Category Archives: House Updating

French Drain and Curtain Drain Design: What You Need to Know

A French drain, sometimes called a curtain drain, is a simple system with no moving parts — gravity removes excess water from problem areas in your yard. Give gravity a chance to do its job by making sure your French drain design has the proper slope from beginning to end.

Which End is Up?

The two ends of a French drain system are:

  • The drain field, or high end, where excess ground water enters the drain pipes
  • The drain exit, or lowest point, where water leaves the system

A French drain needs a slope of no less than 1%. That means from the highest point of the drain field all the way to the drain exit, the system should slope at least 1 inch for every 8 feet of length.

Start with Your Exit Strategy

Select a location on your property for the drain exit. The goal is to move water away from your house and foundation, or from the soaked part of your yard, to a drier area.

Good locations for drain exits:

  • A grassy slope that’s exposed to the sun for most of the day. Grasses help absorb moisture and the sun aids evaporation.
  • A spot closest to your problem area so you can keep the system as short as possible, saving costs.
  • The street, so it can be carried away by your municipal storm drain system. But check with your local building department first.

Don’t locate the drain exit:

  • Where runoff is directed toward a neighbor’s yard.
  • Where the water could run onto a sidewalk or driveway and turn to ice during freezing weather. Directing drainage toward pavement often is a violation of building codes.
  • Where runoff could cause erosion, such as a dirt slope with no protective vegetation.

Connecting to an Existing Drain Line

Some houses have rain gutters that empty into an underground drainage system, which ties into a municipal storm drain. Your French drain can tie into this system also.

Local codes might require a backflow valve that prevents water from backing up onto your property if a clog occurs downstream. Expect to pay about $500 for a plumber to install this device.

No Acceptable Exit Point

If you can’t find a good place for your system to drain, you’ll need to empty your system into a dry well. A dry well is a vertical hole, typically about 4 feet deep and 1 foot in diameter, that’s filled with gravel. A dry well lets excess water be absorbed by the surrounding soils.

Determining Proper Slope

If your yard is sloped, it may be easy to spot the high point (drain field) and low points (drain exit) for your system.

If you’re not sure, use a line level to determine slope:

  • Pound a stake into the problem area and another at a possible exit point.
  • Tie a mason’s string to the stakes.
  • Put a line level on the string. Pull the string taut and level.
  • Measure the distance from the string to the ground at the stakes, and calculate the drainage slope.

Remember, you can add some slope when you install your system by digging the trench progressively deeper.

Using a Professional to Determine Slope

A surveyor, civil engineer, or landscape contractor will use a tripod-mounted transit level to help you determine the slope you’ll need for your system and possible exit points. Expect to pay $150 to $250 for the service.

Route Around Roots and Utilities

  • Plan to route your drain line around large trees to avoid cutting roots. Roots usually extend to the “drip line” of the tree — the outmost edge of its branches.
  • Call 811, the Call Before You Dig hotline, to have the location of underground utility lines marked on your property. You want to check not only in areas where the drain will live but also where you might dig a dry well. This is a free service.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/drainage/french-drain-design/#ixzz41qswBd56
Follow us: @HouseLogic on Twitter | HouseLogic on Facebook

Image: Wet Basement Repair, Vancouver

Energy Efficiency: Pick Upgrades that (Actually) Drive Down Costs

Saving energy is like saving calories: Small measures add up, until a Thanksgiving pecan pie — or a dazzling holiday light display — wrecks a year’s worth of small though consistent efforts.

According to a new study claiming that doing a couple of small, energy-saving measures actually increase utility bills, and that a home owner must perform at least four energy upgrades before their utility bill drops.

The 450-page study, conducted by the eco-curious Shelton Group, found that energy-efficient home owners think they should replace water heaters and install a higher-efficiency HVAC system, though they actually replace windows and add insulation.

They’re half right: Adding insulation, especially in the attic, is a low-cost way to reduce utility bills. But replacing windows requires a huge upfront cost, which you probably won’t live long enough to earn back.

To see net-net savings — in your lifetime — select upgrades that reduce energy consumption by 5% and require modest initial investments.

  • Seal and insulate ductwork through unfinished and unheated areas, such as the attic, garage, and crawl spaces.
  • Seal air leaks around windows, doors, attic access, and recessed lights.

How many energy-efficient improvements did you make last year? Did you see a drop or increase in your utility bills?

