Monday, October 13, 2014

Don't Let Your Fireplace Become A Hazard!

Once a year, Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. strongly recommends that their homeowner’s have the wood-burning fireplaces in their homes inspected and have chimneys swept by a licensed chimney sweep. The chimney sweep will not only clean the chimney of built-up creosote but will alert you to defects in the flue or firebox that can be downright dangerous.

Bad things that can happen with a malfunctioning fireplace — the worst being a chimney fire that can spread to the roof structure, causing major damage.

Here’s a list of things a good chimney sweep will inspect:
  • They should check that there is a cap with a screen on the chimney to prevent rain or snow
    from coming down the chimney and to prevent birds or other critters from nesting there.
  • He or she will look at the condition of the bricks and mortar. It’s possible the bricks exposed to the weather need to be reset or the mortar needs repointing. (A mason will need to handle this repair.)
  • The sweep will check out the flue liner and note excessive creosote buildup or cracked flue tiles. If the chimney hasn’t been swept recently, he or she will recommend that it be cleaned before starting your first fire of the season. The leading cause of fires from wood-burning fireplaces is partially burned fuel (creosote) deposited on the walls of the chimney flue.
  • If the fireplace has glass doors, the sweep should inspect the gasket material around the door opening. Defective gaskets should be replaced to ensure proper operation of the fireplace. This is especially important if you have an insert, which is meant to be airtight. If an airtight fireplace is operated without these gaskets effectively sealing the openings, excess air can leak into the firebox creating an over fire condition, which may permanently damage the fireplace.
  • If your fireplace is equipped with a blower, the sweep should service it. These blowers do not have a filtering system to prevent the buildup of dust and hair on the blower. Excessive dirt will shorten the life of the blower and may be a fire hazard.
  • The inspection may reveal broken or deteriorated brick lining in the firebox. Replacement of the damaged bricks may or may not be necessary depending on the severity. (A mason will need to handle any repairs to the brick lining.)

When the fireplace inspection is done and the chimney is swept, there is one final task for you to perform. Test any smoke or carbon monoxide detectors you have in your home to ensure that they are operating properly.

Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. is a true custom home builder specializing in luxury new home construction. We have been building homes in the Michiana area since 1965. Since that time, we have never built the same home twice. We serve an area within a 50 mile radius of our company’s rural Goshen, Indiana location. We build mid to large custom homes and estates with intense focus on quality of construction, craftsmanship and materials. 

Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. offers dedicated project management on your site to ensure quality, as well as personalized attention to your input, questions and satisfaction. As a client you will be kept informed from beginning to end with clear, scheduled construction meetings and financial reports. 

Your project reflects the shared vision of you and your architect. Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. will help you realize your vision with clear communication between you, your architects and designers, and the Martin Brothers team of construction professionals. We look forward to building your new home!
 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Advantages of Using Composite Building Products

In both new construction projects and renovation work there are advantages to the use of plastic composite building products. They are durable, lightweight, corrosion resistant, strong, require little maintenance. These plastic materials obtain much of their versatility because they can be engineered to provide specific performance characteristics. Technically known as fiber-reinforced plastics or fiber-reinforced polymers (FRP), plastic composites generally comprise two components: a reinforcement fiber and a polymer binder (often called a matrix). For more information, please visit: Green Building SolutionsTo see additional Martin Bros. Contracting projects that use composite building products, please visit our Facebook page. 

Lake home porch ceiling covered with Azek beadboard
Composite boardwalk and pier


Finished lake home porch ceiling
PVC columns used for strength and flexibility

Friday, August 1, 2014

Let the Sunshine - Energy Efficient Site Placement

We learned last week that sunlight is nature’s stress-buster, because it positively impacts both physical and mental health. If you're lacking in the natural light department your mood will suffer. But did you know that sunlight can also help you save money on lighting and heating bills? Simply designing your home around how the sun moves throughout the day will help make your home more energy efficient and pleasant to live in. The fancy term is “passive solar building design”. In passive solar building design, windows, walls, and floors are made to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter and reject solar heat in the summer. In this post we are going to discuss taking advantage of the sun to produce the most heat and light.  In passive solar building design, windows, walls, and floors are made to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter and reject solar heat in the summer. In this post we are going to discuss taking advantage of the sun to produce the most heat and light.

Design your home to take advantage of the sun all day. Think of a house as four distinct sections…north, south, east and west. Each section has its own potential for daylight and free heat, depending on the sun's position during the day.

Morning sun is dominant in east-facing rooms. Locate kitchens, dining rooms and breakfast nooks on the east wall to make the most of light potential early in the day. Using dense flooring materials like, tile, stone or hardwood in these rooms will help with the heat gain. Bedrooms with east-facing windows will be great for early risers but terrible for people who like to sleep in.

