Chicago Area Outdoor Living Trends for 2016

Archadeck brings you 2016’s top 4 outdoor living trends for the Chicago area.

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As Jack Frost starts painting Chicagoland with his frosty charm and outdoor building begins to slow, we at Archadeck take a moment to reflect on the great year we had, favorite projects we built, and the trends we see coming for 2016.

Chicagoland Outdoor Kitchens

Designed for climates that cycle through seasons, these outdoor kitchens are durable enough to withstand cold Chicago winters so you can enjoy your kitchen summer after summer.  Completely customizable, Archadeck’s Chicagoland outdoor kitchens are designed to only include amenities you want and plan to use.

Belgard patio with stone grill surround and outdoor bar by North Chicago suburb patio builder Archadeck of Chicagoland

Built-In Fire Pits

Easily incorporated into your outdoor space, a built-in fire pit comes with plenty of design options, including the choice of wood burning or a gas line and ceramic logs or fire beads. Continue reading “Chicago Area Outdoor Living Trends for 2016”

4 Reasons to Plan Your Outdoor Living Project in the Fall

Make your backyard alive with fun and laughter, plan your 2016 outdoor living project now!

Summer is winding down and the crisp fall weather is moving in, bringing with it the brightly colored leaves, bonfires and hoodies, and pumpkin spice everything. Though you may be packing up your outdoor furniture and cutting back your perennials, now is the perfect time to start thinking about next year’s projects. Plan your 2016 outdoor living project now and make your backyard alive with fun and laughter!

TimberTech composite deck with paver patio by Chicago Suburb deck builder Archadeck of Chicagoland

Continue reading “4 Reasons to Plan Your Outdoor Living Project in the Fall”

When Should I Start Planning My Deck or Patio?

Three determining factors to help you decide when to start planning for your deck or patio project.

One of the most common questions we hear early in the year at Archadeck is “when should I start planning my deck or patio if I want to use it this summer?”   If you want to make sure you’re on the construction schedule and your project is built and ready to use in time to enjoy the warmer weather, then late winter or early spring is usually the best time to start the process.  Here are a three things to consider while determining when you want to start your project.Backyard wood deck by Glen Ellyn deck builder Archadeck of Chicagoland

Continue reading “When Should I Start Planning My Deck or Patio?”

Design-Build Companies: Why You Should Hire One For Your Next Project

A design-build company works with you from the first concept through the completed installation, simplifying the process. Here are a few of the best benefits to using a design-build contractor and questions to ask when hiring.

Design-build companies are a great solution for many homeowners preparing to start a new home improvement project.  A design-build firm provides design and installation services for your project.  They work with you from the first concept through the completed installation, significantly simplifying the process.  Here are a few of the benefits to using a design-build contractor and questions to ask when hiring.

Screen Porch and Patio with Fire Pit - Archadeck of Chicagoland

Reduction in Time to Project Completion

When planning to build a new deck, patio, screen porch, or some other sort of addition, the traditional approach has been to meet with a designer, an engineer, and a contractor.   This takes a significant amount of time and leaves more room for error with each company your project passes through.   With a design-build company, you would work with one company from start to finish.  This usually means fewer meetings required and more time saved.  There is also greater efficiency and less room for error when the same company is designing, creating the architectural plans, and building.  Your project will move through the channels more quickly and the carpenters will be at your home in no time.

Screen porch with fireplace - Archadeck of Chicagoland

Elevated Costs Are Prevented

One of the greatest benefits to the design-build process is that your project is designed to your budget.  With your budget discussed early in the process, your entire project is planned to fit within the parameters you create, preventing elevated cost.  No one likes sticker shock, especially after all the time and work put into creating the perfect design.

Simplified Design Process

The design fee is often rolled into the total project cost.  Because the design is created in house, the cost is often much less than if you were to hire a designer separately.  Also, because the firm is creating your project from start to finish, there is no question as to whether or not the design can actually be built.  There is nothing worse than taking your new design to an engineer, only find there is much more to building that new pergola than you fathomed.   A design-build company eliminates these all too frequent time consuming and costly issues.

Patio Crew for Archadeck of Chicagoland

Knowledgeable in Construction Methods

Part of the uniqueness of a design-build company is the amount of knowledge they bring with them.  Because the designers are in-house, they have a greater knowledge of how their company builds.  They know what is and is not acceptable, what village codes they need to adhere to, and more.  A good design-build company will keep up to date with the latest in construction standards and should have procedures in place.  This simplifies the process and ensures your project is built with high quality workmanship and care.

