Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

The top ten things any homeowner should consider before hiring their next remodeler

Posted on 28 November 2016 | Category: General, Tips

Homeowner signing contract

Remodeling your home can be one of the most stressful activities that you experience. It can be a large investment, your family is typically still living in the home so it can upset your daily routine, and we’ve all heard horror stories about people who chose the wrong remodeling contractor for the job and lived to regret it. So, we’ve put together a helpful Top Ten List of things you should consider when you are interviewing remodeling companies.

1] Have you actually met who is going to do the work?

If your remodeling contractor was personally recommended from a family member, friend, next door neighbor or from your trusted local hardware store, you are likely to have a good remodeling experience. If your contractor was not personally referred to you, before any work begins, we recommend meeting with the Production Manager in charge, or the Lead Carpenter who will be doing the actual work. Remember, these are the people you are going to be living with 8-10 hours a day, every day, until the end of your project. Choose wisely.

2] Did you have a discussion with your contractor about any and all ways that your project could end up costing more than it states on the contract?

There are a certain number of contractors who have a reputation for selling low and pulling the bait-and-switch routine at some point in the project with something called a “Change Order”. This always seem to come as a surprise to both the homeowner and the contractor when it is really only the homeowner that is surprised. Be aware that every remodeling project has potential risks and all professional contractors should inform you of those risks before asking you to sign on the dotted line.

3] Is the project timeline set in stone?

For a homeowner who has experienced any of the following: a contractor goes missing, doesn’t return calls, has gotten in over his head financially, or just can’t muster the resources to pull off your project — the explosion of the project timeline becomes a nightmare that your family can’t wake up from anytime soon. Professional contractors will always present a production calendar detailing the scope of the project with highlights that track the essential milestones. A timeline that is set up well at the beginning helps ensure a successful outcome.

4] Will there be Employees or Subcontractors doing the work?

Since the recession, most remodelers have moved away from having the more expensive burden of employees and have gone to the subcontractor model. The subcontractor model can almost always offer a less expensive product but no one can really argue that the quality of the subcontractor experience can match a dedicated team of skilled and trained employees. If quality, not cost, is your biggest concern, be sure to ask if employees or subs will be used on your job and, just to be sure, ask for a copy of their Employee Workers Comp Certificate.

5] EPA Certification is a must in the Chicago area. Is your Contractor Certified?

There are over 1 million kids who have been poisoned by lead from old paint, and we estimate that over half the contractors we see working in Chicago and the suburbs are not EPA Certified.  Do everyone a favor — but especially pregnant women and children — and do not hire any contractors that are not lead safe certified. These guys are the worst of the worst. To verify if a contractor is EPA Certified just enter their name on the EPA website by clicking here. In the “Find a Firm” form, click the Renovator box, then enter your address and the “Search Firms” button.

6] Are they able to communicate effectively?

If we take the remodeling factor out of the equation and just look at how the very best teams deliver the very best results, we can quickly understand just how important effective communication is for all successful team projects. While all of us in the trades appreciate the skill of a craftsman, it’s his/her ability to effectively communicate that will put him/her on the best team at one of the best companies in Chicago. Our advice is “If you contact a company before 4:00 pm and do not get a return call that same day, you are probably dealing with a company where communication is not a priority.”

7] How valuable is the warranty you’ll receive?

Occasionally, we are called in to fix something that a previous contractor has done. Typically, the homeowner cannot get a return call or has discovered that the previous contractor has moved or gone out of business. If there was an unforeseen mistake in the remodeling process and a issue arises, the warranty that a locally trusted or more established company provides can be as valuable as the project itself. Ask for references from the remodeling contractor you are considering.

8] What is your protection from risk?

There is not a condo building in Chicago that will allow a general contractor to even set foot in their building without the following protections: General Liability Insurance, Workers Comp Certificate, EPA Certification and any licenses, bonds or permits needed for that particular job. They do this because they know firsthand all the risks and have seen or heard of all the possible disasters that are part of this business. Protect yourself. If it’s required for every condo building in the city, it should be required by you for your home.

9] How important is dust management?

