water spigot

Should I be worried about my pipes freezing?

Should I be worried about my pipes freezing?

water spigot

Unprotected Pipes

Unprotected pipes are susceptible to cold temperatures because water expands when it goes from liquid to solid form. Ice blockage becomes more likely when outside temperatures drop to below freezing. A cold wind reaching unprotected pipes quickly removes heat and increases the chance of ice formation. Water pressure builds between the ice blockage and a closed faucet can burst the pipe.

Will they Freeze?

Pipes on exterior walls and /or above uninsulated basements are a concern on nights below freezing. Opening cabinet doors should keep pipes plenty warm to avoid a problem. Lack of insulation in the floor will tend to (waste energy) warm uninsulated basements offering some protection. All hoses should be disconnected from faucets outside all winter. The only time you should worry in our area is when we have a week of freezing weather, but even then, it rarely gets cold enough here to matter. Typically the kitchen sink, bathtub, and washer are concern areas. Keep the heat on in the house, open cabinet doors for caution, and hope this winter stays mild as is our new normal.

However, if you live in a home that lacks proper heat, insulation, or pipe placement – all of these ideas do not apply.

What to do if they Freeze.

If your pipes do freeze, shut off the water immediately. Don’t attempt to thaw pipes without turning off the main shut-off valve. Thaw pipes with warm air. You can melt the ice in the pipe by warming the air around it with a hair dryer or space heater. Be careful when you turn the water back on. Once the pipes have thawed, slowly turn the water on to test for leaks.

vented crawl space

addition

A well placed addition allows for a new life for an old space

A well placed addition allows for a new life for an old space

A well placed addition allows for a new life for an old space. This renovation brings in light, adds space, and offers the function to this existing home. The owners needed a paint studio with more light. The house is in the right location in town and has the right amount of space. However, he wanted a little more space to further explore his painting passion.

addition addition

This home owner did elaborate drawings to figure out what was needed with the addition, but lacked the technical knowledge for the structural design. So we did a code review, architectural consult, and structural design for this addition. The project has been slower than if a contractor was building it, but again this home owner wanted to take on the challenge.

addition addition

There have been a lot of questions, but this home owner plans everything out and does the research needed for success.

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Architectural Salvage Fun

Architectural Salvage Fun

It is always fun to check out an architectural salvage store. You never know what you might find and where it may lead you. From what appears to be space guns to trains, crosses, and stained glass – there is something for everyone.

You have to use your imagination on this one, but wouldn’t it be fun to integrate part of an airplane into a new design project? It could be a great addition to a restaurant, daycare, or a man cave (of considerable size of course).

What about a barrel of toys?

Concrete mushrooms would be a fun addition to any garden.

I am trying to figure out where we can install a giant E. Could it be part of a daycare?

This Christmas tree has a train running around it – how cool is that? I know this would look great at the Depot!

This amazing chair would be a great addition to any living room.

I am not sure I will ever have a project that has a need for a cross with Jesus or a rustic wood cross, but I would love to find a place for this stained glass. Either one of those would look great in a living room.

Looking for the beauty in the leftover parts and pieces adds texture and depth to any design. These stores exist in several places around the state – I encourage you to go dream when you have a chance.

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Alex Alvarez

A story of career development by a Blue Ridge Community College student

A story of career development by a Blue Ridge Community College student

Alex Alvarez is a future leader in the construction industry. He attends Blue Ridge Community College and is on a path to apply for admission to the Virginia Tech Building Construction Program.  I asked him to write a blog post to talk about his experience job shadowing in our office. Here is his career development story:

Alex Alvarez

After completing my first year at Blue Ridge Community College I was fortunate enough to discover the Gaines Group Architects and be given the opportunity to be mentored in the office by Charles. I chose to go to community college for three reasons:

  1. Price
  2. How close it is to home
  3. Small class sizes.

I would like to transfer to Virginia Tech’s building construction program and do architecture in grad school. Virginia Tech is a good option for me because it is a big school but still has small class sizes. Also has a great community environment and is more affordable than other similar universities.

Alex Alvarez

Alex Alvarez

Alex Alvarez

Alex Alvarez

The first day I went into the office Charles challenged me to build a garage in AutoCAD and model it as well. After that small project, David Martin, another student in the office from Virginia Tech and I worked on a house for an empty lot David had next to his house. Throughout the project David and I bounced ideas off each other and worked through problems in each other’s plans together. Also we had Charles there to help and guide us. I am currently working on a barn for my dad and Charles continues to be a great help in the design process.

Alex Alvarez

Alex Alvarez

Before the Gaines Group Architects all I knew where my hand sketches and physical models, now after around seven months being mentored by Charles and others in the office I know AutoCAD, Sketchup, renderings, detail sections, Photoshop, and many more skills. Charles continues to not only be a great mentor but a great role model for me. I am very fortunate to be mentored by him and I encourage anyone interested in architecture or a related field to seek out a mentorship.

