J.Schwartz,llc Construction Blog (PAHIC#861)

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tools for Free? You already have one – the snow, just look at it and “read” what it tells you.

There are a lot of benefits to the fluffy white stuff; fun, beauty, a cause for a slowdown in our otherwise hectic lives, but there is another that is a little less obvious.
Have you ever looked up at your roof a day or so after a snow? Have you looked at your neighbors in comparison? What do you see?
The speed that the snow melts can tell us a lot about the insulation in your home, the way that the snow melts can tell us a lot about the ventilation in your home, and the icicles that may form over the eaves can tell us a bit about both.
If you look around your neighborhood, you will see some pretty interesting things on roofs as the snow melts. After a good snow, some roofs just melt the snow away in no time – and unless you really like the way your roof looks – and are therefore purposely heating it, this is not a good sign for the energy efficiency of your home. (Take care to make sure that you are looking at rooflines that face a similar direction as the one you are comparing it to – that will make a HUGE difference in how the snow melts.)
Some roofs will show patterns as the snow melts – maybe the area around the plumbing vent melts faster than the surrounding areas, maybe you can see the stripes where the roof rafters lay below the roofing and plywood, and you may even be able to tell where the attic access is by noting a square area somewhere in the melting snow. Sometimes you can see a home with an addition whose roof holds the snow, but the main house is snow-free (or vice-versa). All of these can tell us a lot about what further investigation should be done to make a home more efficient, healthier (that’s right – ventilation and efficiency correlate directly with the health of your home)and therefore more comfortable (both directly, and from a fiscal point of view).
After the observations, we can investigate where the air leakage around the vent pipe is coming from, we can check the insulation levels in the attic or between the rafters (based on construction and design of the home), we can look for un-insulated recessed lights that break the air/insulation barriers, we can look for whether or not cold air is getting under the attic insulation, and believe it or not – we can often (almost always) find leakage that comes all the way from the basement. All of these things can be easily and inexpensively remedied – and all of these remedies will decrease energy consumption (sometimes drastically), increase comfort, and increase the longevity of your most prized possession – your home. We can use the observations collected from the outside, in conjunction with a blower-door test to fully understand how the envelope and interior of your home is working (or failing), and how it is “connected” with the outside where it should not be. We can then come up with a comprehensive plan to of attack.
So as we in the Northeast are under a blanket of snow, take the opportunity to look up – at the trees, at the sky – and now, at your roof; and if you would like us to come out and analyze what you see, audit your home, and make it better from all of the angles that we wrote about – than just call; we will be waiting. 610-644-6700!

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 11:21 am  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It is time for electrical deregulation – read on to save money!

Electrical rate caps have been in place for 15 years, and they are set to expire on the first day of the New Year…
Most of us in the Philadelphia area are PECO customers, and in our bills we see Generation Charges and Transmission and Distribution Charges. The Transmission and Distribution Charges will not change – and PECO will still be responsible for the physical upkeep of the supply system. What will change is the Generation Charges – and they are generally about 2/3 of your bill.
There is a great website that has been set up to help us make informed decisions about who we will buy our electricity from – go to www.papowerswitch.com and enter some basic information. You will be presented with a list of electrical generation companies that serve your area – just be careful – some charge termination fees, some don’t. Some have variable rates with introductory “teaser” rates, while others have locked rates. Some even offer “green” electrical generation….
Make an informed decision and start saving money now!

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 5:51 pm  

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I hope this is not getting dull, but we just have to tell you…

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), has awarded J. Schwartz,llc, in conjunction with JFA Architecture, PC a meritorious award for the best Kitchen remodel under $40,000Although it is always great to receive the awards that we have for projects with large budgets, this is an especially precious award because it shows that we can design and build a beautiful kitchen within a tight budget; which in some ways is even more challenging.
The kitchen includes new cabinets, counters, plumbing fixtures, and lighting; as well as handcrafted wainscot in the adjacent family room.

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 12:29 pm  

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Another one! (AWARD, THAT IS…)

J. Schwartz,llc has recently been named a TOP 500 Remodeler for 2010 by Qualified Remodeler Magazine. This is the second year in a row that we have received this honor, and we plan on making this award a habit. The title of the Awards article is “TOP 500 REMODELERS STAY THE COURSE, Times may be difficult, but leaders demonstrate their resilience.”
We are once again honored, and look forward to reaching and surpassing the efforts and outcomes that allowed us this award.

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 12:16 pm  

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

J.Schwartz,llc and Friends raised over $1000 for Wounded Veterans!

Proud Young Americans raising money for a great cause

As many of you know (because we asked for your help), on September 22, 2010, J. Schwartz,llc put together a group of friends, neighbors, clients, and family, to walk in (and raise money for) the “Walk for the Wounded”, Delaware County, PA. It was a great day – and an emotional one. There was food, face-painting (as you can see from the photo), and plenty of military displays.
Soldiers that were recently injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made speeches, the family’s of the fallen read poems, and we walked to show that those that have been injured in our name and defense do not “walk alone”. It certainly did not hurt that the Eagles cheerleaders made an appearance, and the US Coast Guard flew in and landed a helicopter only feet from where we were sitting.
Our fundraising goal was $1000.00 and we managed to beat that goal by $65.00. Next year we will be striving for $3000.00, and hope to far exceed that amount with the help of everyone that we know.
If anyone is interested in joining us next year, send an e-mail and I will be sure to keep you informed – and sincere thanks to those that donated, and those that walked with us.

