Archive for 'Taking Care of Your Home'

Dog House

When designing a home, it is expected your dreams, ideas, and needs will be addressed and accommodated. But what about your pets? Dogs need to feel at home too.

Here is a list of ideas to take into account if you have a pet:

  1. Doggy Door
    1. While dog doors may not be the most ideal depending on the location of your home, size of your dog, neighborhood, and backyard, an easy way in and out will benefit your dog. It is relatively easy to conceal a door in a laundry or mud room without affecting the room’s aesthetic.
  2. Dog Accessories
    1. Your dog is bound to go for a walk, traipse through the mud, or go out in the rain. Whether it is in your mud or laundry room, it is essential to have leashes and towels at the ready as well as a spot to store food and treats. If you have built-in lockers or storage, your pet would appreciate an organized space of their own including a tidy and clean area for their water and food bowl. A designated feeding station is easy to maintain and train your dog to use.
  3. Room for a Dog
    1. It may be to your advantage to place a crate or indoor electric fence to restrict your dog to a certain room. If you are introducing a pet into a house for the first time, they are guaranteed to feel nervous and overly excited. An indoor dog gate or fence is an easy means of introducing your dog one room at a time.
  4. Durable Materials
    1. If your dog is not kept in a crate or specific part of the house all the time, resilient flooring is a must if you are remodeling or building a new home. Whether your pet tends to scratch the floor or trek in mud and debris, a non-porous floor that is easy to clean is preferred. Avoid carpet where your dog enters and exits the house!
    2. Dog-proof furniture is something to consider if your pup likes to nap or jump up on the couches. Consider a designated and cozy spot that your dog can call its own. You can easily find dog beds, but a built-in especially for your pet may incorporate the room’s design.

With these tips, your new home will be ready for your dog to love!

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Winter Flowers

With Halloween come and gone, it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming holiday season. Holiday decorating can be expensive and after New Year’s those potted poinsettias, holly topiaries and Christmas cacti don’t look too appealing. It’s easy to save money by planting nontraditional holiday container gardens with plants that can be changed out from month to month. With our unseasonably warm fall, consider planting your garden before the hard frost sets in.

For hardy flowers, plant pansy, pinks, sweet alyssum, painted tongue or flowering stock. Hardy winter garden vegetables include radish, turnip, broccoli, English peas and leeks. A few plants withstand freezes that drive the thermometer to the low 20s and upper teens. These cold-weather all-stars are kale, spinach and collards, all of which grow well in a winter vegetable garden or winter container. As the holidays pass, you can replace dated-looking plants with hardier plants.

However, beware of the container you choose for your container garden. Anything that will help keep roots from freezing while not cracking during freezes will do — plastic, sturdy non-porous clay, metal, wood, or even old car tires, choose a container that will enhance your front entrance. Beware some inexpensive terra cotta clay pots, while thick enough to protect roots, can absorb water which can freeze, expand, and flake or crack. Plastic, on the other hand, which comes in many decorative styles and colors, may not crack as easily (though it most certainly can), but is not as thick as clay and may not offer the freeze protection plant roots need. Plus, as potting soil dries out, it tends to pull away from the sides of plastic pots, which can let freezing air get down around roots. The best method is to double up on pots, putting plastic pots down inside more decorative clay pots. This not only look nicer but acts as a double insulation. 

Here are some of our favorite plantings so far:


A Room for a Bath

From infant through adulthood, bathing is apart of our daily routine. Whether it is in a shower or soaking tub, it may be practiced for personal hygiene, religious ritual or therapeutic purposes. Soaps, bubbles, or mineral salts can make your experience even more relaxing.

