From fundraisers to family events and movies to mingling, there are plenty of things to do around town this April! [Read more…]
See what’s happening around Chicago this month! [Read more…]
7 Be My Valentine benefit for Lynn Sage Breast Center – Ritz Carlton, 160 E. Pearson
10 Wine and Wildlife at Lincoln Park Zoo
13 Cupid and Canines Valentine’s Day Benefit- Doggie Works, 2338 W. Nelson
20 Polar Adventure Days at Northerly Island – 1521 S. Linn White Dr.
See what is happening in Chicago this month! [Read more…]
5-8 SOFA Expo
11 VETERANS DAY CEREMONY – Soldier Field
13 MC CORMICK TRIBUNE ICE RINK OPENS – Millenium Park
21 Magnificent Mile Festival of Lights
25 102nd CHICAGO’S TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY – Daley Plaza
26 TURKEY DAY 5-K
26 THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE 27 – Jan 3 Winter Flower and Train Show
27-29 ZOO LIGHTS Lincoln Park Zoo
Just a friendly reminder to set your clocks back one hour this Sunday. And, don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke detectors!
Daylight Saving Time was born of necessity during World War I and II. Going to bed hours after sundown, people relied upon artificially generated light, depleting fuel reserves. Germany realized that this precious commodity could better be used to serve the war effort, and instituted the first daylight saving laws in 1915. England followed suit in 1916, and the United States, in 1918.
Published: May 13, 2011
Home improvement trends embrace energy efficiency, low maintenance exteriors, and double-duty space.
Today’s home improvement trends show that we like our houses to work harder and smarter for the money we spend maintaining and improving their value.
- We no longer want bigger; instead, we want space that’s flexible, efficient, and brings order to chaos.
- We’re watching our wattage with monitors and meters, and guarding our weekends with maintenance-free exteriors.
Here’s a look at seven hot home improvement trends that improve the way we live with our homes.
Trend #1: Maintenance-free siding
We continue to choose maintenance-free siding that lives as long as we do, but with a lot less upkeep. But more and more we’re opting for fiber-cement siding, one of the fastest-growing segments of the siding market. It’s a combination of cement, sand, and cellulosic fibers that looks like wood but won’t rot, combust, or succumb to termites and other wood-boring insects.
At $5 to $11 per sq. ft., installed, fiber-cement siding is more expensive than paint-grade wood, vinyl, and aluminum siding. Still, it’s a solid investment. If you should decide to sell your house, you’ll recover 79% of the project cost, according to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.
Maintenance is limited to a cleaning and some caulking each spring. Repaint every seven to 15 years. Wood requires repainting every four to seven years.
Trend #2: Convertible spaces
Forget “museum rooms” we use twice a year (dining rooms and living rooms) and embrace convertible spaces that change with our whims.
Foldaway walls turn a private study into an easy-flow party space. Walls can consist of fancy, glass panels ($600 to $1,600 per linear ft., depending on the system); or they can be simple vinyl-covered accordions ($1,230 for 7 ft. by 10 ft.). PortablePartions.com sells walls on wheels ($775 for approximately 7 ft. by 7 ft.).
A Murphy bed pulls down from an armoire-looking wall unit and turns any room into a guest room. Prices, including installation and cabinetry, range from $2,000 (twin with main cabinet) to more than $5,000 (California king with main and side units). Just search online for sellers.
And don’t forget area rugs that easily define, and redefine, open spaces.
Trend #3: A laundry room of your own
Humankind advanced when the laundry room arose from the basement to a louvered closet on the second floor where clothes live. Now, we’re taking another step forward by granting washday a room of its own.
If you’re thinking of remodeling, turn a mudroom or extra bedroom into a dedicated laundry room big enough to house the washer and dryer, hang hand-washables, and store bulk boxes of detergent.
Look for spaces that already have plumbing hookups or are adjacent to rooms with running water to save on plumbing costs.
Trend #4: Souped-up kitchens
Although houses are trending smaller, kitchens are getting bigger, according to the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey.
Kitchen remodels open the space, perhaps incorporating lonely dining rooms, and feature recycling centers, large pantries, and recharging stations.
Oversized and high-priced commercial appliances — did we ever fire up six burners at once? — are yielding to family-sized, mid-range models that recover at least one cabinet for storage.
Since the entire family now helps prepare dinner (in your dreams), double prep sinks have evolved into dual-prep islands with lots of counter space and pull-out drawers.
Trend #5: Energy diets
We’re wrestling with an energy disorder: We’re binging on electronics — cell phones, iPads, Blackberries, laptops — then crash dieting by installing LED fixtures and turning the thermostat to 68 degrees.
Are we ahead of the energy game? Only the energy monitors and meters know for sure.
These new tracking devices can gauge electricity usage of individual electronics ($20 to $30) or monitor whole house energy ($100 to $250). The TED 5000 Energy Monitor ($240) supplies real-time feedback that you can view remotely and graph by the second, minute, hour, day, and month.
Trend #6: Love that storage
As we bow to the new god of declutter, storage has become the holy grail.
We’re not talking about more baskets we can trip over in the night; we’re imagining and discovering built-in storage in unlikely spaces– under stairs, over doors, beneath floors.
Under-appreciated nooks that once displayed antique desks are growing into built-ins for books and collections. Slap on some doors, and you can hide office supplies and buckets of Legos.
Giant master suites, with floor space to land a 747, are being divided to conquer clutter with more walk-in closets.
Trend #7: Home offices come out of the closet
Flexible work schedules, mobile communications, and entrepreneurial zeal are relocating us from the office downtown to home.
Laptops and wireless connections let us telecommute from anywhere in the house, but we still want a dedicated space (preferably with a door) for files, supplies, and printers.