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/blog/saving-energy/energy-efficiency-upgrades-drive-costs/#ixzz3qRXEgyoi

Homes are supposed to breathe. But some inhale excessively from the outdoors and exhale too much from inside. The result: Drafty rooms, high utility bills, dirty and leaky ducts, and a bigger-than-necessary carbon footprint. If you think your home could be more energy efficient but aren’t sure where its leaks live, an energy audit can diagnose your energy issues and help you decide which to tackle.

Audits identify a mixture of major and minor air leaks. So if you’re budget-minded, you might opt for inexpensive fixes like adding caulk or insulation at leak points and installing weather-stripping. If you’re embarking on a remodel, you can make bigger investments, such as adding insulation.  The question is whether to hire a pro or conduct a free do-it-yourself audit guided by online tips. There are pros and cons to either approach.

Paying for a Professional.  Audits aren’t cheap: They run from $150 (visual) to $400-$600 or more (diagnostic) but the information they reveal can help you make targeted repairs that lower energy bills by 5% to 30% annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. With energy bills averaging about $2,200 annually, according to Energy Star, following an auditor’s recommendations could save you up to $660 within a year.  Paying for an audit may not make sense if you have a newly-constructed home, which likely follows the most up-to-date building codes. Energy audits should also take a back seat to urgent home issues that compromise safety, such as old or faulty electrical or structural issues, like roof or foundation problems. So if you own a fixer-upper, it’s worth addressing safety issues before optimizing energy issues.

DIY audits.  A do-it-yourself audit may help you make an educated guess about how airtight your home is—or isn’t—and point you toward fixes.  A typical DIY test: Hold up a lit candle to windows, doors, and electrical outlets to see if a draft blows the flame.But be aware that when you fix a problem you uncover yourself, you could err. For instance, you might pay for new windows when you need to insulate existing window frames instead. You could also over-seal your home, creating indoor air quality issues (dirty air, mold) that compromise your health.  Services of a professional auditPro audits give you access to high-tech tools that pinpoint the exact location of duct leaks; exactly how airtight your home is (and should be according to local code); gas leaks; and which direction drafts are blowing. Draft direction can alert an auditor that your attic is greedily sucking up your warm air, for instance. They also ferret out drafts between insulated and less-insulated (garage, basement/crawlspace, attic) portions of a home and assess the performance of heating and cooling systems.  Two types of professional auditA visual inspection (like a home inspection, but focused narrowly on energy issues) might be sufficient if you have semi-finished or exposed spaces (unfinished basements, exposed ducts, crawlspaces, and attics).  A diagnostic inspection includes visual work, but also employs tools and devices to pinpoint air leaks.  Blower door tests use high-powered fans to depressurize a home so that a technician can measure draft levels.  Thermal or infrared scanning measures surface temperature variations along walls to spot exact locations of air leaks or insulation lapses.  Smoke puffers release a form of “dust” during a blower door test to reveal the direction drafts are blowing.  Duct blasters inject and measure air pressure, air flow, and leakage in ducts.  Gas leak detection devices help assess indoor air quality.  These technologies provide far more specific information about a home’s issues than a typical DIY audit.

Common energy issues

A technician should be able to tell you how much total air leakage exists in your home (10 sq. ft. is like having a door open all the time), where it comes from, and how best to address it, says Robert Stockmann, of Pinnacle Home Inspections in Bellingham, Wash. The most common issues he finds are: Ducts in uninsulated areas (crawlspaces, attics, unfinished basements), which need cleaning, insulation, re-sealing Moisture in crawl spaces and basements.  Air that’s entering or exiting the home via range hoods, attic trap doors, and poorly sealed doors.  Hire an auditor, smartly.  Energy audit is a loose term these days, so when hiring an auditor, ask questions.  Make sure the auditor doesn’t work for a window company; has a professional affiliation with or training from an auditing organization such as RESNET or the Building Performance Institute

Source: Energy Audit Professionals | Professional Energy Audit | HouseLogic

7 Ideas to Help You Use Your Outdoor Space More

7 Ideas to Help You Use Your Outdoor Space More

When your mom told you to turn off the TV and play outdoors already, she knew what she was talking about. Hanging outside is good for our mental and physical well-being.

As adults, having an outdoor retreat adds an economic component: Upwards of 80% of homebuyers said patios and front porches are “essential” or “desirable,” according to the “What Buyers Really Want” survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

So how come when we move into our dream home, we hardly ever use our decks, porches, and patios?

An anthropological UCLA study, described in the book “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century,” blames our fascination with digital devices — tablets, computers, televisions, games — for keeping us cooped up. The UCLA research participants spent less than half an hour each week in their outdoor space. And these were Californians.