When designing a bathroom, consider your daily habits as well as the moments you have to take a break in a soaking tub. Here are some different styles of tubs that you could choose from to enhance your bathroom design:

  1. Freestanding vintage tubs can make an elegant statement. Cast iron clawfoot tubs are classic, beautiful, and perfect for long soaks as they hold heat longer. Nowadays, they are made from lighter materials and less of a hassle to install.
  2. Slipper tubs are similar to freestanding tubs, yet are raised higher on one side for even more comfort.
  3. Pedestal tubs are the same shape as freestanding tubs, but are raised on a platform. These long lasting tubs can be made of copper, steel,  or most commonly acrylic.
  4. Japanese style tubs are much deeper and shorter in length than American-style tubs. The depth allows the water to reach our chin and making it a true soaking tub. They can be made out of wood, which can add an aromatherapy element.
  5. Roman-style tubs are the most commonly found tub style. They can be ornate with elaborate tile or column details. They are drop-in tubs with one or more steps and a deck surround toiletries.
  6. Walk-in tubs are a newer style for those with safety concerns. They can include a built-in seat as well as jets, nonskid surfaces, and even a shower head.

While most tubs use more water than your tradition shower-tub unit, you may consider a larger water tank or an infinity/in-line water heater to fill the tub with appropriately heated water. Also consider your tub-filler or faucet design as this may match your other bathroom fixtures or provide an elegant addition to your tub.

Indian Mound Spec Home

A Focal Point of the Master Bathroom

Beautiful Soaking Tub with a View

To Renovate or Not Renovate

If you renovate, “you have to understand that it may not add the value to your home that it cost you,” says Mark Ramsey, broker with The Ramsey Group at Keller Williams Realty in Charlotte, North Carolina. So “be happy you did it and got to enjoy it,” he says.

Here is our list of ideal space renovations:

  1. The home office is not the most exciting space to remodel. However, if you have an unused guest room or your kids have moved out, a home office can be your retreat from the work environment. Instead of stuffing an Ikea desk in a room, consider durable commercial grade furniture, carpet, or hardwood built-ins to do the heavy lifting in your home office.
  2. If you are considering an addition, a great option is a sun room. With a 200-square-foot room with skylights, low-E windows, automatic shades and a tile floor, it’s a major project but can add value to your home. As always, research your market and neighborhood if significant cost is a concern. Anytime you add to the foundation of your home the cost increases. The sun room space can be creatively designed to bring a happy, light-filled space you will use daily.
  3. An upscale master bedroom can become a picturesque suite complete with soaking tub, shower jets, coffee bar, and sitting room. If you are considering an addition as opposed to fixture and appliance upgrades, you should seek a professional contractor and/or your local design-build firm (shameless self-promotion). Upon reselling your home, potential buyers are highly influenced by a master bedroom or suite space.

As a cautionary note, beware of over the top renovations and so called upgrades. While bringing your 80s style bathroom to current style trends is a worthwhile investment (brass finishes are making a comeback…), carefully research your neighborhood to see what potential home buyers are looking and paying for in a home. New appliances, counter tops, or finish hardware instantly updates your room, but keep in mind you may only recover about 50% of your costs for larger additions and renovations.

An elegant and oversized vanity and color palette updated a drab master bathroom.

An elegant and over-sized vanity and color palette updated a drab master bathroom.

A new fireplace surround and mantel instantly added a timeless elegance to this living space.

A new fireplace surround and mantel instantly added a timeless elegance to this living space.


Light Bright

The lowly incandescent light bulb was once a household staple illuminating lamps, chandeliers, and fixtures. For a few dollars you could buy a light bulb suitable for any application that was guaranteed to glow as expected. As incandescent bulbs and their energy wasting filaments have been phased out, a new wave of light bulb types, styles, and lingo has erupted.

  1. Halogens
    1. Halogens are the incandescent’s brighter, hotter burning cousin still used for under-cabinet and can lighting, but quickly falling out of favor due to their inefficiency and price.
  2. Fluorescents
    1. These fragile tubes recall your old basement with their cold, blueish, humming light. They are still widely used to light up large spaces like garages or basements, yet new styles in warmer hues make fluorescents a good choice.
  3. CFLs
    1. Originally praised by all as the incandescent’s replacement, the CFL or Compact Fluorescent Bulb is a highly efficient light source easily recognized by its coil. Unlike its predecessor the fluorescent, the CFL lights up quickly, available in color-correct tones, and usable where you’d put an incandescent. However, the CFL contains mercury and should be carefully taken care of if broken and recycled when burnt out.
  4. LEDs
    1. LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes are long lasting and efficient bulbs that are perfect for task lighting. While LEDs provide direct light, they can be clustered for more dispersed lighting and even equipped with dimmable options. While they are higher in cost, they may be worth it depending on their application.

These four light bulb types comprise the basics of all lighting elements. But where do Edison bulbs come into play? These warm-white hued bulbs are popping up in new restaurants and homes verging on the point of over saturation, yet this is only increasing their desirability. With a vibrant glow reminiscent of early 20th-century lighting, Edison bulbs are a modern LED designed to appear antique.

We understand light and its spatial effects inside and outside of a home. It is essential we take extra care in laying out the electrical plan and selecting lighting elements to achieve the desired feel, while still providing enough task lighting.

When designing a new home or renovation, lighting can contribute as much to a space as architecture itself! 

Elegant Edison

Elegant Edison

Exposed and glowing filaments

Exposed and glowing filaments

Winter is Coming

You have just moved into the home of your dreams. An irrigation system and sod is laid down. The city has convinced you to landscape this late in the season, so a few bushes and flowers are planted around your front door and sidewalk, yet winter is coming.

How do you prepare your yard for the coming season?

  1. Take care of your lawn
    1. A common myth is that your lawn dies during the winter. While grasses go dormant during the winter months, it still requires watering or moisture throughout the year. Melting snow is usually enough to satisfy its needs.
    2. It is a good idea to fertilize or feed your lawn before winter as it will strengthen the roots as well as a cut your lawn short, aerate, de-weed, and rake your leaves so as grass receives enough light and air.
    3. Make sure to winterize your irrigation system!
  2.  Mulch!
    1. Fall mulching can help protect roots from frost and helps retain moisture during a cold and dry winter. However, avoid “free mulch” as it often contains remnants of diseased plants that can sicken your own.
  3. Remove the fallen
    1. Removing dead annuals, desiccated ornamental grasses and plants will not only improve the look of your yard during the winter, but also save you time in the spring.
  4. Protect delicate shrubs
    1. Early fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs before the ground freezes as nurseries have to clear their shelves and cooler temperatures decrease the stress on young plants. It is easy to protect your new or existing shrubs (boxwoods) by surrounding them with fallen leaves, then wrapping them in burlap.


boxwoods and trees

boxwood path

No More Mud

Mud rooms are a secondary entryway intended as buffer zone before entering the main house. Often overlooked as a merely a storage space, a mud room serves to increase the cleanliness of the overall house. If designed correctly, a mud room can become the most organized and clean part of the house!

Instead of thinking of mudrooms as a cross between a utility room and a walk-in closet, they can become a space all their own. They are a place to stow outerwear, boots, sports gear and anything else you need before leaving home. In short, mudrooms bring order to the most used entry to your home. You can create a great mudroom even in a tight space — a well-designed corner inside a doorway can act as a “To-Go” space for keys, hats, gloves, and even reminder notes or calendar.

When we are designing a new home, we prefer to start the planning process by including a space for the mud room. The appearance, location, and layout can differ depending on whether a family of five or a couple are planning to use the space. In either case, storage “lockers” can make any mess of outerwear, backpacks, or purses appear neatly organized and allow each family member a space of their own. By tying in cabinetry or trim elements from the kitchen, the mud room will not need to be hidden behind a door, but a natural progression of your path to the garage or backyard.

To-Go counter

Mud Room “Lockers”

Mud Room built-in bench

Mud Room – arched cubbies

Electrical Systems

Electrical Receptacles:

If your home is new, the wiring in your home met the local code requirements and safety standards for normal usage of electric appliances, furnace, and other electrical items normally found in a home. Small appliances that require some personal attendance for proper operation, such as a microwave, may be plugged into any electrical receptacle without the fear of causing the circuit to overload. An electrical receptacle is a simple outlet. Be aware though, buy plugging in large appliances or many smaller appliances on the same circuit could cause the circuit to overload. In the case that a circuit breaker overloads, frequently and you are not the cause, and you need to seek the help of a licensed electrical contractor and learn whether additional wiring is needed.

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters:

Thankfully, your house comes pre-installed with ground-fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs. All of the receptacles in your kitchen and bathrooms are equipped with GFCIs. The most common place where these safety devices are installed is where small appliances, such as hair dryers, are near an open source of water. Instead of becoming electrocuted by a faulty appliance, or if the appliance is submersed in water, energy is cut within a fraction of a second and the danger is avoided. Be sure to test your GFCI by pressing the “TEST” button monthly.