Sunlight is strongest on the south wall. The south section of your home is the best place for your main living areas, the space that will be used most throughout the day. This is another area where using dense flooring materials will help with heat gain.

Early evening light from the west is at a low angle. Because the sun is so low in the sky, west-facing windows get direct sunlight blazing through them. In Michiana, this is the last chance of the day to soak up some sun; West-facing rooms are a bad choice for media rooms because strong light makes screens harder to see. However, west bedrooms are great for people who like to sleep in because the room is very dark in the morning.

North rooms have the least natural light. They also have the greatest potential for heat loss through windows. This is a good place for bathrooms, sleeping porches, offices, utility rooms, entries, and other rooms where natural light isn't as important.

Martin Brothers features a home on our website that includes passive solar design in the overall house layout including fenestration and main rooms on an east/west axis for good solar orientation. We recommend working with an architect who is familiar with local climate and topography when designing your new home. Feel free to visit our website for a list of local architects.

Friday, June 27, 2014

9 Questions to Ask a Potential Custom Home Builder

You have gone through the design process with your Architect, have designed the custom home of your dreams and it's now time to select a custom home builder. A custom home is unique in that the home is usually large, built to specified standards and is much more complex to build. What questions should you ask your potential custom home builder candidates?  
  1. Do you only build site-specific homes for a new client each time you build? The builder should be building a new and unique home each and every time they build. This will prove that they have the ability to build all types of homes with unique architectural elements. They should be familiar with building on different terrains and soil types and in different areas of Michiana. Building for a new client each and every time, means they possess the ability to work and communicate with all types of individuals.
  2. Do they employ experienced carpenters and support staff? Experience counts when it comes to building a complex home. A professional builder will have trained staff that has been with their company for many years. They are the backbone of the company. The face you will see at your jobsite. The people who will interact with the subcontractors and suppliers…the people who will handle the warranty issues long after your home has been built.
  3. Will they assign management personnel to your project?  Jobsite management is crucial to a 
    smooth and headache-free building project. A project foreman should be assigned to your project. They should be there everyday, all day. They will handle the daily activity of your project. They are there to make sure subcontractors and suppliers are showing up. They will handle all safety issues and the builder’s personnel that are there working on your home. In addition there should be a project manager assigned to your project…someone that will handle your project as a whole. They will handle post contract bidding, communication with you, inspectors, trades, suppliers — the many parties who are involved in your project. Their job is to keep the project running on schedule, on budget and with as few problems as possible.
  4. Do they build less than 10 homes per year? If the builder is building more than this, they most likely fall in the category of developer or spec home builder. A true custom home builder is engaged in building fewer homes so that they can focus on customer service and quality construction.
  5. Are they a member of the local, state, and national Home Builders Associations? This means the builder is committed to professionalism.
  6. Does the builder have a permanent business location? Be wary of the builder who is operating out of a truck. They may consider their business a temporary operation. Find out how long they have been in the building business. It usually takes three to five years to establish a financially sound business.
  7. Do they carry sufficient workers compensation and general liability insurance? If not, you may be liable for any construction-related accidents on your premises. Make sure they will be around after the construction is complete to service any warranties. Make sure they are following OSHA guidelines and that they have written safety policies in effect to protect employees on the jobsite.
  8. Do they have a good reputation with local banks, suppliers and trades? A financially sound
    builder will not expect a client to pay for services before work is completed. They may expect a small down payment up front, but not a substantial amount. Make sure the builder provides you with a complete and clearly written contract. The contract will benefit you both. If you are having a new home built, get and review a copy of the home warranty and homeowner manual as well. The builder must have an excellent working relationship with suppliers and trades. If they do not have good working relationships, there will be friction throughout the project. Find out if the suppliers and trades refer clients to them.
  9. Will they conduct scheduled meeting with you? Keeping you informed of the progress of your project is vital. Meetings may be conducted over the telephone or on the jobsite. They may take place with your architect or designer. But regularly scheduled meetings should take place.
Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. is a true custom home builder specializing in luxury new home construction. We have been building homes in the Michiana area since 1965. Since that time, we have never built the same home twice. We serve an area within a 50 mile radius of our company’s rural Goshen, Indiana location. We build mid to large custom homes and estates with intense focus on quality of construction, craftsmanship and materials. 

Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. offers dedicated project management on your site to ensure quality, as well as personalized attention to your input, questions and satisfaction. As a client you will be kept informed from beginning to end with clear, scheduled construction meetings and financial reports. 

