March 2014 – Preservation Cafe: Money Saving Preventative Home Maintenance

March 2014 – Preservation Cafe: Money Saving Preventative Home Maintenance

Posted on March 15th, 2014 by Elizabeth Nelson
Gary Barnhart, general contractor and owner of GL Barnhart Construction, was the March 2014 Preservation Café speaker.  A Capitol Hill resident, Mr. Barnhart started GL Barnhart in 1997 with his father, focusing on home improvement and small commercial renovations. Today, the company focuses on modern renovations, historic restorations, and construction work in the Capitol Hill area.
Gary’s presentation focused on simple and cost effective measures to extend the life-cycle of the components of a home.  Preventative measures were recommended for exterior walls and plumbing systems.  Other items discussed included knowing the facts about your house before an emergency, performing regular inspections, and preparing a house for the summer and winter seasons.


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Preventative measures to undertake for a residential plumbing system include draining the water heater empty at least once a year to remove sediment buildup from the tank, checking the flapper in the toilet tank for internal leaks, and cleaning out aerators at kitchen and bathroom faucets.  Frozen pipes can be mitigated by installing good insulation between the exterior walls and pipes and by cutting off supply lines to exterior spigots before winter.For exterior walls, crawlspaces and attic spaces, providing insulation and sealing the interior from the exterior provides the largest return on investment.  Examples include weather stripping exterior windows and doors, caulking wall penetrations, sealing around recessed lights, and checking dampers if they seal properly.

Before an emergency occurs in your house, know the locations of the main water and gas shut off valves, clean outs and electrical distribution panels.  A house file/folder should be maintained that Includes appliance serial and model numbers, info on companies who last serviced the equipment, product manuals and any applicable warranties, titles & deeds.

Establishing a regular maintenance and inspection schedule for your home will help save money over time.  Items to check include testing the sump pump to make sure the discharge line is not obstructed, testing smoke detectors and GFCI and AFCI outlets, and testing the AC overflow shut off float switch.  Areas to routinely clean include gutters and floor drains in area ways and patios to prevent infiltration into the house.

Seasonal checks include testing the furnace in late summer and checking the AC condensate drain in the fall.  Trees should be pruned in the winter to avoid exposing them to fungi.

Happy to answer any renovation questions, Gary can be reached at 202.569.8471 or PowerPointPresentation

Submitted by Gregoire Holeyman, AIA, LEED AP

DIY versus Pro…?

DIY versus Pro…?

I recently came upon a blog that featured an article comparing and contrasting the benefits versus costs of handling a job in a DIY versus Pro approach.  See the flow chart below.  This is a great way of looking at this process.  I often encourage my customers and clients to try to take the DIY approach when it makes sense.  A lot of my customers get a certain level of personal satisfaction from the process of learning how to build with their own hands and I definitely advocate taking the chance to take on a project yourself, where it makes sense.


The Rear Ell

The Rear Ell

A lot of the homes in our Capitol Hill neighborhood have a rear ell.  I have been interested in the rear ells for a long time.

The Rear Ell- Marked Up

For one, I thought, initially, that the ells were all built as part of making an addition without underpinning the neighbor’s building, where the neighbor had the “first mover’s advantage” of not having to worry about undermining an existing structure.

But over time, as I became more interested and looked a lot closer, I began to see that so many were built at the same time as the original structures.  This article helps to explain the purpose of the original ells.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

I thought this was a really interesting article.  A lot of my neighbors, friends and customers have reasonable security concerns.  In addition, although our neighborhood has improved considerably over the past few years, there are still areas and elements of high crime in our neighborhood.

This article includes ideas for smart planning and building/space design to limit and deter crime.