On a windy day (like today), check for air leaks and seal them up

On a windy day (like today), check for air leaks and seal them up!

According to Aubrey Urbanowicz it is going to be a windy day today and Friday. This is a great chance to cut your energy bills. Walk around with your hand around window trim, electrical outlets, light switches, and doors and find the breeze coming in. Seal these gaps and cracks and you will not only make your home more efficient to heat and cool, you will make the rooms more comfortable.

You can see in this image huge air infiltration around a light switch. Take the cover off and caulk the plastic box tight to the drywall. There is also an thin insulation that fits over the switches behind the decorative plate that can be added to increase the insulation a little.

Recessed can lights are another place for huge leaks. Make sure the can is tight to the drywall. A careful thin bead of caulk around the edge might also help.

A lot of times windows are blamed for the big leaks. However, the window is probably ok, but the trim around the windows probably was not sealed.

Perhaps it does not seem like much to have light switches that leak air. However, if you add up all the leaks in your home from all the sources, it makes a big difference. We use too much energy and our bills are too high. The average house has the equivalent air leakage through gaps and cracks as a 3′ x 3′ hole in the all. You would not leave a window out of your house and expect to have a comfortable house, so why accept leaks through the gaps and cracks. Use this windy day to determine where the problems areas are in your home. Caulk and seal the gaps and make your home more comfortable.

If you want me to do an energy-audit, give me a call. I might find something like this image above and not know what in the world it is and I am certainly old enough to know I don’t want to go find out. This was in the ceiling of a home. I expect it is a nest for an animal since I did not see signs of water. What kind of animal – well, you will have to find that out for yourself.



History on display at the Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot

History on display at the Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot

I love getting a new box of history in the office! Working in the Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot (more posts here, herehere, here) is a true joy. It seems almost every day someone comes in to share their story about the short-line rail, nicknamed the Crooked and Weedy. Here are some of the latest finds. I also have new things on display in our foyer if you want to drop by during business hours to see them. Share your stories about the CW with me – I love learning more about this short-line.

D.W. Thomas in 1926 was hired by W.E.D. Stokes of New York to try to make a last-ditch effort to save the short-line. Mr. Thomas was named the General manager of the CW and was innovative in his approach. He put competing bus lines out of business by cutting his rider fees to one-half cent per mile. The CW became the first 100% radio controlled rail in the country. He also started the CW trucking line to compete with other trucking companies moving into the area. Apparently he even gave out autograph copies of his photo!

Some postcards found in the latest batch of history dropped off include a view of old town, Union Station, Spotswood Country Club, and Rockingham Memorial Hospital.

Anybody know what the going rate for shipping bags of fertilizer. Here is a ticket from 1898 for 260 bags. It seems like $1,277 is a lot of money to move fertilizer in the late 1800’s. The average annual income in 1903 for a railroad wage earner at the time was $593.

Even in the early 70’s the CW struggled to keep people from walking on their rail. This is such a dangerous practice, but it happens every day here in Harrisonburg.

I want to know more about assembly park. Who has a story?

I am sure this was a fun bunch of hard workers. Can anyone tell me more about the Elkton Lead rebuild?

First Friday Art Opening – This Friday – Amanda Dicken

First Friday Art Gallery opening featuring Amanda Dicken

After a couple months off for the cold weather, we are back! Come see us this Friday!

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: Amanda Dicken


Amanda Dicken was born near Cleveland, OH in 1980, and grew up surrounded by the artistic talents of her parents. Early on she knew she wanted to pursue art full-time, and spent her college years at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, where she attained her Bachelors of Art degree and realized she had a knack for figure drawing. She spent a summer abroad, studying art with her professors and peers in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and France, and the next summer at the New York Art Academy for an intensive training course in figurative art.
She spent ten years living in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, teaching painting and drawing while experimenting in many different mediums, including pastels, oil, and acrylic painting. She finally combined her love of drawing and painting using watercolor and Micron pens, and has continued using these mediums for her ever-evolving portraits and frames. She and her boyfriend moved out of the congested city and into the mountains of Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she makes portraits and works in the art community.


Each portrait is made from either a family photograph or photograph found at flea markets or antique malls. Micron pen, layers of watercolor, gouache, and other mixed media are combined to bring the portrait to life, capture the passage of time or forgotten identity of each individual. Each frame is built-in foam board and created by this same process, and is designed to capture their personality, era when they lived, or the feeling their lives are long past. I’m excited when a person viewing my portraits is reminded of people in their own lives, whether past or present, and encourages me to keep developing this unique, family oriented body of work.

Check out her work here: www.ArtmandaJane.com

Rockingham County Rotary Club

If you want to make a difference, Rotary is the perfect place to start

If you want to make a difference, Rotary is the perfect place to start

I do a lot of volunteer work. I am not saying that to boast, there is a lot of need, I spend a lot of time serving, and it is barely enough to create a ripple in my community. There is so much need. There is so little time. I do a lot of volunteer work and yet there is so much that remains to be done. We live in an imperfect world and we need more good to happen.

Rockingham County Rotary Club

A few years ago a lawyer, Travis Vance, in town asked me to lunch to talk about Rotary. He had heard that I was doing volunteer work and wanted to tell me about his organization. I knew of it, but really did not know the full story. As he spoke about Rotary I could see there was something special about this organization. It turns out that Rotary is magical for those that want to transform their community. It allows a small group of passionate people in Rockingham County to help people across the world. His club, Rockingham County Rotary Club helped people in Limpopo Province of South Africa with a ceramic technology that cleans their water. His club also provides SoapBox Derby cars to kids in town through the Boys and Girls Club. It turns out his club also supports First Step, kids at Christmas through DSS, local parks system, On the Road Collaborative, Ronald McDonald House, Valley Business Keynote, Summer Peace Building Institute,  and purchases books for elementary schools to build financial literacy just to name a few things. This small clubs makes a big ripple in the community and around the world. Travis welcomed me to the Rotary experience and asked me to give it a try.

Rockingham County Rotary Club

What he did not tell me was that Rotary becomes your family. You build friendships each week. You learn about your community. You partner to make your community better for people you may never meet. You do all this with a diverse group of people: men, women, young, old, and you do it as equals, shoulder to shoulder.

Rockingham County Rotary Club

Rotary is built on the 4-way test. It is not an exclusive club that only some can belong to in your community. It is a welcoming group of friends that want to help you make our community a better place. Rotary unites people from all continents and cultures. It allows for the exchange of ideas. It builds friendships and professional connections.

I want to invite you to experience the magic of Rotary. I want to invite you to breakfast with a group of my closest friends. We meet each Tuesday morning at 7am at the Golden Pony restaurant in Harrisonburg. Please come as my guest. If that is too early or the wrong day, don’t be discouraged. There are lunch clubs that meet on Monday and Thursday and a dinner club that meets on Tuesday all in our immediate area. If you don’t live close enough to Harrisonburg, there are clubs around the world. Let me know where you are and I will get you an invitation to your local club.

Rockingham County Rotary Club

I really do believe if we all read the 4-way test and acted on it daily this would be a better world. I know if we all built friendships based on a common interest of making our community better we would all benefit. I know Rotary is magic and you deserve to experience it. I know that having you as part of Rotary will make Rotary better. Please let me know where you are and I will help you find the right club of friends that will welcome you with open arms.


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home renovation

When do you need an architect?

When do you need an architect?

I have heard this a few times recently – “I was not sure you would be interested in a job this small”. Well the truth is we do all scales and sizes of projects. We only want to be involved in jobs where you see value in what we offer, but all scales of projects are interesting for us. The question for most is when do you need an architect as they embark on a renovation or new construction project. The reality is, the majority of the population has never worked with an architect and do not really understand what we do.

So when do you need an architect for a residential renovation?

In renovation work you should call an architect into the project if you are moving walls or finishing a basement. If you are re-configuring space it is important to not only make sure it works structurally but also functionally. Just taking out a wall without thinking through how the space will be impacted on a daily basis could create other obstacles. Having an architect work through the design in advance of the builder giving you a price is critical for you to get the best value. The builder wants to know the full scope of work and you want to know the space will function as you hoped.

home renovationhome renovation

If you are adding space to your existing home with an addition, deck, sunroom, or screen porch you should call an architect. These additions seem straight forward, but they impact the amount of light entering the home, add columns the impact views, and add spaces that need to be thought through and evaluated for function.

If you are adding rooms to your home, you should call an architect. This one seems a little more straight forward than a simple interior renovation to justify bringing in an architect. We can not only provide the permit drawings required, but also the scope of work drawings the builder needs to give you an accurate price. We can maximize the value of the added space through our design. We will evaluate the functional layout and offer you suggestions to make the addition work as you intended.

So when do you need an architect for a custom home?

For me this one is easy – every time. Hiring a builder to do your design or purchasing a magazine plan to me is not a good investment. A builder is not trained in design to think through function and value. A builder knows how to build. They will guide you through the process, but you are only getting a semi-custom home. You are not going through a design process that an architect is trained lead. We listen to your goals, evaluate them vs your budget, offer suggestions to improve the space, and use our experience to deliver an energy-efficient, durable, and healthy design solution that best meets your aesthetic and functional goals. We spend a lot of time thinking through how you want to live in the space and how that translates into your new custom home. We bring together the aesthetics and function into a cohesive whole. This is why we spend 5-6 years in school training and another 3-6 years learning under a licensed architect before becoming an architect. A drafter or builder or magazine plan cannot fulfill the goal of a custom home.  An architect is not only providing design services, but also guiding your through the construction process. I have heard from several of our regular builders that the houses they build for our clients cost less per square foot. This is because we think through not only the space layout, but the construct-ability of the structure. This is also because we work hard to make all the space we design as functional (valuable) as possible.

So when do you need an architect?

I believe you need an architect on every construction project where you want to use your money wisely and want a beautiful, healthy, and durable home or business.

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Chesapeake Western Depot

Share the Love Fabulous February Giveaway!

Share the Love Fabulous February Giveaway!

share the love

Share the Love fabulous February giveaway has started. We love our community and the businesses in it. They are owned by our friends and neighbors after all. In particular our corner of downtown – Southwest of Court Square. Now those businesses want to know who is loving them. Check-in on Facebook at any of the participating businesses between February 1st and 13th to be automatically entered into a drawing for gift certificates, products, memberships, and more. The winners will be announced on Valentine’s Day.

Where to share the Love!

Share the Love at any of the following businesses: Black Sheep Coffee HarrisonburgThe Hub CoworkingHUGO KOHLBoboko Indonesian Cafe,Blue Ridge DogThe Center YogaBreatheRocktown KitchenFoodbarfood HarrisonburgSalon ElevenPale Fire Brewing CompanyThe Mark-ItThe Gaines Group Architects, and Blue Ridge Architects.

Chesapeake Western Depot

Visit the Depot!

You can come hang out with us at the Depot. Check out the history display telling the Chesapeake Western Railroad story any time Monday – Friday from 9 am – 5 pm.

Chesapeake Western Depot

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Interact Club Charter Celebration – Eastern Mennonite School We Serve

Interact Club Charter Celebration – Eastern Mennonite School We Serve

It was a true honor to assist the Eastern Mennonite School We Serve club charter at an Interact Club sponsored by the Rotary Club or Rockingham County. This club of exceptional young leaders is 40+ strong and perform at least one service project a month. The club President, Abby Stapleton, leads by example with a smile on her face.

Interact Club and Rotary Club of Rockingham County joined together for lunch. They had a chance to talk and get to know each other before the Charter was presented to Abby by Rotary Club President, Charles Hendricks.

At the Charter Celebration, the club advisor, Wendy Stapleton, organized a service project. The students and Rotarians joined forces to stuff bags for one of our area homeless shelters. The bags included some snacks, activity books, and hygiene products.

