Sunday, September 28, 2008

Aging in Place - Universal Design

Your home is your refuge. A sanctuary that should be as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.
People are remaining in their homes longer than ever before. The challenge is to design a home that will be open and usable throughout your and your family's lifetime, regardless of changing capabilities. This concept is called "universal design"-the craft of designing a home that is open to people of all capabilities, whether that includes children, elderly or those inconvenienced by a temporary or permanent disability.
It is also a fact that more homes are becoming multi-generational as Baby Boomers bring their aging parents home to live while still raising families of their own. It is not uncommon today to have small children and grandparents in the home at the same time. The challenge, therefore, is to ensure that the home is usable by each member of the family, today and in the future.
Where do you begin? First, analyze your lifestyle and your family's unique needs. Do you have someone in your family who needs to sit down while preparing meals in the kitchen or who may have balance problems stepping into a tub? Do you have small children who could help in meal preparation if they had a lower counter at which to work? Are you planning on having children in the future? What features would make your home more comfortable during the pregnancy and for the infant children?
Second, decide how long you want to stay in the home. If you plan on keeping your home into your golden years, you may want to consider some accessible features, such as digital displays which are easier to see; wider doorways that can accommodate walkers, crutches and wheelchairs; minimum thresholds on interior and exterior doorways for easy maneuvering; etc. There are thousands of ways to make a home more usable. The key is to look at the "universally designed" products and match them to your home, your capabilities and your anticipated future needs.
Third, if you are planning on selling your home in the near future, consider these facts that: Currently 49 million Americans have a disability, with the number of elderly persons expected to reach an all-time high at the end of this decade; experts predict that by the year 2000, fully one-third of the country's population will be either disabled, chronically ill or over the age of 65; and 84 percent of senior citizens prefer to remain in their home as they age (according to the "Understanding Senior Housing" survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons). If you want to sell, universal features may help. Until that time, the universal design features will only make your home more convenient for your family.
Fourth, talk to your remodeling professional about available options. There are a number of universal products available on the market that blend seamlessly with other popular products. There are also a variety of design ideas that can make the home easier to live in for everyone, including the new trend toward open living spaces and the great room.
Fifth, the most important step: Match your design to your family. Each family will have different challenges and anticipated needs. You may find that varying counter heights in the kitchen are a good idea for your family, while more floor space in the bath is not a viable option. The point of universal design is to make the home comfortable and convenient for its occupants throughout their lives. Your remodeling professional will be able to provide the best solution to meet your particular needs.

Designing your bathroom?

Below are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself when considering the design and function of your new bath.

What features would make the bath more comfortable for you?
How would you like to use your bath?
Is this a family bath or master bath?
How many people will be using it?
Are there enough sinks and counter space for everyone?
Are there enough baths in the house or should you consider adding another room? (This is usually a concern as children reach their teen years and also with expanding families.)
Do you prefer to take showers or baths? If you like baths, would you prefer a tub and shower combination unit or separate facilities? Have you always wanted a claw foot tub or would you rather install a whirlpool?
Do you have adequate storage? (Make a list of all the items you need to store in the bath to ensure proper storage space in the plan. This list also should include cleaning agents, toiletries, linens, first aid items and medications. Indicate on this list where in the room you would like to store each of these items. For example, you may want some of the toiletries in the shower area, while others will be used by the sink or dressing area. Storage is one of the biggest concerns in any design, particularly in rooms as small as the typical bath. Carefully consider this aspect of the room during your preplanning phase.)
Have you considered the lighting in your bath?
What kind of lighting do you want in your bath?
(You can still obtain a water rich environment with water-saving features.)
If the bath in question is a shared bath for the family, would a separation of the sinks from the rest of the room be helpful?
Have you considered newer water-saving fixtures? (You can still obtain a water rich environment with water-saving features.

By the Light of the Sun-Daylighting Trends

A reprint of an article from

The latest trend in remodeling is daylighting – the use of glass intensive designs to draw in more natural light. Opening the home to maximize the amount of natural light available creates a stronger, more visible bond with the environment and can visibly stretch the space. It has even been known to enhance emotions and moods.
Windows, skylights, roof windows and sunrooms are key elements in any modern home. In fact, they are a mark of modern architecture. The number of windows per home has increased from an average of 8.6 to 15.5 in the last decade alone, and skylight numbers have grown too. Not only are homeowners requesting more windows, the windows they are getting are bigger. Replacement windows that fit the same size opening contain eight to ten percent more glass than windows of the past.
"This daylighting trend has led to new forms of design," says Robert Schindler of Great Lakes Window, Inc. "What we consider to be a typical design today, simply did not exist ten years ago. A good example is the window wall which is a new phenomenon. People would not use that many windows in the '70s and '80s because of energy reasons. With today's energy efficient windows, those concerns no longer exist. As a result, windows are taking over in home design."
The desire for more light and airier spaces is not new, however. Daylighting started with the Victorian homes which used windows as a design element. Frank Lloyd Wright also was fond of daylighting. He was noted for having said, "The best way to light a home is God's way."
Once windows became energy efficient, architects and designers took Wright's advice to heart and made windows the feature point of nearly every new home built. Now that trend is crossing over into the remodeling industry.
"As energy efficiency became the norm," says Schindler, "windows became more decorative - something to look at, not just through. The main reasons for purchasing windows today are beauty and aesthetics, not energy efficiency."
There is a resurgence of traditional window designs: prairie grids, leaded designs, bows, bays, and unusual shapes such as half circles, Palladian styles, arch-tops, eyebrows and more. Designers can create light patterns and moods by the windows they choose and how they place them. Homeowners today want a variety of light patterns, from the traditional vertical windows to the diagonal light gained through skylights and roof windows.
"Roof windows and skylights admit 30 percent more light, and offer better light distribution and better views, than traditional dormers, and are less costly to install," says Leslie Devore of Velux. "Another benefit of a skylight or roof window is privacy. There are times when a vertical window is not the best option. You may be backed up to neighbors or may not have the wall space, such as in a room tucked under the rafters."
If you decide to use a skylight, it should cover a minimum of ten percent of the total square footage of the room. You may want to cluster smaller skylights together for maximum effect or install one large skylight.
The key to creating the best daylighting design is to find a combination of vertical and diagonal light that can create the right mood for your home. Another option for bringing in the outdoors is to build a sunroom.
"Sunrooms are a creative way to add extra square footage," says Esposito. "You can open your home and draw more light into the home, while gaining living space at the same time."
The most influential motivation behind this trend toward more light-filled, open homes is most likely the psychological and physiological benefits. Scientists have proven that sunlight improves moods and production levels in businesses. People work and live better in settings with more natural light. It enhances moods, improves our health and can boost energy up to 24 percent, according to scientific experts. A home with maximum daylighting is the perfect retreat in this stress-filled world.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What were you planning to do this weekend? The Home Maintenance Club may have the answer.

Mark of Excellence Remodeling, Inc. of West Long Branch, New Jersey has launched its newest division – the HOME MAINTENANCE CLUB. This new service provides homeowners in Monmouth County and surrounding areas the ability to sign up online for a customized membership package for their home's maintenance and preventive care. Of the many features included are extensive checklists on numerous items that are vital to a home's infrastructure plus a complete GREEN home energy audit.

The new site is located at

The web site has complete details on how the program works as well as a frequently asked questions section. There are three distinct membership levels: gold, platinum and excellence. The site features an extensive portfolio displaying remodeling projects completed by Mark of Excellence Remodeling. There are also many articles related to home maintenance and green remodeling.

Company President Mark T. Elia, CGR, CGP states, “We recognize that there is a need for regular home maintenance for many homeowners in our community. Our HOME MAINTENANCE CLUB will help clients avoid early repair or replacement of many of their home’s products and systems. Ultimately this service expects to save homeowners money in the long run while securing the integrity and value of their home for the future.”

As a Certified Green Professional, Mr. Elia wants to raise the level of green remodeling awareness throughout his marketplace. “Most people hear the term green remodeling and think it merely refers to using recycled materials. Green remodeling incorporates many practices, products, and services. They include energy efficient products, renewable materials and simply items there are constructed to last a very long time. While people perceive green remodeling choices are very expensive, if instituted properly as part of the project and scope of work, it can actually save clients money through efficiency and energy savings as well longevity.”

Currently the HOME MAINTENANCE CLUB has exclusive online introductory rates and special offers for its annual membership packages. Homeowners that enroll for a two-year membership at the platinum or excellence levels will receive free replacement light bulbs for the duration of their membership. There is also an opportunity to enter for a chance to win a FREE one-year gold membership.

For further information visit the web site http:// or call 800-734-3737.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fall Maintenance Tips

If you've ever seen a movie or documentary about ships you know that a ship is home to sometimes thousands of sailors. You will often see sailors swabbing the decks, painting or fixing engine parts as part of their daily routine. These small jobs are part of the preventative maintenance schedule for the vessel and, joined with the hundreds of other chores, keeps it operating at peak capacity.

Your home and the ship share similar qualities. Both are the sum total of many working parts that have to be coordinated in order for them to run smoothly. Any lapses in the maintenance process will result in either instant failures or premature wear. The best way to assure that there are no unpleasant surprises, or that the home is always looking great, is to have a maintenance schedule. This is a four-season set of checks that will ensure everything is running right and that no deterioration has set into any part of the home. It is always best to catch problems when they are “potential” problems.

The hardest time on a home for most Americans is the winter. The extremes in temperature and prolonged periods of sub-freezing weather take a toll on many parts of the home. However, a thorough check in the fall may prevent an emergency like a pipe freeze-up.

Fall Maintenance a Must
Here are some tips for what should be checked by either yourself or a professional:
Heating and Air Conditioning
Oil furnace: This should be done every year by a qualified technician. This includes cleaning and adjusting burners and changing filters.
Gas Furnace : A qualified technician should inspect this every 2 years.
Hot water heating : Lubricate pump parts, check zone valves, bleed air from radiators.
Forced air heating : Clean dirt build-up, check fan belt for wear, lubricate motor, change air filters, vacuum out plenum.
Clean duct grills on force air systems and vacuum radiators on hot water heating and electric baseboard heaters.
Windows and Doors
Put up the storm windows and take off screens from casement for air flow to the

window to prevent condensation.
Check outside doors and casement windows to see they shut tightly and that the weather-stripping is alright.
Check skylights and smaller windows for weather sealing.
Protect the outside of the air conditioning unit with a cover.
Roof, Chimney and Gutters
Clear any obstacles that can divert water to the basement
Clean leaves from gutter and downspouts after leaves have gone from the trees
Check chimney for an obstructions like a bird or wasp nest
Get a professional chimney cleaner for a wood burning
fireplace or oil furnace.
Check shingles on the
roof to see that they are all in place.
Yard and Clean Up
Clean debris from the yard to avoid mishaps when the ground freezes
Drain and store garden hoses
Drain garden pond (if required)
Drain swimming pool (if required)
Cover shrubs with burlap and tie to prevent limbs from breaking in the snow
Store garden tools and utensils
Drain the gas from the lawn mower and run the mower until the motor quits. This will get rid of the excess gas in the carburetor and prevent gumming up over the winter
Seal driveway and sidewalk cracks