So this summer let’s make a pledge to pay more than lip service to outdoor living so we can be happier, create lasting memories, and generally take advantage of what home has to offer.

1.  Go Overboard on Comfy

Comfy outdoor seating on a home patio

When you step into your outdoor space, your first sensation should be ‘ahhhh’. If you’re not feeling it, then your space is likely lacking the comfy factor. Comfy is easy to achieve and can be as low cost as you want. Start simple with a cushion or two or even a throw. Some other simple strategies:

  • Make sure your outdoor seating is as cushy as your indoor furniture. Today’s outdoor cushions aren’t the plastic-y, sweat-inducing pillows of the past. Plus, they can handle a downpour and spring back once they dry.
  • Lay down outdoor rugs so you’re just as comfortable barefoot as you are inside.
  • Give yourself some privacy. Create natural screens with shrubs, bushes, or even bamboo reeds. Or install prefab screens from your local home improvement store.

2.  Create a Broadband Paradise

Our devices and electronics have conspired to keep us on lock down. Since we’re not about to chuck our digital toys, boot up your outdoor space so you can keep texting, posting to Instagram, and watching cat videos.

  • Wireless outdoor Wi-Fi antennas provide an extra boost so you can stay connected.
  • A solar USB charging station keeps your gizmos powered.
  • Wireless speakers make it easy to bring your music outdoors, and mask a noisy neighborhood.
  • An all-weather outdoor TV lets you stay outside for the big game.

3.  Blur the Line Between Indoors and Out

Creating a seamless transition between your home’s interior and exterior isn’t as simple or low cost as adding comfort, but it’s the most dramatic and effective way to enhance your enjoyment of the space. Plus, it can increase your home’s value.

  • The most straightforward, cost-effective solution: Replace a standard door opening with sliding or glass French doors.
  • Use the same weatherproof flooring, such as stone tile or scored concrete, outside as well as in the room leading to your backyard oasis.

4.  Light the Way

Solar pathway lights

When the sun goes down, don’t be left groping for your wine glass. Outdoor lighting dresses up your home’s marketability and appeal (exterior lighting is buyers’ most wanted outdoor feature, according to the NAHB study), makes it safer, and lets you spend more time outside.

  • Use uplighting to highlight trees, architectural details, or other focal points.
  • Add sconces or pendant lights to make evening entertaining, grilling, and reading easier.
  • Illuminate walkways, rails, and steps with landscape solar lights.
  • Hang fairy or string lights to set an enchanting tone.

5.  Make Your Mark

Pavers in a home's yard

Let your style dominate your backyard space.

  • Create a path made with colored glass, brick, or other interesting found materials.
  • Craft a one-of-kind outdoor chandelier.
  • Build a pizza oven, custom seating, or other feature you crave.
  • Add personal décor that makes you happy.

In fact, make your outdoor retreat an ongoing project where you can hone your DIY skills.

6.  Don’t Give Anyone an Excuse to Stay Inside

Outdoor space with kid-friendly playhouse and DIY chalkboard

Your outdoor space will magnetically draw family and friends if it has features they find appealing.

  • A fire pit is a proven winner. Food and fire have brought humans together since the dawn of time.
  • Give wee ones the gift of magical thinking with an outdoor playhouse.
  • Add whimsy with a chalkboard fence that both kids and fun-loving adults will enjoy.
  • Add a doggie window in your fence to entertain Spot. Installing a dog run may even boost your home’s value. FYI: It’s been said that pets are one of the top reasons why people buy houses.

Related: Outdoor Projects You Can Do with the Kids

7.  Rebuff the Elements

Canopy over a home deck

Hot sun, rain, wind gusts, and bugs are the archenemy of good times. Here are tips and strategies to help you throw shade on Mother Nature:

  • Install an awning, canopy, or pergola. It’ll make it easier to read your Kindle or iPad and keep you dry during a summer shower. Look for products with polycarbonate panels, which block UV rays, too.
  • Rig glass fence windscreens to the keep your BBQ fires burning.
  • Screen in your porch or deck against bugs. But screening will be for naught if you forget the slats between wood planks. Cover the floor with outdoor carpet or staple screening to the underside of floorboard
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/decks/outdoor-living-ideas/#ixzz3aVoODOtf
Copyright NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.  Reprinted with permission.
Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic, Summer HoganTasya Demers from My House and HomeLizMarieBlog.com