Rugged and comfortable place to settle in and watch the game.

Rugged and comfortable place to settle in and watch the game.

A man cave is a space in the home where the men can totally express themselves – both in deciding on the style and the main purpose of the space. Man caves are emerging as an enduring trend in today’s custom home design. That being said, do you really need to consider having “man cave” space in a home?

Sam Gosling, a University of Texas at Austin psychology professor, and author of Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You; said, “It’s incredibly important to be in one’s own space and have it resonate with who you are.” So yes – your man really does need a man cave!

Women traditionally influence how a home is designed and decorated, and the main living areas may be a reflection of her tastes and use for the spaces. That means men can feel isolated in their own homes, even if it’s on a subconscious level. Even in situations where couples both have input in designing and decorating the space – the space is perceived as a compromise, and it may not be meeting the emotional needs for the individuals. Personal space is incredibly important.

Man caves serve a basic psychological function.  It’s especially vital if the guy’s emotional needs aren’t being met in other spaces in the home. When it comes to designing and outfitting a man cave, Gosling says it’s extremely important that there is no compromise. That’s because a space that properly satisfies and regulates a man’s emotional and psychological needs is much less likely to evolve if someone else influences the outcome.

There is a dramatic uptick in the amount of requests for extra man space in a custom home. Men are carving out a space with home theater technology, surround sound, wet bar (including a kegerator), and game table areas. There is going to be space for the prized collection of sports memorabilia. Space for the guitars, amps and concert memorabilia. No compromise!

Man cave spaces we’ve done included a model train room, an oversized garage for restoring old cars, (including lifts to store vehicles) and a state-of-the-art workshop for wood working and tinkering.  These spaces often include a full bathroom; sometimes with a urinal.

When designing a new home, the lower level or the sub-garage area offers possibilities for a man cave space. Another ideal area is the bonus room over the garage. Sometimes it’s making the garage the ultimate man cave garage if your guy loves hanging out there.

So man cave space in your home is a good thing to have.  You work hard and all you want just a little personalized space to hang with the guys, a space that is all yours. It’s not the equivalent of the boy’s tree house with the sign “No Girls Allowed” – because if guys get their man cave space, I think the ladies will still be invited for a beer now and then!

In another blog, I’ll devote some space to what is a mini-trend I’ve noticed on Houzz: “She-Sheds” or “Chick Shacks”, for that private space women crave away from the main house!

 

Early Spring is a perfect time for home maintenance.

Early Spring is a perfect time for home maintenance.

After a below normal temperature February, we are in the mood for spring, with a spell of above normal temps for early March.

Can’t do many of these home maintenance items right now, but it’s good to have a list of Spring To-Do’s  for when the weather is just right. Some of these are DIY projects; others are best left to professionals.

What you can do now:

  1. Replace your HVAC filters. (Do this more often than once a year.) A dirty filter forces your HVAC system to work harder, which in turn drains your wallet. It could also shorten the life of your blower motor.
  2. Check the washing machine fill hose. Look for cracks that could become leaks. A leaky hose under pressure can cause major damage in a short period of time.
  3. Clean your dryer vent. Not all lint is caught in the lint trap. Some makes its way into the dryer vent. A clean vent will save you money by reducing the time your dryer has to run. A plugged vent not only wastes money, but could also cause a house fire.
  4. Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors if you haven’t already done so with the daylight savings time change last week.
  5. Drain you water heater. Sediment builds up in your water heater tank. Use the spigot near the bottom of the heater to drain it. By doing so, you’ll prolong its life and reduce your electric bill.
  6. Clean your carpets and upholstery. Clean carpets promote better health for the entire household.
  7. Clean and organize your garage. Get rid of anything you haven’t used lately.

