Gaines Group Architects

Top 10 Things to do this Spring for your Home and Health

The trees are blooming, the grass is growing, and my allergies are going crazy, Spring has certainly sprung! With our mild winter here in Virginia, Spring has come at least three weeks earlier than normal. This is great news for those looking to get a head start on those annual maintenance items around the house. So where do you get started? Here are the top 10 things to get you off on the right foot!

  1. Toss out your air fresheners and open up the windows. All winter you have had the house sealed up tight and you were forced to breathe in all those household items that off gas chemicals into the air. Worse yet, 75% of all U.S. Homes add chemical air fresheners to make their homes smell nice. Those chemicals have been linked to some nasty stuff if you breathe it often enough. So air out your home and get that fresh grass scent from the real thing. Replace your chemical air fresheners with baking soda or essential oils. Trade in the flowery scented plug-ins for fresh-cut flowers from your garden.
  2. Install a clothes line in your back yard or basement. Consider this, every time you run a load of laundry in the dryer it sucks up five kilowatts of electricity per hour. Think of all the money you can save by letting a newly installed solar-powered air-cooled clothesline do the work for you!
  3. Do a vampire (load) search in your home and free yourself of wasted energy. Most appliances stay plugged in all the time. Cell phone chargers, TV and computers are all in wait for you to need them. They stay in standby mode even when turned off leaking electricity, known as vampire loads. Kill this wastefulness for once and for all, unplug the devices when not in use or put them on a power strip and turn them off.
  4. Need to brighten up a room or touch up a wall. Look for paints that contain No-VOCs. Be careful with the tint though, most add those Cancer causing agents right back into the mix. Household paint contains thousands of chemicals, 300 of which are known to be toxic. The most dangerous are Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and release toxins into the air for as many as six years after you paint.
  5. Cut your energy and improve your lighting. I know you don’t want to be forced into buying an expensive bulb for one that is working perfectly well right now. So start with that one that is burnt out and replace it with a LED bulb (don’t buy the cheapest option, do a little research and find one that gets high consumer ratings) to try it out. The long lasting nice color spectrum light option might surprise you. You will not see the energy savings from one bulb on your bill, but over time if you carry on the tradition your electric load from lights will go way down.
  6. Get a jump on your vegetable garden now while the weather is getting warm. Bring in the fresh layer of compost, mix in the manure, pull up the tender young weeds! This is a great chance to get ready for a productive season with lots of fresh vegetables. Spend a little time now getting things ready and in place and you will reduce your maintenance through the hot summer.
  7. Vacuum your clothes dryer vent exhaust duct to make sure it is working effectively after a hard winter work. While you are at it, look in your HVAC ducts and see if they are in need of some loving attention. Change your HVAC filter (should be done every 3 months if you have a thin filter and every 6 months if you have a 2″ filter). If your ducts and dryer vent are more than you can tackle, find a duct cleaning service that can get the job done right. While they are there, get them to check for birds nests in the bathroom vents – tis the time of year for nests popping up everywhere there is a flat surface away from predators.
  8. Do a walk through of the interior of your home. Have you changed your smoke detector batteries? Are there plumbing fixtures that are leaking? Any pipes under cabinets leaking? Is the toilet running all day? Are all the light bulbs working in your home? Do you need to caulk any gaps around electric outlets, plumbing pipes, or light fixtures to reduce air leakage? Is it time to replace that worn out carpet (air filter) with a nice hardwood floor? Are your windows still in good working order or do they need a little attention?
  9. Walk around the exterior of your home and look for signs of future problems. Are the downspouts clear and pushing water away from the foundation of your home? Does the gutter need to be cleaned out? Are there signs of termites working to make your home their home? Do your fences and gates work properly or do they need a little loving attention? Are your vents and exhausts clear of debris? Are your outdoor HVAC units clear of debris? Does the landscaping around your home need a trim to keep the water off the house and enough light coming into the plant to keep it healthy? Did the roof get any damage from storms, wind, or maybe even ice (I don’t remember much of that this year)? Does the foundation have any new cracks? Are the foundation vents solid and free of gaps? Look for wasp nests in play structures.
  10. Last, take a look in your attic and basement at the insulation and air sealing. Now is a great time to get your home running efficient before the heat of summer is upon us. While adding insulation in the right places will save you money, perhaps the more important element is that it will make your home more comfortable. If there is a room in your home that gets too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter – you can fix it!
Garden Prep