85% of homeowners surveyed stated that job site dust was the #1 nuisance of their last remodeling project. Studies have shown that homes being remodeled have five to eight times the amount of particles in the air than homes that are not being remodeled. The most professional companies, like GetDwell, employ the Livable Remodeling System, which begins with the BuildClean Dust Management System. These air scrubbing machines are game changers, and our clients have come to love the benefits — especially if asthma or allergies are an issue. BuildClean dramatically reduces 90% of airborne job site dust  by drawing in air, passing it through a series of filters, and returning the “scrubbed” air back into the space. No longer do homeowners have to suffer through every morning with grit in their toothbrushes and coffee mugs.

10] You have a Three-Day Right To Cancel in the State of Illinois.

In Illinois, three day rights to cancel are required to be given in specific types of transactions. In many cases, home repair or remodeling contracts are required to contain wording that gives you this important legal right and explains how you can exercise it. It is important to understand the specific circumstances in which Illinois law gives you this right.

You are required to be given a three day right to cancel a home repair contract if:

  • the sale of services or merchandise involves $25 or more, and
  • the contract is signed when the salesperson or contractor is physically present in your residence.

The law requires notice of your three day right to cancel to be given both orally and as part of the written contract. Do not sign any contract that does not fully describe the three day right to cancel, fails to state the date of sale, or contains blank spaces.

Learn more about the Three Day Right to Cancel Hope Repair law in Illinois here.

In summary, Get Dwell recommends that when you are selecting a contractor for your remodeling project, you should:

  • Meet the actual people who are going to do the work
  • Have a discussion about change orders
  • Agree to a timeline for your project
  • Know who will be performing the work — employees or subcontractors
  • Select an EPA Certified contractor
  • Make sure you are comfortable with your contractor’s ability to communicate effectively,
  • Get a warranty for work, and be sure the contractor will be around in case you need to use that warranty after the job is completed
  • Be sure you are protected from risk, using best practices learned from condominium property managers
  • Ask about the dust management system they use (or if they use one!)

We hope these considerations are helpful to you. And of course, we’d love to provide a free estimate for any remodeling projects you are considering. Just contact us here.

10 Ways to Prepare Your House for a Chicago Winter

Posted on 16 September 2014 | Category: Tips

1: Walk your home’s entire exterior
Note any areas that need immediate attention

2: Evaluate your external watershed
Water does not belong next to the house

3: Evaluate the exterior fabric of your home
Painting and masonry are not winter-friendly tasks

4: Inspect the foundation
Cracks can be fixed, and now is the time

5: Investigate the attic
While you’re there, determine the R-factor of the insulation

6: Seal any open penetrations to your home
First water, then bugs … then mice

7: Clean up the places that need it
Power washing can be fun!

8: Check your fences and gates
Or, stand in line for fence repair after the next big storm

9: Weatherize or replace your doors and windows
Your toes will thank you this winter

10: Turn off spigots and remove hoses before the first frost
Something you definitely want to remember, so they do not get damaged or ruined

Hundreds of clients rely on Get Dwell to help keep their home prepared for the Chicago winter. If you would like a professional assessment of your home, email us or call 847-922-3418.

For Current Clients: Entire Home Assessment $99
For New Clients: Entire Home Assessment $175

An Ice Dam is Leaking Into The House — What to Do Next

Posted on 10 February 2014 | Category: Tips

The first step is to remove the ice dam

At Get Dwell, we remove ice dams every winter with professional methods that we have developed after many years of experience. If you are attempting to do this on your own, please be careful. Ice dam emergencies coupled with a lack of knowledge and experience can, and do, result in injury every season. This lack of experience can also cause serious damage to roof and gutter systems. Contact a professional to remove your ice dam -or- wait until the temperatures allow the ice dam to melt on it’s own.

The next step is discovering the flaw in the roof system and fixing it

Roof systems can be complex and many times an ice dam is found in a valley that involves one or more roof systems. The flaw in the roof may be obvious, like improperly applied Ice and Water Shield or a missing shingle. On the other hand, it may not be so obvious and could be hidden from view like an incorrectly installed flashing system. Whatever the case, an experienced and proven roofing expert will be able to help you determine a permanent solution. If you are experiencing an ice damming issue this winter and need advice please give us a call at 847-922-3418. We would be happy to help.

Click here for more information on ice dams and how to prevent them.

What Causes Dryer Fires and How Do You Prevent Them?

Posted on 20 January 2014 | Category: Tips

There are over 15,000 clothes dryer fires every year resulting in numerous deaths, injuries and millions of dollars in property damage. The majority of these could be prevented through annual dryer maintenance.

The National Fire Protection Agency recommends cleaning your dryer’s ductwork once per year. This is especially true if you do a lot of laundry. This annual maintenance task is performed by pulling out the dryer, removing the ductwork behind it and either replacing the ductwork or cleaning out all the lint using a dryer brush.

If you are unable to perform this task each year, Get Dwell has a $129 Dryer Duct Cleaning Service which will not only reduce the risk of a fire hazard, but it will maximize your dryer’s performance and minimize your electric bill at the same time. Contact us or call 847-922-3418 to get on the schedule.

NBC TODAY Show Dryer Fire Prevention

A free “Jano” consultation with every painting estimate

Posted on 10 November 2013 | Category: Tips

Our finish painter, Jano Brindisi has been creating elegant and sophisticated painting and design work for homeowners on the North Shore and Chicago for 30 years.

“Well not 30 years entirely, there was a time for a couple years when I was Nicholas Cage’s personal painter in L.A … but that’s a different story,” laughs Jano. Classic homes require a classic finish and Jano has learned to create any type of finish a homeowner desires. “I can help show the possibilities” she says. “One of my favorites is a tone-on-tone vertical striping of the same color while the finishes alternate from satin to flat. This subtle technique picks up the light beautifully while adding more sophistication to any room.”

“Most of the specialty work I do involves glazing. It’s like making a wall surface the background of a beautiful oil painting where the depth and coloring create the ambience of any room” explains Jano. “My all-time favorite projects are kid’s rooms because they are always creative and kids just can’t help but burst out with happiness when they see their new room.”

Call us today to schedule a consultation with Jano.

The Fine Print:
Jano will provide a free one-hour design and finish consultation, as well as painting estimate. Must be scheduled before December 31, 2013.

Jano Brindisi Jano served her apprenticeship under a master painter and has pursued the craft of painting for over twenty years. An expert in faux finishes and design, she loves to help bring her clients color choices and designs to the best finish possible. She served her most famous client, Nicholas Cage, as his personal home painter for a number of years before returning to the North Shore. When Jano is not painting she is pursuing her love of music. Check out her music here.


“If only I knew then, what I know now about getting my roof repaired…”

Posted on 30 September 2013 | Category: Tips

It is hard to refuse an inexpensive offer of someone who claims they can repair your roof when the water is pouring in. It is also very uncomfortable to agree to a total roof replacement when you don’t entirely trust your roofer’s evaluation.  That’s where Get Dwell comes in.

If your roof can be repaired, we will offer a guarantee on the workmanship, so you can rest easy.  If we feel you need a new roof replacement we will give you the proof you need to make a good decision.

Our certified roofing contractors, well known to us, and are licensed and have successfully completed stringent testing. They must demonstrate their expertise in all areas of residential roofing — from roofing materials to roofing safety. They are continuously updated on the latest rules and regulations in an ever-changing marketplace.

Unlike unlicensed roofing companies, licensed roofing contractors are insured and have workers’ compensation for their workers, removing the liability from you in case a worker is injured while working on your home.

If you would like a trusted expert to examine your roof and give you a free estimate please give us a call.

Why do you need to be certified by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation to do roofing work in Illinois?

The residents of Illinois have been particularly hard hit when it comes to shoddy roof work. Illinois residents urged the state legislature to pass a law to protect its residents and their investments when it comes to choosing a reliable company to do your roof work. When the water starts pouring in, many residents have felt helpless to determine which companies are qualified to move forward with. Certification is now the baseline.



Uncle Norman’s Best Advice.

Posted on 08 September 2013 | Category: Tips

Painting is not expensive.

As a kid, I first rode on top of my my Uncle Norman’s shoulders some fifty years ago. He earned my trust then, and has never lost it since.Norman, a lifelong commercial and residential painter, who at 82 is still actively involved in facilities management, always says, “Painting is not expensive”. ” It’s one of the most cost-effective things you can do to maintain your property. But if you wait until it needs scraping …  well then it not only needs scraping but a host of other preparations, including priming … which makes it very expensive”.

From a cost perspective, Norman recommends painting before you need to. As a facilities manager he feels it would be irresponsible to his employer if he did not anticipate when his buildings needed painting. As with his own house he recommends that you be vigilant, plan ahead and commit to maintaining your home as much as your means allow. Over the long term, you will avoid unnecessary time, energy and money by taking care of that home repair or painting project early on when it is more manageable.

“When it comes to giving advice for proper maintenance of your home, building or any other structure, you may not like what you hear, but I am not going to lie to you” says Norman.  ”Everybody’s a painter, but not everybody’s a craftsman.”This is the kind of advice from Uncle Norman that you won’t regret later.

Think about it. Why wait until the paint is peeling and cracking or until an area of your home has been compromised by moisture, weathering, dirt, damage or higher than normal wear and tear? Take care of the problem sooner rather than later before the problem gets out of control and you’re playing catch up and paying more in the long run. Painting, and for that matter any home repair or home maintenance project, needs to be anticipated and addressed before it has a detrimental effect on the value of your home and your pocketbook.

The dangers of lead poisoning

Small amounts of lead paint dust can have damaging and irreversible effects on the brain, especially susceptible are pregnant women and children under the age of six. Always be sure you hire an EPA Certified – Lead Safe painter so they do not spread or bring lead dust around your home and inadvertently poison you or your family. If you you need to verify if the painting, repair or remodeling companies that you hire are Lead Safe, go to the EPA website and enter their name.

“Lead paint is not good for you” says Uncle Norman, who as a lifelong commercial painter worked closely with lead paint throughout his career. If you live in a pre-1978 house you are especially susceptible because there may be lead paint in it. If your house was built after 1978 you need to make sure your painter does not bring the lead dust into your home with dusty drop clothes or other materials from other people’s houses that have lead paint in them.

Old lead-based paint is the most significant source of lead exposure in the U.S. today. Harmful exposures to lead can be created when lead-based paint is improperly removed from surfaces by dry scraping, sanding, or open-flame burning.  Any contractor doing painting, repairing or remodeling work in the Chicago area where there are a lot of older homes must be EPA Certified. This is now a federal law and the fines can be $35,000 per day.
Learn how to protect yourself and your family here.

Have a question about lead paint? Or  need painting, repair or remodeling work from an EPA Certified Lead Safe firm? Talk to Get Dwell we would be happy to help.

Top 10 Tips for Preserving your Sanity and the Integrity of your Home this Fall

Posted on 30 August 2013 | Category: Tips

Our good weather days are numbered. Fall storms bringing both high winds and heavy rains are on their way. Here are the top 10 things you can do to protect the investment in your home and keep your family safe and comfortable.

1Touch-up Exterior Caulking and Painting

The primary defense your house has against the Chicago weather is a good, solid seal. A tight house is achieved through good construction and a solid shell of quality paint and caulk. If there are signs of split or peeling paint you can be sure that moisture has and will continue to penetrate that seal leaving your house vulnerable. Be sure to get these areas touched up with a good quality paint before the weather turns. Our painters are ready for your call.

2. Gutters, Downspouts and your External Watershed

When the fall storms hit, having correctly sized gutters and downspouts are the first step in taking this tremendous amount of water away from your home. From there, the water must exit this system and flow away from your foundation. If not, you are probably due for — or have experienced — some type of basement flooding. If you have any doubts about your gutter system, call for a free assessment.

3.  Fences and Gates

If one of your fence posts has rotted and become broken and loose, the chances are that a large section of fence is ready to fail with the next storm. Especially if the wind hits your fence directly head-on then — well, that’s when the frantic calls come in and the horror stories are told, of how the fence came down and damaged the neighbor’s car, let their dogs escape, crushed your elderly neighbor’s prized rose brushes, etc. Avoid these issues, call now for a free estimate on the repair or replacement of your fence.

4. Foundation / Cement Work

Cement cannot be poured when the temperature is below freezing. Our foundation repair specialist tells me they are just about booked for the fall/winter season. Foundation and cement issues need to be handled now — or it looks like you will have to wait until next year. Not really something you should be crossing your fingers about.

5. Install Lucite weight-reinforced window well covers.

If you have window wells and do not have the appropriate rain covers over them, you can have a real trouble area. The drains in the bottom of window wells are usually clogged, covered with leaves or susceptible to a wind-swept plastic bag and when the sudden water event happen these drains can easily become overwhelmed. Once overwhelmed, they begin to fill up with water and then spill into your basement window and flood your basement. A special Lucite reinforced cover will allow light to be let in, it will keep water out and its incredible strength will not allow anyone to fall in. A “must have” for Chicago-area basements. Call us for a free estimate.

6. Domed Drain Caps

If you have drains below grade (below the surface of the earth), chances are they were installed with a flat drain cap. We find these to be an unacceptable solution and recommend a domed drain cap whenever possible. This will lessen the chance of this drain being covered up by leaves, a plastic bag or some other natural debris. Many, many basement floodings could have been avoided by installing this simple product.

7. Power Wash

There is nothing like a good fall power wash to keep your home looking its best through the winter. Once the cold weather hits, it will be too late to get your house clean and any dirt or mildew will be frozen there until spring.

8. Clean Ductwork

If you have an HVAC system, turning on the heat means blowing the air you breathe through your ductwork. In new construction or remodeling, over time the bottom of your ductwork gets filled with building materials, dirt, pet dander, dust, etc. Condensation collects on this matter and can form a soup of gross, nasty, organic growth. And this is what the household air you breathe passes through before it reaches your family’s lungs. Do yourself a big favor and get this cleaned out before the heating season begins.

9. Windows/Doors

If you need window and door replacement or repair, now is the time to fix or order your new doors and windows. The cold weather will be upon us quicker than you think and manufacturers are already getting behind on orders.

10. Holes

Any weakness in the wood or exterior of your house will invite animals into your home this fall. Squirrels love to chew away the rotted wood and enter your warm soffit, fascia and attic system. In addition, over the last few years carpenter bees have penetrated fascia woodwork and laid eggs — woodpeckers now have discovered this food source and are pecking away vast quantities of wood to eat these eggs and then birds, squirrels and racoons take advantage of this scarred wood and move in. These calls start right around Thanksgiving and continue all winter.

Have a question about these tips? Or  need repairs or maintenance to get your home ready for the warmer weather? Talk to Get Dwell we would be happy to help.


Top Five House Tips for Spring

Posted on 21 March 2013 | Category: Tips

March came in like a tiger and is going out like a tiger too! April showers are soon on their way and these spring storms are notorious for wreaking havoc on homes and flooding basements. Here are 5 things you can do to protect the investment in your home and keep your family safe.

Get Ready for the Spring Rains and Winds

1. Check those gutters and downspouts.

Gutters that leak, downspouts that have pulled away from the house and downspout extensions that are missing or inadequate are the primary cause of basement flooding and foundation damage in Chicago. Make sure these watershed systems work. If you would like a free estimate on the repair or replacement of your gutters and downspouts just let us know.

2. Install quality window well covers.

If you have window wells and do not have the appropriate covers over them you have a recipe for trouble (Note: This does not include the thin, flimsy plastic covers we find on most homes). A proper window well cover can prevent basement flooding, people (especially kids) from falling in, animals and rodents from entering, security against burglars and vandals. For the ultimate in protection and security we recommend a professionally fitted, reinforced polycarbonate cover. If you would like a free estimate on their installation contact us before the spring rains begin in earnest.

3. Inspect your stairs and decking

Falling is the number one cause of injury in our homes. Be sure to inspect your stairs, decking and railings for any potential loose wood or rot that winter has caused. If you would like a professional carpenter to come by and give you his opinion, let us know and we will get it scheduled.

