Archive for March, 2010

March: Spring Forward with Home Maintenance

Posted on 03 March 2010 | Category: Tips

The month of March is a time a lot of people in these northern climes start looking forward to fresh spring start after a long, cold and snowy winter. That make it the perfect time to turn your attention to scheduled maintenance chores that should be on every homeowner’s annual to-do list.

March To-Dos:

Change Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Batteries
web_art3Daylight savings time, which comes this year on March 14,  is a reminder to change smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries. Remember, even hardwired detectors have batteries.  Remember, too, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – even if you’ve been diligent about changing batteries in the past, it’s hard to say when a particular set is going to discharge. Get Dwell recommends making this an annual event you don’t skip.

Change Your Light Bulbs
web_art4While you have the ladder out, this spring is a great time to change your old light bulbs to newer, energy-savings ones. If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, it would save enough energy to light more than three million homes for one year. That would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of about 800,000 cars!

Get Ready for the Rains, Part 1
rainSpring’s official start is March 20,  and, as they say, it traditionally comes in like a tiger out like a lamb. In Chicago the record high for March is 88 degrees, the record low -8 degrees. While the ground is still frozen we may get heavy rains, which may have nowhere to go but your basement. So be sure to check that your gutters and downspouts are clear, the window well drains are clear and – if you have stairs below grade – make sure those drains are unobstructed, too.

Get Ready for the Rains, Part 2
Every spring homes in our area flood because their sump pumps aren’t working properly, or at all. Many homeowners don’t notice because the sump probably hasn’t had to work since last fall. So make sure you check your sump pump and it’s back-up battery. Performing a test is easy: Add water to the sump pit until the sump float is lifted high enough to engage the pump. Do not operate the pump for more than a few seconds without water in the sump pit. If your sump pump isn’t working contact a professional promptly.

Have a question about these tips? Need repairs or maintenance to get your home ready for the warmer weather? Talk to Get Dwell and ask about our March specials, which are:

  • 15% off all restoration work
  • 15% off all work that is sympathetic to the historical character of your house
  • 15% off all basement flood avoidance work (gutters, downspouts, window wells, stairs below grade)
  • Free spring sump pump check with Trustable Home Assessment

Keeping the Past Present

Posted on 03 March 2010 | Category: Featured Projects

Famed architect Harry Weese and Kenilworth resident Rachel Noel never got to meet. But they might have had a lot to talk about.

Like Weese, Noel is enthusiastic about history and historic preservation. And it so happens she and her husband, Dan, reside in the same 1908 Arts and Crafts foursquare where Weese himself spent a portion of his childhood and that’s now on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to Noel, however, Weese might not have recognized much about the home when she and her husband, Dan, moved in back in 2005.

“It was suffering from benign neglect,” she says. “It had pink walls and the trim had been painted white. Even though it’s an Arts and Crafts style, someone had tried to Colonialize it with brass chandeliers and things like that. But it had good bones.”

Noel had used Get Dwell for some time to help her keep those “bones” in good repair. But she says there was one project that was particularly memorable.

web_art“I wanted Get Dwell to help prepare an enclosed porch for a heating-system upgrade,” Noel says. “They were under the porch taking a look around and out they came with this old milk bottle.”

The bottle, from a long-forgotten company called the Winnetka Sanitary Dairy Company, was just the tip of what turned out to be an historical iceberg. Noel asked Get Dwell to do an excavation under the porch, and what it turned up taught her a lot about how her predecessors lived in the home in the early 20th century.

The haul included coal ash, more bottles, children’s toys, marbles, dishes, a sled and even an early device for washing clothes. Plus, Get Dwell found a variety of stained glass, which Noel’s research indicated might have been product samples Weese used as a young architect.

web_art2“I discovered they didn’t have trash pickup in Kenilworth in the early years,” she says. “What didn’t get burned up in the stove got buried under the porch. It’s a really interesting look at the way people lived.”

Noel donated many of items to the Kenilworth Historical Society, but some were preserved in plastic bags and put back under the porch, “for someone who owns the house after us,” she says.

She says that kind of attention to detail and inquisitiveness is typical of Get Dwell. She credits the company with finding an original door for the home while working in another, less accessible area of the house.

“They look in places other people would never look and really explore every nook and cranny. The finds under the porch were a nice surprise but the reason they were there was the reason I always have them here – they make it possible for us live in the house and enjoy it.  When they fix something it stays fixed, and when you live in an old house that’s important.

Bringing History Home

Posted on 03 March 2010 | Category: General

web_art11Most people are understandably curious about their home’s history, especially those living in properties dating back to the days of steam power and bowler hats. Still, few people find the time or the resources to get more than the most basic information on the background of their dwelling.

There are compelling reasons to do the research, however. Knowing how and why your home was built, what its architectural style is and the changes it has experienced over time can help you make informed decisions about the changes, improvements and upgrades you make.

web_art10Why does that matter? Because these days, more and more people prefer a home that’s true to its roots. An historically sensitive home can be both more enjoyable (and interesting) to live in and more attractive to potential buyers when you’re ready to sell. Plus, older homes were often built with a level of craftsmanship and a quality of materials  that simply don’t exist, or aren’t reasonably affordable, today.

web_art9That’s why most experienced interior designers, architects and builders will take your home’s building style and background into account before recommending or making any changes that might undermine your home’s value.  For example, in some cases it’s preferable to restore old windows, doors, flooring and fixtures rather than replace them, either because they’re more aesthetically pleasing or because they’ll outlast even the costliest option in the stores today. Likewise, putting vinyl siding on an addition to a wood-clad Victorian could result a visual mishmash that might make your home less appealing in the long run.

web_art7There’s another reason to understand and preserve your home’s original character: the environment. The disposable nature of our society meant that, for decades, irreplaceable and invaluable building materials taken from old homes wound up as scrap in landfills.  These days, most people know that repairing, preserving and maintaining these assets is not only historically smart, it’s more sustainable and can save you money, as well.

web_art6Certainly, tradesman, architects and preservation experts can help you understand much about your house. Your local historical society can be a treasure trove of information, as well. Thanks to our experience in the city and northern suburbs, Get Dwell knows and appreciates the different styles of homes in the area, and we can help you make repairs or improvements that are consistent with your home’s provenance and will help preserve it for you and other generations to come.

web_art5Useful links in researching the history of your house: