Thursday, October 30, 2014

We're Fallin' Back & Learning About Fire Safety!

This precious angel had fire safety day at preschool this week. According to her mom they got a full on fire lesson at dinner.  She said

“We had to check for ‘smokin' things’ (smoke detectors)
We ‘never go back to get our blankies’
We ’don't hide from firefighters in masks’
‘There are two ways to get out, windows and doors!’
She even got on the floor and showed us how to stop drop and roll (with hands over our face so our eyes don't burn)”

Such great tips from a three year old!

The timing of this angel's story is perfect for us to remind our readers that as we set back our clocks one hour this weekend (EST), that we also must change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Home fire safety is so important, even our little ones know! For our homeowner's protection we recommend that they have the latest "smokin things" (smoke detectors) and fire extinguishers in their homes. Martin Bros. Contracting, Inc. leaves you with these statistics from the National Fire Protection Association showing you why.

Home fires
  • In 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to 370,000 home structure fires. These fires caused 13,910 civilian injuries, 2,520 civilian deaths, $6.9 billion in direct damage.
  • On average, seven people died in U.S. home fires per day from 2007 to 2011.
  • Cooking is the leading cause home fires and home fire injuries, followed heating equipment.
  • Smoking is a leading cause of civilian home fire deaths.
  • Most fatal fires kill one or two people. In 2012, 8 home fires killed five or more people resulting in a total of 44 deaths.

 Smoke alarms
  • Almost three of five (60%) of reported home fire deaths in 2007 to 2011 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
  • In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 93% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated only 79% of the time.
  • When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.
  • An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, or where extra time is needed, to awaken or assist others, both types of alarms, or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms are recommended.

Escape Planning
  • According to an NFPA survey, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
  • Almost three-quarters of Americans do have an escape plan; however, more than half never practiced it.
  • One-third (32%) of respondents who made an estimate thought they would have at least 6 minutes before a fire in their home would become life threatening. The time available is often less. Only 8% said their first thought on hearing a smoke alarm would be to get out!

 Cooking
  • U.S. Fire Departments responded to an estimated annual average of 156,600 cooking-related fires between 2007-2011, resulting in 400 civilian deaths, 5,080 civilian injuries and $853 million in direct damage.
  • Two of every five home fires started in the kitchen.
  • Unattended cooking was a factor in 34% of reported home cooking fires.
  • Two-thirds of home cooking fires started with ignition of food or other cooking materials.
  • Ranges accounted for the 57% of home cooking fire incidents. Ovens accounted for 16%.
  • Children under five face a higher risk of non-fire burns associated with cooking and hot food and drinks than being burned in a cooking fire.
  • Microwave ovens are one of the leading home products associated with scald burn injuries not related to fires. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, two out of five of the microwave oven injuries seen at emergency rooms in 2011 were scald burns.
  • Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1% of home cooking fires, but these incidents accounted for 15% of the cooking fire deaths.

 Heating
  • The leading factor contributing to heating equipment fires was failure to clean, principally creosote from solid fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.
  • Portable or fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, were involved in one-third (33%) of home heating fires and four out of five (81%) home heating deaths.
  • Half of home heating fire deaths resulted from fires caused by heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.
  • In most years, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires, fire deaths, and fire injuries.
  • Fixed or portable space heaters are involved in about 4 out of 5 heating fire deaths.
  • Smoking materials
  • During 2007-2011 smoking materials caused an estimated 17,900 home structure fires, resulting in 580 deaths, 1,280 injuries and $509 million in direct property damage, per year.
  • Sleep was a factor in 31% of the home smoking material fire deaths.
  • Possible alcohol impairment was a factor in one in five (18%) of home smoking fire deaths.
  • In recent years, Canada and the United States have required that all cigarettes sold must be "fire safe," that is have reduced ignition strength and less likely to start fires.


Electrical
  • About half (48%) of home electrical fires involved electrical distribution or lighting equipment. Other leading types of equipment were washer or dryer, fan, portable or stationary space heater, air conditioning equipment water heater and range.
  • Electrical failure or malfunctions caused an average of almost 48,000 home fires per year, resulting in roughly 450 deaths and nearly $1.5 billion in direct property damage.

Candles
  • During 2007-2011 candles caused 3% of home fires, 4% of home fire deaths, 7% of home fire injuries and 6% of direct property damage from home fires.
  • On average, there are 32 home candle fires reported per day.
  • More than one-third of these fires (36%) started in the bedroom; however, the candle industry found that only 13% of candle users burn candles in the bedroom most often.
  • Nearly three in five candle fires (56%) start when things that can burn are too close to the candle.

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.