4.  Check gates and fences.

The first big Chicago windstorm of the spring always blows down a multitude of fences. Be sure that yours aren’t ready to come down on your automobiles, your prized landscaping, your driveway or alley – or more expensively. . . those of your neighbors. We are here if you would like a free estimate on the repair or replacement of your fences and gates.

5. Stop bugs, mice and other crawlies coming into your house this spring.

These critters need to get into your house somewhere and it is usually where an exterior seal has failed. The winter freeze / thaw process can deteriorate the seals around your home’s penetrations (gas lines, cable lines, A/C piping, dryer vents, etc.) Once that happens, predator insects and mice find their way in. If you want to eliminate the spring ritual of mice in your home or would just like a free inspection of the penetrations into your home, contact us.

Have a question about these tips? Or  need repairs or maintenance to get your home ready for the warmer weather? Talk to Get Dwell we would be happy to help.


What Are Ice Dams and How Do You Prevent Them?

Posted on 02 February 2013 | Category: Tips

An ice dam is caused when warm air enters into the attic and roof system on a day when the temperature outside is 32 degrees or below “and” there is snow on the roof. This warm air can raise the roof temperature above 32 degrees and melt the snow. The snow melt then flows down the warm roof and eventually reaches a frozen portion (usually at the gutter line or eave) where it refreezes. As more snow melt reaches this spot, it too refreezes and the resulting new ice can begin to form a dam, trapping the additional snow melt behind it. This trapped water can then find it’s way under shingles and into your home causing interior water damage and mold. A good visual indicator of a potential ice dam is heavy ice accumulation on the roof and icicles.You can prevent ice dams by eliminating the warm air from entering and staying in the attic. The corrective process to eliminate ice damming is a combination of adequate insulation and appropriate sealing techniques, proper ventilation and the elimination of other ice damming culprits.

Adequate Insulation and Sealing

The Climate in Chicago requires an attic space with an insulation R value of 49. Meaning, that in order to achieve maximum energy efficiency and cost savings, you must have sufficient thermal resistance in your attic. In addition to having adequate amounts of insulation, it must also be installed correctly and have effective sealing methods employed. At Get Dwell, we find that in over 90% of the attics in the Chicago area do not have sufficient insulation and in the vast majority of those, the energy sealing work was never done or done inadequately. Fortunately, doing this work will not only help prevent ice dams but proper attic insulation and sealing will have the biggest impact on the comfort of your home. It is estimated that these efforts will save you 20% of your heating and cooling costs.

Adequate Ventilation

In order to realize how important ventilation is to the the ice damming puzzle, you must first understand a property of thermodynamics, in which “heat seeks cold”. In our homes when the warm air is seeking cold, it follows the path of least resistance and if there are unsealed and under-insulated areas of your attic, the warm air will use these avenues to escapes into the colder attic space causing the temperature to rise and the snow to melt. In order to avoid this situation, the attic must be properly ventilated so that any warm air that enters the attic space is effectively ventilated to the outside. This is achieved through a proper combination of lower soffit vents and higher roof, ridge or gable vents. Unfortunately, we find that over 20% of the homes that were built or remodeled in Chicago after 1970, have a serious lack of ventilation and subsequently have mold issues.

Other Ice Damming Culprits

The other culprits that allow your attic space to heat up are

  • HVAC systems located in the attic that do not have an insulated housing surrounding them
  • Bathroom fans that empty directly into the attic space instead of exhausting through a roof vent
  • Uninsulated heating ductwork
  • Uninsulated attic access covers or stairs
  • Uninsulated can lights
  • Dryer ducts that empty directly into the attic space instead of exhausting through a roof vent
  • Service providers who enter the attic to perform work and remove the insulation barrier to perform their service and do not put it back or re-insulate when their work is completed. In Chicago, we have yet to see a cable or dish installer re-insulate or seal the area the areas they have compromised.

If you have concerns about ice dams in your home. please feel free to give us a call. We would be more than happy to answer your questions.