Alex Alvarez

Alex Alvarez

Alex Alvarez

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2017_Depot_Holiday_Party

Visit with Santa at the Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot First Friday Art Opening

Visit with Santa at the Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot First Friday Art Opening

Join us for a very special night before heading downtown to the Harrisonburg Holiday Parade. On December 1 Santa will join us at the Depot in the R.S. Monger & Sons window and door  Showroom. Take pictures with the kids and start your Christmas celebration early. Then join us upstairs for hot chocolate, cookies, and libations. Red Wing Academy will be performing in The Gaines Group Architects office. Brad Striebig will have his photography on display in our gallery. Everyone is welcome!
2017_Depot_Holiday_Party

Take your picture with Santa!

Santa 

Listen to the Red Wing Academy

Exhibit: Scenic Shenandoah Mountain

I grew up in a farming community in Pennsylvania and loved the outdoors. I spent as much time as possible in the mountains and waters along the Appalachian mountain chain, ofter with camera in hand. I love the vibrant colors of the seasons throughout this region.
Striebig

The photographs in this exhibit represent the beauty of this region’s Shenandoah Mountain. Located west of the Shenandoah Valley in the George Washington National Forest, Shenandoah Mountain is one of the largest tracts of wild land in the Eastern United States. Shenandoah Mountain provides diverse wildlife habitat, outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, and clean water for drinking and aquatic life.  It also helps support our local tourism-based economy.  Friends of Shenandoah Mountain is a coalition of local citizens, businesses, faith groups, wilderness advocates, mountain bikers, hikers, hunters, and other forest users working to protect the wild heritage of Shenandoah Mountain for future generations. To help provide good stewardship for this unique are visit the Friends of Shenandoah Mountain website to endorse a proposal to make this area a National Scenic Area at:

www.friendsofshenandoahmountain.org

Reddish Knob

Reddish Knob

About the artist, Bradley A. Striebig, Ph.D.

Photography is something I’ve enjoyed since I was about 6 years old, when my father introduced me to to film cameras. I haven’t put the camera down, although the camera has changed quite a bit, since that first brown plastic Kodak I had as a kid.

Over the years, my work has been published in newspapers, calendars, magazines, book covers and numerous websites. I have been fortunate to be able to incorporate photography into service work with Engineers Without Borders and other NGOs. Currently I am working with Friends of Shenandoah Mountain to help conserve this rare wilderness in the Eastern US. Photography has played an important role in documenting various projects in Benin, India, Malta, Rwanda and the Nez Pierce Reservation in Montana. I have also worked with local non-profit organizations, donating services to the Lehman Center, a home for children, and the Interfaith Peace Camp at Eastern Mennonite University.

In addition to photography, I am a founding member and professor in the Department of Engineering at James Madison University. Prior to joining the JMU Department of Engineering I was a faculty member at Gonzaga University where I helped developed the WATER program in Benin. I am also the lead author of Engineering Application in Sustainable Design and Development, published by Cengage Publishing in 2015.

I’ve been blessed with two children who bring home the importance of pursuing sustainability. They also serve as a constant reminder that the pursuit of one’s curiosity can be a fun, exciting and sometimes downright silly pursuit – and also a meaningful journey.

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Thanksgiving Day

10 tips to go green this Thanksgiving

10 tips to go green this Thanksgiving

  1. Shop Local for your Thanksgiving feast – go to the local farmer’s market, shop at a Food Co-op, buy from a farmer in your area, grow your own vegetables
  2. Skip the paper and plastic – remember to take your reusable bags to the grocery store
  3. Use a reusable Roasting Pan to cook your turkey. Disposable roasting pans have become more popular in recent years, but they are not good for the environment
  4. Use LED bulbs – to light your celebration
  5. Use Cloth Napkins – reducing paper waste can help reduce the 2,200 paper napkins use by Americans per year. That is 662 billion napkins in the US per year
  6. Ask guest to bring reusable to-go containers to take home Thanksgiving leftovers
  7. Compost leftovers that don’t get eaten – the average American family wastes $600 in food each year. Instead of throwing away uneaten leftovers or scraps, compost them
  8. Use the fancy china plates and silverware – using plastic utensils and paper plates usually ends up in the local landfill
  9. Remember to Recycle instead of throwing packaging away
  10. Carpool – plan your trip to your Thanksgiving celebration destination in a way that you all reduce the total number of miles driven individually

Thanksgiving Day

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attic insulation

Insulation in your attic can determine your comfort in your living room

Insulation in your attic can determine your comfort in your living room

It is important to have the right amount of insulation in your attic. The minimum amount of insulation you should have in your attic ranges from 8 – 12″ depending on your insulation type. Spray foam could need less. Adding insulation over what you already have is an easy solution to cut your monthly energy use and increase your comfort in your living room.

attic insulation

Other things to look at while in your attic

There are some other things to look at in the attic while you are there. Make sure there are no vents from dryer or bathrooms that vent into the space. You want to keep you attic as dry as possible. Adding moist warm air into that space only leads to problems. Also, check for any critters that have decided your attic is a nice warm place to hang out. On a recent energy audit I found what looked like multiple nests. This is not uncommon as your attic is a much nicer place on a cold winter night to sleep. Check to make sure you have complete coverage in the space. You want insulation over the entire attic area. You also want to make sure the attic is as air tight as possible from your conditioned home.

insulate attic access

Last check before leaving the attic

Last, as you are leaving the attic, make sure your attic access is covered with insulation.