Your project reflects the shared vision of you and your architect. Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. will help you realize your vision with clear communication between you, your architects and designers, and the Martin Brothers team of construction professionals.

Written contracts are provided for every project; a home warranty and an extensive homeowner manual are provided on each new construction project. Martin Brothers is proud to be an Indiana Quality Assurance Builder.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Home Maintenance Quiz

Your home may be the biggest investment you will ever make. Taking good care of it with regular maintenance is necessary to maintain its value and ensure it will provide a comfortable, safe shelter for you and your family for a long time.

Here is a home maintenance quiz that will test your maintenance knowledge. While this quiz does not address every home maintenance project, it does provide helpful tips and reminders for chores you may have overlooked.

How often do forced-air furnace filters need to be changed? At least every three months during the heating season. (Martin Brothers recommends monthly for maximum efficiency. Check the furnace installed in your Martin Brothers home, it most like has a washable filter and may be washed monthly.)

What part of the faucet usually needs to be replaced when you have a water leak? The washer. (In washerless faucets, the cartridge.)

Should you run hot or cold water through your garbage disposal? Cold water.

How often should the moving parts of garage doors be oiled? Every three months.

What tools can you use to unclog your drains? A plunger and a plumber’s snake.

What tool can be used to unclog a toilet? Coil spring-steel auger.

What faucet part needs to be cleaned every three to four months? Aerator — the screen inside the end of the faucet.

What can you use for traction on icy sidewalks, steps and driveways? Cat litter or sand — never use salt because it damages the pavement.

Where should the fire in your fireplace be built? On the andirons or grate, never on the fireplace floor.

What will prevent soot and add color to the fire in your fireplace? Throw in a handful of salt.

Where should your firewood be stored? Outside, away from your house and not directly on the ground.

What helps keep unpainted concrete floors easy to keep clean? Concrete sealer.

What should you use to clean unpainted concrete floors? A solution of 4 to 6 tablespoons of washing soda in a gallon of hot water. Mix scouring powder to the solution for tough jobs.

When can you clean hardwood floors with water? When the floors have a polyurethane finish. (Martin Brothers recommends following the installer’s recommendations and using the product they provide.)
 
Do hardwood floors need to be waxed? Hardwood floors that do not have a polyurethane finish probably will need to be waxed periodically. Use liquid or paste “spirit” wax. (Martin Brothers recommends following the installer’s recommendations and using the product they provide.)

What is the best polish for vinyl floors? Water emulsion wax.  (Martin Brothers recommends following the installer’s recommendations and using the product they provide.)

When is basement condensation at its maximum? In new homes because gallons of water went into the concrete of basement walls.

Why should noisy water pipes be fixed promptly? The condition that causes noisy pipes may be accompanied by vibration that can cause fittings to loosen and leak.

Why should frozen pipes be thawed slowly? Frozen pipes should be thawed slowly to prevent the formation of steam, which could  cause the pipe to burst.

How often should your roof be inspected? A qualified roofer should inspect your roof every three years. (Martin Brothers offers this service to our clients as part of our Service Inspection. If you are a client, please contact us about this service.)

What should be regularly checked on your security system? The alarms and circuit breakers should be checked to make sure they are in working order and the sensors should be inspected one by one.

To ensure your safety, what household equipment uses batteries that must be checked regularly to make sure they are operable? Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. (Even though the detectors may be hard-wired, they still have a battery back-up. Detectors should be tested monthly and batteries replaced twice a year.)

What do you use to fill nail holes and cracks in plaster walls and gypsum wallboard? Spackling.

What is the white powdery substance that develops on masonry walls? Efflorescence sometimes appears on masonry walls. It is crystallized soluble salts that can be removed by scrubbing with water and a stiff brush.

At what temperature should your water heater be set? 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

How often do skylights need to be inspected? Skylights should be inspected each time your roof is inspected so leaks don’t develop from cracks and interruptions around its seals, caulking and flashings.

What is a simple solution you can use to wash extremely dirty exterior windows? A solution of equal parts vinegar and water or 3 tablespoons of denatured alcohol per quart of warm water. Use a piece of crumpled newspaper to wash the glass to avoid lint left behind by paper towels.

What can you use to help a window slide easily? Rub the channel with a piece of paraffin.

What should you look for when you inspect your siding yearly? Determine if wood-sided homes need to be repainted; check to see if the caulking around the windows and doors has split and cracked, and replace the caulk; clean the mildew; trim shrubbery away so it does not touch the siding.

This quiz is brought to you via the National Association of Home Builders. Items noted in red are comments from Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc.

Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. builds high-end custom home in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. To learn more about us, please visit us at www.MartinBrosContracting.com