Sunroom custom designed and built by Archadeck of Chicagoland.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Design-Build Company

  • How much experience does the company have with your type of project? At Archadeck of Chicagoland, we only design and build outdoor living companies.  Sure, we could renovate a kitchen, but a company who specializes in kitchens will probably build it better.
  • What is their background and history? Look them up on Angie’s List, Yelp, or the Better Business Bureau.  How do their previous clients describe their experience with the company?
  • What is the company’s design and construction process and what systems do they have in place to ensure your project runs smoothly? Knowing what to expect from the beginning is beneficial, and understanding how a contractor manages the multiple issues that can arise during the course of the job should be important in deciding who you want to hire for your project.
  • What safeguards do they have in place? Every design-build company should have Liability and Worker’s Compensation insurance and licensing in place.
  • What kind of warranty do they provide and will they stand behind their work? All too often we hear about contractors or companies that hide behind a clause in their warranty.  A good contractor will stand behind their work and do the right thing, regardless of the warranty terms.

See our article, How to Choose the Right Contractor, for a more detailed list of what to look for while interviewing design-build contractors.

Planning Your Project: 5 Reasons Fall and Winter is the Best Time of the Year

Fall is here, with its brightly colored leaves, crisp air, and cooler temperatures.  Many are thinking about packing up and preparing their decks and patios for the cold winter months.  At Archadeck, we are not only still building, but we are already planning for next spring.  If you’re thinking it’s time add a new screen porch or patio, or update your weathered deck, now is the time to start planning.

Deck Patio Pergola

  1. Choosing to build during the fall and winter months means you’ll have less of a wait time than during the spring and summer months.
  2. Less imposition on your daily life. Families tend to spend more time indoors during the winter months.  This makes it the perfect time to let the carpenters into the backyard to do their digging and building without being in your way.Screen Porch with Fireplace
  3. Extend the time you can spend outside. Not ready to bundle up inside yet? According to the latest trends, many homeowners agree.  We are seeing an increasing number of requests for outdoor fireplaces and fire pits.  The warmth of a fire allows you to spend more time outside when the weather grows cooler.
  4. A winter build just isn’t for you? That’s ok!  Now is the perfect time to find a contractor and lock in this year’s pricing.  This will help you to avoid the price increases often seen in early spring.
  5. Planning your spring build now ensures your project is at the top of the list. As soon as the ground thaws, you’re project will be ready to go.  Instead of spending your spring and summer vetting contractors and waiting on the completion of your project, your deck or patio will already be in place and ready to use.

Maximize the value of your home with outdoor living spaces

Are you looking to maximize the value of your home?  Outdoor living spaces have become the latest trend to take home improvement by storm.  With more homeowners moving their fun to the backyard, a deck or patio creates the perfect space to blend indoor comfort with the open outdoors.

HGTV goes over the current trends for decks and patios, mistakes to avoid, and expert tips for every budget.

PATIO

Custom Designed Deck and Patio

DECK

Custom design low maintenance deck with vinyl pergola - Archadeck of Chicagoland

5 Awesome Gifts for the Awesome Dad

Looking for the perfect gift for the awesome Dad in your life?  Here are five unique gift ideas that are sure to make his Fathers Day a memorable one!

 

Wood Beer Caddy

Showcase your favorite brews in this rustic, handcrafted beer caddy.

Wooden Beer Caddy

 

Maple Chocolate Bacon Skewers

Can you ever go wrong with bacon and chocolate?  These tasty treats are perfect for the bacon loving dad!

Bacon Maple Skewers

 

Baseball Glove Oven Mitt

Perfect for the grill master who loves to knock his guests’ taste buds out of the park!

Baseball Glove Oven Mitts

 

Natural Branch Coasters

Unique and creative DIY Branch Coasters for the outdoor lover.

Tree Branch Coasters

 

Father’s Day Photo Collage

Give Dad a timeless gift that won’t fail to pull at his heart-strings; perfect for the hardworking family man.

fathers-day-photo-collage-3-001

Memorial Day: 10 Ways To Show Your Gratitude

Our soldiers and veterans have sacrificed greatly for our country.  While we should always show our gratitude for their service, Memorial Day is a great time to do something a little extra special for our brave and faithful soldiers.

1.  Reach out to a military family in your community  

Invite them over for dinner or bring them a meal.  Something as simple as running an errand, taking a walk with them, or watching children for a few hours can mean so much to a family who has a deployed spouse.

2.  Visit an older or wounded veteran

A happy visit can brighten a day and help a veteran to know they are not forgotten.  Contact your local nursing home or VA hospital for guidance on who you may visit.  Need some inspiration?  The Walter Reed National Military Center provides plenty of creative ideas on their Facebook page.

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3.  Make patriotic cookies

A thoughtful treat and a heartfelt “Thank You” goes a long way.  You can pick a local veteran or speak to your local nursing home about passing them out to the veterans in their care.

Memorial Day Cookies

4.  Offer to do yard work or home repairs

Having a spouse or parent deployed overseas is stressful for families.  If the children are young, this time can be especially difficult for the parent at home.  Mowing their lawn, repainting a fence, helping out with home maintenance, or planting flowers will not only help the family tremendously, but can also give the deployed solider peace of mind that their family is being cared for.

