage of the winter sun into your home whenever possible! What are your thoughts about it?

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Still dreaming – Green Remodeling

I have this idea. No, a dream. No, definitely an idea. OK, it goes like this. The back of my house faces the southwest. We did this so we could glean the warm winter sun to help heat the house when it’s cold. Good idea. I also discovered the wind blows regularly back there all year long. So…. wind, sun…. a perfect mix for an off the grid system. Off the grid means getting off the electric grid that powers all the things that go whizz, whirr and woosh in my house, including lights. I love this idea so much that when I’m home, I keep thinking of how I’m going to do this. I’m persistent. But here’s the thing, I would need to cover the entire back of my roof to get a few thousand watts of solar power. Enough to keep the fridge running and a few lights on. To do it myself, figure on $6.00 -$10.00 a watt. OK, payback is in… Never mind. I looked into a wind turbine. Ouch$$$$. Never mind. Oh, and my homeowners association won’t allow it either. So why is this such a conundrum? I want to do this.  You want to do this. We all think that it’s nuts to be fighting wars in the Middle East, making allies with dictatorial regimes just to keep the lights on.

So why is it so expensive to get this done? Not enough people demand alternative energy and let’s face it, by the time we drop 4 kids off at 5 different sporting events, cook, clean, just get out of bed and go to work, we’ve all had enough. The sacrifice it takes to move away from oil is big. It permeates every part of lives and frankly it’s just easier to keep things the way they are.

OK, got that out of the way. What would it take to get you to move towards more renewable energy sources? I really want to know.

Now, there are solar and wind powered things that are working everyday. Calculators, solar phone and camera chargers, solar electric grid : there’s one on Yankee St, within about 1/4mile away, but I have no idea what it’s powering. There are wind farms powering whole towns. So why don’t we have more affordable personal solutions. I don’t want to continue paying DP&L for the rest of my days here in Dayton. Do you? I’m going to do this thing eventually. It’s just a matter of time before the price comes down to where I can justify the cost vs. savings. I’ll blog it and we’ll see what happens! Happy sunshine!

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Remodeling Projects you might be interested in

This is a custom office I built in 2009 in Yankee Trace in Centerville, OH. The customer and I had originally wanted to go with a manufactured cabinet line, Kraftmaid®, Thomas®, etc.. but ultimately decided to go fully custom. This gave us the flexibility to create a space exactly the size and configuration the customer needed.

I built these cabinets in a shop space in West Carrolton and delivered the fully finished cabinets to the home in about 30days. What was interesting was they turned out to be far less expensive for me to do this way than to order them pre-assembled from a manufacturer and it was by far the funnest thing I had done in a long time!

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Good Morning

I have had plenty of morning coffee and ready to face the world. A quick note. I have recently taken on a part time employee. This is a big leap of faith for me as I realize nothing ever changes or grows without change. It’s still a little daunting. This means I’m committed to providing work for someone else in the world! Will they meet my expectations? Will they call me if they’re in a jam, maybe wedged between 2 walls and can’t reach their cell phone? Will they simply just do the things I ask of them so I can fulfill my clients expectation? All things to think about. Are you a small business owner? What do you think? Let me know.

A few days ago, my new guy and I were walking through a home. We had a punch list from a FHA inspector of items needing to be repaired and certified. The FHA has a verified 203k directory list of certified contractors, that at this time, I am not part of. (What?!) It was a foreclosure, I’m sure, by the stickers plastered all over the front door glass. What a pain for the new homeowner when they have to remove them. Windex® and a single edge razor will be their best friend. But the thing I was most interested in was the shear amount of work that had to be done to the inside and outside of the home. Rotted soffits, leaking gutters and roof. The kitchen, OY, don’t get me started! Bathrooms needed cleaned out and repaired, the outside needed to be be totally repainted. The house was built maybe in the late 1960’s early 1970’s adding to it’s list of things, lead paint. The EPA’s renovation, repair and paint law (RRP) requires renovators to adhere to a fairly strict guideline of how to test, remove and dispose of lead based paint. (I am certified to do this) (Yes!). The cost involved though, can add hundreds, sometimes, thousands of dollars to the project cost. Did this new homeowner think about that?

The other strange thing about this list was  what it didn’t have on it. Namely, everything I told you about. The list contained a short cryptic description of a leak under the sink, paint a rusted baseboard heater, replacement of a well pump bladder tank to fix a bit of exterior trim. Wow! This was a governmental body, the organizations we trust to look out for us, giving their list of items to fix before closing. If the new homeowner is savvy and a trades person or really, really handy, this may not be a problem. But what if it’s a young couple, with a new baby and limited resources who think they are getting this inspection and believing it to be fairly complete? Thinking with just a little sweat equity they’re going to have their dream home in the country? Misleading at best, criminal at worst.