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attic insulation

Get an energy-audit to verify your house does not have uninvited guests

Get an energy-audit to verify your house does not have uninvited guests

I headed out to do an energy-audit at Massanutten yesterday. The home was clearly well maintained. It was 30+ years old, was not showing signs of neglect, and the heat was ON. It was very warm inside just like the home owners like it. We took a moment to talk about their concerns and I learned they just wanted to make sure the home was in good shape as it pertains to energy efficiency. They told me about adding insulation in various places around the home. They talked about keeping the thermostat higher than normal because they like it warm. The talked about appliances that were a little old and had concerns they might have to replace them.

They did not mention high electric bills – so I asked. They have average electric bills. So overall – the house was performing really well, keeping them warm, and the electric bills were not killing them. So I found the normal leaks – around electrical outlets, doors, windows, cabinets, and attic access. The framing intersection at the top of basement wall glowed from all the energy leaking through. The light bulbs could all be changed to LED to cut energy usage. The doors needed a little weather-stripping attention. 

 

attic insulation

So it was a normal energy audit. They could probably cut their energy usage by 30% with a few minor changes and I gave them names of people who could help with fixing it. So was it worth my trip out. YES. I found two major issues for them that neither of us expected.

dryer vent problems

The two major issues we found doing an energy-audit.

  1. Their dryer vent was long, had multiple dips in it, and from a brief test, appeared to be mostly clogged in one place and had considerable lint build up in several other places. This can easily lead to a fire. So I asked them to have that looked at immediately. Hopefully they will take care of it before it becomes a story on the news.
  2. The second major issue was multiple, more than 6, places in the attic that appeared to either be roof leaks or nests. A more fit energy-auditor – like Building Knowledge – would have gotten up in the attic to verify the issue. However, if you call for a free audit from the overweight architect, I will simply give you a name of someone who can climb through the attic scuttle and determine the problem. Either way, they were losing energy through their attic insulation that had been moved away or gotten wet. Fixing this issue and adding a layer of insulation (while plugging the holes causing the problem) will certainly make their home more comfortable and eliminate any uninvited guests from living in their attic.

attic insulation

So, my 1 hour free energy-audit gave them a list of things to fix in their home that could lead to a 30% reduction in energy usage, but it also either identified a roof leak or squatters. It also hopefully prevented a fire that looked like it was ready to happen. If you want an audit, give me a call.

attic nest

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Santa

Mark your calendar for Santa at the Depot

Santa at the Depot

Go ahead and mark your calendar for Santa at the Depot on December 1st. Just like last year, we will host the jolly elf in the Marvin Window and Doors showroom in the downstairs of the Depot on First Friday. Come up to our First Friday Art Opening upstairs for some cookies and hot chocolate (maybe something with a little more kick for the parents) before heading downtown for the parade. We will also have a special performance by Red Wing Academy – you will not want to miss this event.

Santa

This now annual event is free and open to all. We have some great parking around our building so it is the perfect place to start your evening of fun downtown. We will open our doors at 4pm and close at 6:30 so we can all be on the parade route in time to see the JMU marching Dukes. Go Dukes!

JMU Dukes T-Shirt

Thanks to Monger Lumber for letting us use their space and decorating with a huge 12′ tall tree to make the photos of your kids even more amazing. Our artist for the month is Brad Striebig who will show his amazing photography. I will post more details in the coming days.

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Jude Dayton

First Friday Art Gallery opening featuring Jude Dayton – This Friday!

First Friday Art Gallery opening featuring Jude Dayton
Jude Dayton

Each month we host a new artist in our building’s 2nd floor gallery at the Chesapeake Western Depot at 141 W. Bruce St. (second floor entrance is on Chesapeake). Artwork will remain on exhibit through the month. Come view the show and get a tour the Depot! We will have food and drink available!

Artist: Jude Dayton

Statement: For many years I have experienced great enjoyment from the creation of art. I started with pen and ink drawings, then progressed to the media of watercolor and oil and finally moved to acrylic. That led me to incorporate collage and encaustic into my creations. Later I developed a business in which I transferred prints of my work onto wearable art. My art has been influenced by my study of art history and by learning from other artists.

I had art shows while living in Annapolis and displayed my art in my studios in both Annapolis and Baltimore. In 2002, I had a month-long one-person exhibit at the French Embassy in the District of Columbia. This show emphasized paintings that had been inspired by Cro-Magnon cave art that I had visited in southern France. Some of my work on canvas is currently displayed in a gallery in Tucson where we lived for several years.

I recently moved from Arizona to the Shenandoah Valley and was inspired to return to painting with watercolors. This month’s exhibit includes some of my latest paintings. Also, I have available stationery cards showing some of my watercolors and prints of earlier works that were influenced by ancient cave art.

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