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 11:04 am  

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Step Above – Building Science integrated with Construction – Energy Audits

I knew at the age of 14 that I wanted to build. I wanted to build things so that I could feel good about myself, and so that my clients would feel good in the spaces that I worked on – their homes. I wanted it so badly that I worked summers as a framer, or more accurately at the time – as a wood carrier. No matter, to be surrounded by the sawdust and to see a structure rise, was all I wanted. I wanted it so badly that I went to school for Architecture, Architectural Engineering, and Civil Engineering – all to be a “builder”. But what does that mean? A doctor is someone that holds a license that compares them with a standard; a CPA must pass tests to be called a “CPA”, but a builder – well – anyone can call themselves a builder; and that is the problem.
There is a science to proper construction – a science that I was not even taught in seven years of higher-education. A science that I taught myself, learned, and sought out.
“Building Science” is now a catch-phrase, but a very good one. Efficiency of a home has suddenly become important in the U.S. (but always should have been), and J. Schwartz,llc is on the forefront. There are terms out there now like “tight home”, “energy efficient home”, and “green home”, but what do they mean, and who can build them? AND – WHAT DO THEY COST???? The truth is, an energy efficient home need not cost more than a cookie-cutter home, a green home may have a higher up-front price tag, but may very well have a large return-on-investment PLUS a large benefit to the common good. It is all in the education – the know how, and the ability. J. Schwartz,llc is in the unique position to offer these evaluations and opportunities as a part of our construction services.
We now offer full energy auditing services that include a complete and thorough evaluation of existing homes, a FREE audit on homes that we renovate, and all of our new custom projects will be ENERGY STAR RATED.
We are dedicated to remain in the forefront of smart, educated and efficient construction – and we can explain (and understand) what that means.

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 9:28 pm  

Friday, November 6, 2009

A New Carbon Footprint Calculation Tool

The Rocky Mountain Institute has release a new on-line calculator to help rus gain the knowledge to reduce the life cycle carbon foortprint of the homes that are built. This is a great tool to use in the planning, design and material selection phases of any project. WWW.GREENFOOTSTEP.ORG

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 11:31 am  

Friday, October 16, 2009

Homeowner Beware! Know your Rights.

There have been recent laws enacted to protect the consumer from home improvement fraud and potential lead exposure. The Pennsylvania Home Improvement Contractor Law went into effect in June of 2009. This law requires that ALL home improvement contractors get a license from the PA Attorney General. This license number should be visibly displayed by the contractor and would look smiilar to this: “PAHIC#861” (with the contractors specific number in lieu of the number shown). There are other specific requirements that must be met by the contractor in terms of client notifications, rights of recision, and specific contract terms. Please note – anyone that works in your home should have this license, not just your General Contractor. Please go to http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/ for more information.
The Environmental Protection Agency has also passed a law that goes into effect on 4/22/09, requiring that ANY person that works on your home that disturbs more than 6 square feet of interior area (a very small area), or 20 square feet of exterior area get trained and become a Certified Renovator capable of testing for and remedying lead paint issues that your pre 1979 home may have. The company must have at least one Certified Renovator that must be on site at specific times during the lead paint abatement, AND the company itself must also be registered with the EPA. (The laws for HUD or Federal financed properties are more stringent than these listed).
The Home Improvement Contractor number for J. Schwartz,llc is PAHIC#861. Joe Schwartz has already taken and passed one of the first EPA classes offered and is a Certified Renovator – We strive to be an industry leader and our clients benefit.

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 8:07 am  

Monday, August 17, 2009

We have added a web-based project management tool!

J. Schwartz,llc has added a web based project management and controls system to our management toolbox allowing for even higher levels of efficiency, accuracy and expediency.

Clients, subcontractors and consultants are issued screen-names and passwords and the information that they can see is custom tailored to their project role. The portal into the system is right on www.jschwartzconstruction.com and is labeled “client-center”.

This new system allows us to publish project information to the client, subcontractors, Architects, engineers and suppliers in real-time. It is a fully interactive, centralized place for all project related correspondence, drawings, specifications, and progress photos (that can be e-mailed directly from the system), and it automatically updates the home-owner and subcontractors of schedule changes via e-mail and text message!
The system also allows home-owners to make selections on-line in the “options” section; and when an option is approved, the related subcontractor is automatically notified of the approval of the selection; the change-order process works in much the same way – with automatic e-mails being sent as soon as the home-owner approves the change. Once the project is in “punch-list” phase, there is a scheduling, assignment and notification tool available to streamline that process, as well.

As you can see, even though the economy has slowed things down a bit, we see this period as an opportunity to make our business even more efficient, client and user friendly so that our responsiveness and accessibility are even better than before.

posted by Joe Schwartz - J. Schwartz,llc at 9:40 am  

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