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Citizen Architect – Design Matters

I believe that as an architect I have an ethical duty to design solutions that are energy efficient, durable, and healthy. It is my job to understand the materials that are available in the market today, know how to use the materials effectively, and to know the impacts on indoor air quality, durability, and the environment. The added value that an architect brings to a project is based a practical understanding of material science, building science, and spatial relationships. The process of design is like translating musical notes into a symphony of parts to create a masterpiece. The results will not always be an icon of building mastery, sometimes it will simply be a well crafted space that brings function and form together into a harmonious marriage.

charlottesville architect

Spanish House

Arbol House

Arbol House

This Spanish Colonial design is inspired from the traditions of the American Desert Southwest. The Arbol house is filled with charm and a close attention to detail, this home incorporates aspects of Pueblo, Mission, and Mediterranean Building styles. With a stucco exterior, red terra cotta roofing shingles on a low pitched roof, interior courtyard, arched doors and windows, and patterned tile walls and floors, this home will allow you to relax in your own nature sanctuary. The low maintenance finishes, energy efficient design, and water efficient fixtures will save money and resources. This house has it all for the home owner looking to be environmentally sensitive while living in luxury.

Harrisonburg Home Design
The heavy wooden gates at the entry of the home create a dramatic threshold between public and private space, providing instant age and character to this stately manor home. The interior courtyard brings nature into an exterior living space designed for gathering, meditation, and tranquility. Upon entering the home, the large organic fireplace and tile floors immediately connect the exterior aesthetic to the inside, setting the tone for this family friendly home. The Home office is designed to be large enough to allow for telecommuting, or could easily become a quite library for reading. The large kitchen provides ample space for kids to do homework while dinner is being prepared, and could easily accomodate large crowds for entertaining. The formal Dining Room is the perfect place to enjoy the views of the courtyard or look out over the vistas while reconnecting with friends and catching up with the family.
The private wing of the home features a grand master suite, a laundry center, and two bedrooms. The Master Suite is strategically placed to maximize views while providing the solitude that any head of household needs after a long day. With a sitting area, an oversized walk in steam shower, and a grand soaking tub, this master suite may make a trip to the spa as easy as waking up in the morning. The laundry center provides an easy place to maintain the necessities of family life, while the two bedrooms are generous spaces for the kids to have their own private retreat.

Design Matters

The Eleanor

The Eleanor

High quality, efficient footprint, with plenty of storage, this home provides all the comforts that you are looking for in a new home. The 900 sf Eleanor is a classic aesthetic that learns from the desire to build a smaller footprint with higher quality materials. The large front porch encourages a connection to the neighborhood, while providing a quiet place to read the morning paper.  The native landscaping minimizes the time spent in the yard doing maintenance and allows for plenty of time working in the vegetable garden.

Harrisonburg Home Plan

Entering the home from the front porch, you first notice the large open spaces with the vaulted ceiling in the living room and the hardwood wide plank floors giving the home instant age and character. The built-in cherry wood window seat and shoe cubbies allow for a place to relax and transition into the home, while giving order to the arrival sequence. The custom-built in shelving on either side of the window provides for plenty of storage for your book collection and photos. The efficient kitchen layout has plenty of custom-made concrete countertop space for prepping dinner and the built-in pantry cabinets give ample storage for your canned foods from the garden.  Beyond the kitchen is a mud / laundry room that allows you to keep the muddy boots out of the living areas of the house preserving the indoor air quality. The bathroom features a curbless shower to prevent any tripping and to allow for people of any ability to live comfortably. The bedrooms are separated from the living spaces by a foyer area to provide a quiet retreat from the activities of the home. The built-in storage systems in the closets maximize space for your clothes and coats.