What to do once the weather warms up:

  1. Inspect your roof. Your roof is your first line of defense against water damage. Inspect and repair any worn areas to prevent water damage inside your home.
  2. Clean your gutters. Gutters direct rain away from your roof and home, protecting both in the process. Clogged gutters open your home to water damage; and there is a good chance you won’t notice the damage until you need an expensive repair.
  3. Fix cracks in your walks, driveways and outside of your home. Most of these repairs are fairly easy if done immediately.
  4. Repair any cracked or peeling paint. Paint makes your home look nice and provides a protective barrier from the elements.
  5. Prepare your lawn mower for summer. Change the engine oil and sharpen the cutting blade. You’ll lengthen the life of the mower and improve the look of your lawn.
  6. Check the seals around doors and windows. Winter weather can crack and harden caulk and other weather seals. You’ll reduce your air-conditioning bills in the summer.
  7. Clean vegetation around your air conditioning compressor. To work efficiently, the compressor needs good airflow. Prune any plant growth that could block it.

A few hours spent protecting and enhancing your biggest investment is time well spent!

January is Radon Awareness Month

What you Don’t Know and Can’t See Can Hurt You

Could there be a chance that the air in your home is polluted by a completely odorless and colorless gas that damage lungs and can potentially give you and your family lung cancer? Wouldn’t you want to know if it was in your home?  The gas in question is radon, and given that January is Radon Action Month; a month when we normally spend much more time indoors; it is a good time to learn more about it.

A few years ago, I became concerned about radon in my my home because the bad news is – Walworth County is a high risk area for radon. The soil in our area contains an unevenly distributed and generally small amount of uranium, the same mineral that is mined for fueling nuclear power plants. When uranium starts breaking down in soil, rock or water, one of the byproducts of this breakdown is radon gas. If your house is built on soil that contains some uranium, this radioactive gas can seep through cracks, sump pumps and other openings in basement floors and walls. The location of radon can be very sporadic. Your home may have a high radon level, and your neighbor’s home can be just fine.

Make sure your indoor air is safe from radon.

Make sure your indoor air is safe from radon.

The EPA estimates that radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the U.S. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. If you do smoke and your home has elevated radon levels, your risk of lung cancer goes up even more. The good news is that this problem does have solutions.

The best way to find out if you have a radon problem is to do a radon test. The Environmental Production Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General of the United States recommends that the test be done in the living areas of your home where your family spends most of their time.

The testing procedure is very simple. It involves buying a small test kit, setting it up in the living area following the instructions, leaving it in place for the amount of time indicated, and then sending the kit back in a self-addressed pre-paid mailer. The lab will send you easy to read results within a week or two, or even earlier if you provide your email address.

Testing is inexpensive. You can get a test kit from the Walworth County Public Health Department for $10. (Contact Walworth County Public Health at 262-741-3140 to pick up a kit.) Or you can purchase mail- in test kits for less than $25 at local hardware stores.

I did the radon test on each floor of my home and found that I had a very high level of radon gas detected in the lower level and first floor; the main living areas. Since I had a problem, I knew I needed to install a system that would get the radon out of my home. Such systems need to be installed by a qualified contractor. While the cost of fixing this problem can seem high (typically $800-$1,200) it is a real bargain when weighed against removing the threat of lung cancer from your home.

The winter months are the perfect time to test your home for radon and make sure that your family is protected against this invisible threat to their long-term health. If you find out that you too have high levels of radon in your home – call me at 262-723-3588 for  qualified radon mitigation specialists to contact.

 

 

Universal Design

Universal Design is all about creating supportive spaces for everyone. Not only because by 2030, the population aged 65 and over is projected to surge by 65%, but also to create beautiful, flexible spaces for the rest of us. We need to design homes that are accessible to everyone from grandma to grandkids.

What is Universal Design?

When you employ Universal Design principles – the flexibility of the spaces supports the users, instead of users having to adapt to how a space is designed. For instance – a family may have a person who is 5 feet tall and a person who is six feet 3 inches tall. If you plan the kitchen and the master bath carefully, you create comfortable spaces for both. You also want to design your home for “visitability.” Think about your relative or friend who has trouble going up stairs. Maybe there is a friend of your child who is in a wheel chair. Or taking care of your mom after hip surgery with a pleasant and accommodating space to recover.