This club is built for service. They are focused and motivated!

Interact Clubs bring together young people ages 12-18 to develop leadership skills while discovering the power of Service Above Self.

What are the benefits?

Connect with leaders in your community and around the wold to:

  1. Take action to make a difference in your school and community
  2. Discover new cultures and promote international understanding
  3. Become a leader in your school and community
  4. have fun and make new friends from around the world

Can I start an Interact Club?

If your school or community doesn’t already have an Interact Club, you can start one. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  1. A sponsor Rotary Club to provide support and guidance – contact me and I will get things moving
  2. An adviser from your school’s faculty
  3. People ages 12-18 from your school or community who are interested in joining the club
  4. Leaders to organize your club, fine other members, and plan successful projects

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bowl for kids sake

I need your help, support my Bowl for Kid’s Sake team!

I need your help, support my Bowl for Kid’s Sake team!

I am participating in Bowl for Kids Sake again this year to support Big Brothers Big Sisters. I originally got involved with this event because I thought it would be fun and they do good work. Since then I found out that they served 600+ kids in our community. They operate at 25% below the national average despite serving more kids than any other similar-sized community agency in the country. This one event makes up a good portion of their annual funding. The majority of their volunteers are JMU students that meet with their “littles” once a week. This organization is making a difference in our community and helping those most in need of help.

Now I need your help. Click the link below to make a donation to help me reach my personal goal, PLEASE!

Any dollar amount is appreciated. Thanks in advance for your support.

bowl for kids sakebowl for kids sake

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rendering of addition

Hiring an architect is more than aesthetics it is answers before building

Hiring an architect is more than aesthetics, it is getting the answers before building the solution.

This is a big concept that not many think about in the construction industry. Getting the answers before building starts saves the client money and increases the builders profit. It is the best path to achieve your goals.

Have you ever purchased new clothes that are the right size, color, style – perfect – and when you get them home and put them on they just don’t fit right? Maybe it is just a guy thing. I don’t ever try on clothes at the store. I know what size I need and it should fit right. However, I know there have been many times I have purchased clothes that don’t fit or simply just does not fit the way I wanted it to fit.

How does this fit into construction?

I wonder how often that really happens in construction. You find a perfect plan online or get a drafter to draw up the solution, but no time has been spent getting the answers. Were all the questions even asked?

One of the many things an architect can bring to the table is a chance for you to make sure the solution is a good fit before you build it. Our job is to listen to what you want to achieve, ask you questions, and offer you solutions. In this case, pictured, the clients wanted desk space in this addition to their home. The opening goes into their existing kitchen so we were looking at a more traditional desk arrangement vs a bar / eating space solution. Both offered desk space, but living in those spaces will be very different. Being able to visualize the options prior to finish the drawings and well before cabinets are ordered allowed the clients to make an informed decision about the solution they wanted.

rendering of addition

rendering of addition

Architects take some of the stress out of the process. We have done this many times and know the typical questions that will come up. We want to make sure we ask the right questions and deliver design solutions that meet your expectations. We also want to give you a visual tour of the finished product in a way that you can best understand it – before construction. This will save you money and the builder will increase their profit. This is the right path forward for construction projects.



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energy audit light switch

Air leaks at light switches are a big cause of comfort issues in your home

Air leaks at light switches are a big cause of comfort issues in your home.

There is an old saying in the construction industry that “you don’t want to build to tight.” So what window do you want to leave out of your home? The reality is leaks around light switches, electrical outlets, doors, windows, recessed lights, water pipes…… and on and on are how we achieve “not too tight.” The unfortunate part is air leaks hurt the comfort in your home and impacts your monthly energy usage. It also impacts your indoor air quality.

energy audit light switch energy audit light switch

Sealing up all the leaks is difficult to achieve in an existing home. These pictures show the drastic impact air can have around one light switch on an exterior wall. If you want to save money and improve the comfort in you home – schedule an energy audit today. Give us a call at 540-437-0012 to start the process.

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