Moisture and How It Can Be Avoided:

Moisture + electronics = BAD NEWS. The most common place for moisture and electronics to come in contact with each other is in kitchens and bathrooms. When moisture is present in either room, they pose a threat to electrical appliances and to the room itself.  A small amount of moisture is fine, but continuous exposure to it will cause problems.  If the moisture condensates in appliances, fire risk and faulty operation are soon to follow. If the room is exposed to too much moisture, it could start affecting the paint and woodwork. A simple way to avoid this is to turn on the fan that is located above the cooking space. The same applies for bathrooms. Before taking a shower, be sure to turn on the fan to get rid of the present moisture and the moisture from the shower. By doing this, you will both be saving your electrical appliances and your home.

Power Failures:

In the case of a complete power failure, first determine if your neighbors have power. If they do not, notify the power company. If it is only your house, check the master switch and circuit breakers. Identify the extent of the outage and then check all fuses with a flashlight in hand as it may be dark. After that, check all circuit breakers. Some circuit breakers might have tripped but not moved into the tripped direction. Turn all breakers to the off position, and turn them back on one by one. Make sure to check your main breaker switch or fuse, which might be in a different location. Long, skinny, round fuses or blade-type fuses might have a small hole in the center front face, which is a signal that they have blown. If one circuit breaker continues to fail, check to see if you have overloaded the circuit. If not, call an electrician. Failure to fix a short circuit could result in a fire.

Protecting Your Home Appliances against Power Failures:

Surges and power failures claim many electronics in the rush of returning power. Here’s how to protect your home from unpredictable and unannounced power surges. The best way to protect your home is to purchase a surge protection block. This looks like a power strip, but it is bulkier and has the ability to absorb the energy that a surge produces when power returns. For added protection, if the power has been out for some time, go ahead and unplug your surge protector form the outlet. This ensures that none of the appliances connected to the surge protector are affected in case the protector is faulty.  Do not unplug unless the power has been out for at least 10 minutes, or else you risk becoming electrocuted.  

Hunter Roberts Homes and Wellington Chase Homes design home plans, renovation plan.  We build traditional, modern and contemporary new homes; do renovations, remodeling and home additions.  We do the architecture including interior design details as well as new home plans.  We manage all phases of the new home construction and renovation work.  We build throughout Oakland County including Birmingham, Berkley, Bloomfield Village, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Franklin, Sylvan Lake, Beverly Hills, Orchard Lake, Bingham Farms, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Berkley, Ferndale and Troy. Our work can be found in neighborhoods such Quarton Lake, Poppleton Park, Midvale, Holy Name, central Birmingham and other fine areas

Sticking and Leaking Doors

Sticking Doors

            As the weather and humidity changes, it is not unusual for doors to stick or not fully close. Wooden doors tend to swell as the humidity increases. The door frame changes shape and size as a result of this humidity. However, your sticking door may be as simple as a loose screw.

            A wooden door that that sticks or won’t close is usually fairly easy to fix. Other types of doors can also be fixed, but there are fewer options when it comes to modifying the size or shape of the door itself.

            The first and easiest thing to check is that all the hinge screws are tight. If the door is sagging, prop it up first with a magazine or book before tightening the screws. If the wood won’t hold the screws tightly, you can drill it out and insert a dowel or for a quick fix, fill it with toothpicks and break them off flush with the surface. Check that the door latch and door knobs are secure too.       

Plane the door

The most common solution for a sticking door is to plane the edge that rubs against the jamb. Planing the edge simply means that you are using a power hand planer with an adjustable blade to eat away a small amount of the edge to reshape the door by making it slightly smaller.  The door needs to be taken off the hinges to plane it properly.  When the door is removed, check both the top and bottom edges to ensure they are finished. If not, paint or varnish them.  This will limit shrinking or swelling. 

Adjust the door jamb

Another way to prevent rubbing is to adjust the door jamb slightly. This is done by drawing it in using a long screw through the latch side of the door jamb (rather than the hinge side). Pre-drill a 3mm hole to create a recess for a screw head with a countersink bit. Then drive in a 75mm x 8g screw and tighten.

Soap or candle wax

Another quick and easy solution is to use a bar of soap or candle wax.  Locate the area of the door where the door is sticking and rub the bar of soap in the edge of the door in that location.  This may help lubricate the swollen area allowing it to move more freely until the humidity drops back down.

Leaking Doors

            An unsealed entryway can allow outside air to enter your home, leading to uncomfortable drafts. These air leaks also reduce your home’s energy efficiency and can lead to increased heating and cooling bills. Air leaks around door jambs can often be attributed to poor installation, insufficient weather-stripping, or lack of insulation. Fortunately, these problems are easy to fix. Most DIY homeowners can reduce or eliminate these air leaks in just a few hours using simple tools and techniques.

The first step is to inspect the weather-stripping around the inside perimeter of the frame. Even if you have weather stripping, it may not be doing its job, because it wears out.  Old weather stripping should be periodically replaced. If you press on existing rubber or foam weather stripping and it doesn’t bounce back, or you can see dents or tears in the material, it should be replaced.

A simple way to determine if your exterior door needs weather stripping is to check for daylight coming in around the door. Next take the knob and rattle the door. If it rattles or you can see daylight, air is leaking around your door. Air may also be leaking around the door frame which can be checked with a candle flame or the smoke from a stick of incense. Slowly move the incense along the inside and outside edges of the molding and watch for changes in the movement of the smoke.

            Weather stripping should be installed along the sides and top of the door and a door sweep or similar device should be installed on the bottom of the door. Weather stripping is available in rubber, foam, plastic, and metal. Self-adhesive, staple, and nail-on are the most common installation types. It is available in a large variety of shapes and sizes also. Choose the shape and size based upon the manufacturers recommendations for your particular installation.

            For air leaks that occur around the door frame, they can be sealed by caulking around the door frame molding. However, the air that gets to the molding may find other ways into your house, so it is best to address the leak at its source.

            Examine your door frame from both sides of the opening. It is most likely covered by some form of trim or molding. To repair air leaks around the jambs, you’ll need to remove this trim from one side of the door.  Use a utility knife to cut away caulk or paint from between the jambs and wall. You’ll only need to do this on the side where the casing will be removed (either indoor or outdoor).

            Pry away the trim using a pry bar or hammer. Work very carefully so the trim isn’t damaged and can be re-installed later. Start at the bottom of the jambs and pry the trim away just a small amount at a time, working your way up the frame. Once the trim is removed, use your hammer to remove all nails.

            Check for insulation in the gap between the jambs and wall framing. If the existing insulation is wet or dirty, remove it and replace it. Fill the space with fiberglass batt insulation or spray foam insulation. The gaps should be filled as much as possible, but not overstuffed, as compressed insulation tends to lose its effectiveness.  If spray foam is used, it expands once it has been dispensed from the canister.  Apply in the wall void and let dry.  Once it has cured, the excess foam which oozes out from the cavity can be cut smooth to the wall using a utility knife.

            Reinstall the casing around your door. Hammer it in place using small finish nails. Recess the nail heads just below the finished trim surface using a nail punch and hammer.  Once the nail head has been set, fill the void with wood filler.

            Caulk around the perimeter of the frame where it meets the wall. Use a clear silicone caulk, or one that matches the wall color. Check both sides of the opening and add caulk as needed to help seal the entrance.

            A substantial amount of air can leak around an exterior door. By using simple to install weather stripping and caulks on exterior doors, you will reduce your energy bill and make your home more comfortable.

Hunter Roberts Homes and Wellington Chase Homes design home plans, renovation plan.  We build traditional, modern and contemporary new homes; do renovations, remodeling and home additions.  We do the architecture including interior design details as well as new home plans.  We manage all phases of the new home construction and renovation work.  We build throughout Oakland County including Birmingham, Berkley, Bloomfield Village, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Franklin, Sylvan Lake, Beverly Hills, Orchard Lake, Bingham Farms, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Berkley, Ferndale and Troy. Our work can be found in neighborhoods such Quarton Lake, Poppleton Park, Midvale, Holy Name, central Birmingham and other fine areas.