Why is Universal Design so important to New Construction?

  • With a greater variety of people living in a home today, there is a demand for flexibility and multi-tasking within spaces so it works well for all the people who come into it.
  •  Most people want to age-in-place in their home. Universal Design concepts support and inspire us to continue a healthy and active lifestyle in our own homes.
  • Sustainability is a factor. A universal home design will last without major future remodeling. Less future cost and waste. When planning your home, think how the needs of the space can change throughout a family’s lifetime. It is better to plan the design right the first time instead incurring large remodeling costs later because the hallway and doorways are not wide, you didn’t plan a space for a future elevator, and didn’t plan for a shower without a threshold.
  • Higher resale value. If you want to sell your home, a home that is universally designed has many more potential home buyers.
This wide hallway is a beautiful feature and also accommodating.

This wide hallway is a beautiful feature and also accommodating.

Universal Design is best and most easily incorporated during the planning phase of your home. At this point it will be the least costly and most natural. Basically it will be invisible and more of an enhancement to the overall home design. Outside of the kitchen and bath areas; also consider the entries to a home, improving the lighting and creating easy access to storage.

The Universal Design principle is simple: To create a home that anyone could live in.

A lakefront home set on a lot with mature trees takes careful planning

A lakefront home set on a lot with mature trees takes careful planning

Do you have property you are looking forward to building your dream home on? Congratulations!  Get ready: The landscape of your home site is a complex part of the picture! It’s composed of topography, plants, trees, surrounding structures, and sometimes – lake and other water features. There are the zoning and code regulations. Each site also has a very specific solar orientation, views – both good and bad, and very often – an obvious character. There are a number of things to plan for when siting your home on your land. You’ll want to find out:

  1. What are the characteristics of the property? To know what your home building potential is, you should obtain a complete topographical survey of your property. A complete topographical survey will map out the contours, trees, flood plain, well and septic location, power poles, and existing drives. In addition, information on the adjacent properties can be added to the survey. It’s very useful to know the edge of the existing homes with sideyard and lake setbacks, the elevation of the structures, and the mature tree locations within 10 feet of the property line.
  1. What are the Setbacks? There are building codes that apply to your property. Municipalities have setback requirements for roads, fences, drives and more. An experienced builder will be well versed in the regulations and codes and design your home accordingly. Sometimes a variance will be needed and requested from the town and/or the county board before proceeding with the project. The home design drawings and where the proposed home will be located on the property (on the survey) are submitted when applying for zoning and building permits. In addition to building setbacks, state statutes require counties to adopt ordinances on shoreline zoning that include limits on how close structures can be placed to the water’s edge and the requirement to minimize clear-cutting of trees in the nearshore area.
  1. What type of soil is on the property? A soil scientist bores holes in the soil and tests for plasticity (how much the soil expands and shrinks) Many factors can be revealed by boring holes in the soil, like depth to bedrock, overall soil stability and depth to the water table. These factors can greatly influence where you will want to build your new home.
  1. What trees do I want to protect? Large shade trees and conifers take decades – or a whole lifetime to grow to maturity. Healthy, mature trees make your landscape come alive. A certified arborist can assess the health of the large trees. The arborist may suggest pruning weak or diseased branches, and how to protect trees during the construction process. The ground around the trees should not be compacted. (Don’t let heavy trucks roll over the tree roots repeatedly.) Plan the construction access and the future driveway away from large trees. For an extra-special tree or a group of trees, do not perform any regrading within the drip line. This may require a large area of protection. (Foundation walls and major construction cannot occur near the root zone.)

All of the above are all things to be mindful of in determining where to place your home. Your home site can also be the source of inspiration for your home design. When you look at your site for inspiration, good ideas tend to come very naturally. And by taking a meaningful approach with your builder you’ll have a home design that has unity with the land and interplay between the indoor and outdoor environments. The time and energy spent in the early planning phase pays off with a home that maximizes the simple enjoyment of a well-designed home.