Spare bedrooms are becoming home offices and family room niches are morphing into working nooks. After a weekend of de-cluttering, basements and attics are reborn as work centers.
Follow us: @HouseLogic on Twitter | HouseLogic on Facebook
If you live in the Midwest, here are maintenance jobs you should complete in spring and summer to prevent costly repairs and keep your home in top condition.
Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home’s systems running properly. What maintenance tasks are most important for the Midwest in spring and summer? Here are the major issues you should be aware of and critical tasks you should complete. For a comprehensive list of tasks by season, refer to the to-do lists to the right of this article.
When spring arrives in the Midwest, it’s time to clean up your home and yard from the ravages of winter. As the weather warms, you can also accomplish some routine maintenance tasks that are much more agreeable when the sun is shining.
Key maintenance tasks to perform
• Check your gutters and downspouts. “Stuff accumulates even after your fall gutter cleaning,” says Frank Lesh, president of Home Sweet Home Inspection Co. in Indian Head Park, Ill. “Pine needles especially, which fall all year long and are difficult to remove.” Children’s toys, he says, also find their way into gutters between cleanings, as well as nails and other debris from the roof. Look for any signs of wind or ice damage—has the gutter pulled away from the house, or bent so that there are depressions where water can stand? You can usually repair damage yourself for under $50 by adjusting or reattaching brackets and gently hammering out bent areas.
Lesh also recommends examining your downspouts for blockages. “You can’t see inside them,” he says, “so tap them with a screwdriver handle to see if they sound hollow.” If the ends run underground, where animals can build nests or winter debris can become trapped, your best bet is to put a garden hose in the gutter and see where the water discharges. If you have a blockage, you’ll have to disassemble or dig up part of the downspout until you locate it.
• Inspect your roof for winter damage. This is best done from a ladder, but if you’re allergic to ladders, use a pair of binoculars to check your roof from your yard. Look for loose and missing shingles. If anything looks unusual, investigate further yourself or call a roofing contractor.
• Take a close look at your chimney. “Do this even if the winter was mild,” Lesh says. “High winds, rain, and snow can damage a chimney. Look for cracks, missing mortar, loose bricks or boards, and signs of rot.” If any of those things are present, call a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America for a repair estimate. If the metal flashing and the cap on a chimney are galvanized, Lesh says, check to see if they look brownish, which means they’re rusting and should be replaced. Also, make sure the cap is still present but hasn’t collapsed and covered the flue opening, which could cause a dangerous carbon monoxide buildup inside the house. Expect chimney repairs to start around $200.
• Examine your drainage. Make sure soil slopes away from your foundation at least 6 vertical inches in the first 10 feet on all sides of the house and that there are no areas of standing water. If you have properly sloped foundation drainage but still have areas of standing water, consider a landscaping solution, such as a swales (contoured drainage depressions), berms (raised banks of earth), terraces, or French drains (a shallow, gravel-filled trench that diverts water away from the house).
• Take a look at your siding. Has any of it come loose or begun to rot? Repair any damaged sections before moisture has a chance to set in. No matter what your siding is made of (wood, vinyl, brick), it may need a spring cleaning. The best DIY method for any kind of siding is a bucket of soapy water and a long-handled brush. A power washer is not recommended and should only be handled by a professional cleaning contractor. If you choose to have your siding professionally cleaned, expect to pay $300–$500 depending on the size of your home.
• Schedule your biannual HVAC appointment. Get ready for the air conditioning season with your spring tune-up. If your system wasn’t running well last season, be sure to tell your contractor, and make sure he performs actual repairs if necessary rather than simply adding refrigerant. “He shouldn’t just charge it up,” Lesh says. “That will work for a while, but it won’t last. Freon lasts forever—if your system is low, there’s a leak somewhere, and he should tell you specifically what he’s going to check to fix it.” Expect to pay $50–$100.
Your contractor’s maintenance checklist should include checking thermostats and controls, checking the refrigerant level, tightening connections, lubricating any moving parts, checking the condensate drain, and cleaning the coils and blower. Duct cleaning, while it probably won’t hurt anything, is not necessary; be wary of contractors who want to coat the inside of the ducts with antimicrobial agents, as research has not proven the effectiveness of this method and any chemicals used in your ducts will likely become airborne.
On your own, make sure your filters are changed and vacuum out all your floor registers.
• Check your GFCIs. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that you do this once a month, and it’s a good idea to incorporate it into your spring maintenance routine. GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) are electrical outlets that protect you from deadly electrical shocks by shutting off the power anytime even a minimal disturbance in current is detected. They feature two buttons (“test” and “reset”), and should be present anywhere water and electricity can mix: kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages, and the exterior of the house.
To test your GFCIs, plug a small appliance (a nightlight, for example) into each GFCI. Press the test button, which should click and shut off the nightlight. The reset button should also pop out when you press the test button; when you press reset, the nightlight should come back on.
If the nightlight doesn’t go off when you press the test button, either the GFCI has failed and should be replaced, or the wiring is faulty should be inspected. If the reset button doesn’t pop out, or if pressing it doesn’t restore power to the nightlight, the GFCI has failed and should be replaced. These distinctions can help you tell an electrician what the problem is—neither job is one you should attempt yourself if you don’t have ample experience with electrical repair.
Spending a weekend or two on maintenance can prevent expensive repairs and alert you to developing problems before they become serious. Be sure to check out the comprehensive seasonal to-do list following this article, and visit the links below for more detailed information on completing tasks or repairs yourself.
Chicago is a vibrant and friendly city, a city of neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has it’s own identity and feel, and something different to offer. [Read more…]