If you find yourself a dream foreclosure to buy, fix up and sell or live in. Get someone you trust, in the business, to asses the full extent of your dream. This could be a friend, a General Contractor (me), certified Home Inspector or specific trades people you’ve worked with in the past. They will be able to truthfully explain what is needed and ask you what your commitment to the project really is. The you can wake up and have a few cups of coffee. Have a Great Day!


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I was thinking…Again…

I was reading an article yesterday in the Dayton Daily News about a couple who died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator they had running in their garage. I was struck by the fact that the couple had felt it was OK to place their generator in the garage and leave it closed to ventilation. Years ago, in a company I worked for, we had gentlemen who did punch out list work and had done the same thing, only in a basement with a gas powered pressure washer. The carbon monoxide fumes had built up to a point where he had passed out on the floor. He was fortunate another co-worker had found him, shut off the engine and opened every window, then called 911.

Gas powered anything produces carbon monoxide. It’s odorless and is made abundantly on the planet by a lot of different things. Cows, people, burning of fossil fuel, including natural gas or wherever a carbon based life form is burned. Adequate ventilation is always required when using something that produces carbon monoxide. What is proper ventilation? Well it’s what they say to use in the instruction booklets of gas powered equipment, right? Of course right. So how much ventilation is actually required?

Most large appliances such as gas direct vent fireplaces, furnaces and hot water heaters come with detailed specs on how to vent them. Usually a licensed professional is installing them so you are usually assured they’re done correctly. But a generator or gas powered heater, used occasionally,  usually doesn’t have a dedicated venting source, for example a flue, so figure that there is no actual calculation involved. More of understanding that there are no safe levels of CO (carbon monoxide). If your not comfortable with the idea of having something like this around, don’t. There are plenty of manufacturers that make permanent, outdoor, natural gas powered generators that a licensed installer can install with a switching system that will kick it on automatically if the power goes down. They can be sized to meet the needs of your home from completely running everything seamlessly, to just the essentials.

But if you lose power, and heat, for more then a few hours and the temperature drops in your home, get out to a warm location. The mall, your favorite coffee place, friends who have power, wherever. If the power is going to be out for more then 30 hours and the fear of pipes freezing are a concern. Shut the water off at the main, open up the hot and cold water at a faucet on the lowest level and let it drain the plumbing system down. This will relieve the pressure on your pipes and allow the expansion of water in the pipes as the begin to freeze, thus averting a potential water disaster.

One of the things I find on my day to day conversations with customers is what I think is normal, commonsense and routine is not for them. I recommend carbon monoxide detectors on all floors of a home that has gas appliances, gas furnace, gas water heater or gas fireplace inserts. They are as easy to install as plugging them into a wall outlet. Do you have gas appliances? Have you installed carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home? Let me know what you think.

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Welcome

Thank you for stopping in and viewing my blog. I have set up a forum here to talk about all sorts of things. A lot of them will have to do with things around your home. Some of them might just be topics I think might be relevant. You may not think so, so don’t hesitate to offer up suggestions of topics you’d like to know more about or just want to bounce around. I’m fairly informal.

A little about me. I’m a world market and global thinking person. I have a passion to stay informed about what is going on in today’s markets and how it affects all types of businesses, arts and people. I’m not a money person, per say, more of a closet economist with no formal education in economics, but love to follow markets and how they relate to politics, geography and the way we all live our lives.  For instance, I find it interesting to watch the “Green marketplace”. Green, or sustainable design is still an emerging science, especially here in Dayton, OH. Most people don’t feel they have the resources to employ green products, sustainable wood floors, recycled glass countertops, etc.. and thus don’t want to spend the extra money on them because they don’t perceive value added differences. But there are sustainable practices  Caulk, spray foam = Green tech that’s been around for years. Cost is almost nill and the payback is immediate.

This market is emerging faster in other markets such as the east coast. California, (as always) mandates a lot of sustainable practices and is on the leading edge.

Market driven construction products? I like granite. No, I really like granite. 10 years ago, it was reserved for million dollar homes. To some degree it still is, but I replace a lot of countertops with granite in sub $300,000.00 homes. How? It’s on cost par with solid surface or better known as Corian®. How did that happen?? Granite suppliers from quarries to distributors and fabricators decided to make it that way. Market place, plain and simple. So when does the Green market offer solar panels on your roof and geo-thermal furnaces for the same price as traditional forms of supply? I don’t know, but I’m dyin’ to watch it unfold. What do you think should happen?

In the mean time, a couple of things to think about your next contractor or DIY project you take on. Have you (they) done the simple thing? Caulk or spray foam all exterior penetrations after a holes gone through the side of your home. Sealed and flashed roof penetrations properly to prevent leaks. Caulked around windows and doors when they’re installed? Insulated to the correct R-value, maybe above the recommended value?

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