5.  Volunteer to place flags on grave sites

Contact your local American Legion or VFW organization to volunteer your time.

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6.  Send a letter

AMillionThanks.org will help match you with a soldier.  Even a gesture as simple as a letter expressing your gratitude and support can brighten a soldier’s day.

7.  Grant a wish

WoundedSoldiersWish.org gives you the opportunity to help grant the wish of a wounded soldier.

8.  Fund a scholar

The Armed Forces Children’s Education Fund is a non-profit corporation that financially assists the educational needs of the surviving children of the U.S. Military men and women who lost their lives.

9.  Adopt a soldier

Why only show your gratitude on Memorial Day?  Adopt a soldier and show your support during his or her deployment.  SoldiersAngels.org will match you up with a soldier that would love your support.

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10.  Never Forget

We often view Memorial Day Weekend as a kick-off to our summer.  Beach trips, camping, and backyard barbeques will soon fill our warm summer days.  However, the real reason behind this holiday weekend is to honor, remember, and show gratitude to America’s fallen heroes.  We must never allow ourselves to forget!

Deck Safety Checklist

Family on Deck - Archadeck
May is deck safety month. With barbecues, outdoor parties, and summertime fun around the corner, now is the time to inspect your deck and make any repairs necessary. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Follow these guidelines to ensure a thorough inspection.

Boards
Look at the condition of your deck boards. Most wood will show some cracks and splits over time, but is the general condition of the boards good, or are the boards splintering and unsafe to walk on?

Every Connection
A deck should be built using a variety of fasteners and metal hardware connectors to create a continuous pathway to ensure deck stability and safety. Check to see if the appropriate fasteners and connectors were used when constructing the deck. Is the hardware in good condition or need to be replaced?

Structure
If visible, look at the posts, beams and joists that provide the structural framework of the deck. What is their condition? Is there any noticeable sagging between supports?

Attachment
The attachment of the deck to the house (at an area called the house band) is the area where most deck failures occur. Pay special attention to this area and check to make sure that the deck is properly attached to the house band with appropriate screws or bolts and that it is properly flashed for water protection. Nails should never be used for this type of attachment.

Foundation / Footings
The foundation / footings receive and support the weight (also known as the load) on a deck and the columns that bear on them. A footing that is sinking may cause a noticeable sag in an area or a column separating from a beam.

Exits
Check the areas where people exit from the deck. These exits usually involve stairs so be sure to check the condition of the material used on the stair stringers, stair treads and risers.

Rails
Look at the condition of the rail posts and sections of railing on the deck to make sure that the railing is secure. Check to make sure that the pickets/balusters are fastened securely and spaced no more than four inches apart.

If you’re not sure you want to take the responsibility of inspecting the deck yourself, look up a local company in your area and have a professional complete the inspection. Nadra.org and AngiesList.com are great places to find competent, trustworthy professionals or go to Archadeck.com to see if there are deck safety inspectors in your area.

How to Choose the Right Contractor

Can you trust your contractor? Here are 6 key elements to consider when hiring a contractor for your project. Feel confident in your decision!

How to Choose the Right Contractor by Archadeck of Chicagoland

Remodeling projects are often exciting!  But when it comes to the contractor managing the project, it can mean the difference between confidence and sleepless nights.  So how do you choose the right contractor and prevent those sleepless nights?  Here are a few important areas to focus on when interviewing prospective contractors.

Experience

How much experience does the contractor have with your type of project?  Many contractors try to do all forms of construction, but there are subtle differences in materials and design that affect the Archadeck of Chicagoland Groundbreaking outcome of each construction project.  For example, Archadeck specializes in outdoor living spaces.  Could we remodel a kitchen?  Absolutely, but you might find there are several little things that just don’t look quite right.  Choose a contractor who specializes in your type of project.  A good rule of thumb is if a company has done at least 100 projects in a category, they have probably learned the nuances that make sure the project is done right.

Background

What is their background and history?   Looking a contractor up on Angie’s List and The Better Business Bureau is a great way to learn how the contractor treats other clients.  Speak with references and, if possible, take a look at other projects the contractor has completed.  A contractor that does not have a long list of references prepared may be a red flag.

Key Performance Indicators

Pay attention to the little indicators as you interact with the contractor.  If you notice they are not meeting your standards before you sign a contract, they will most certainly fall short during the project.

  • How quickly do they respond and what is the quality of their response?
  • Are they on time?
  • Do they ask questions to help you avoid mistakes?
  • Do they listen and understand the priorities for your project?
  • Do they commit to follow-up, and more importantly, do they fulfill these commitments?
Evaluate the Contractor’s Method

Archadeck of Chicagoland TestimonyA good contractor will ask questions and listen to your ideas and concerns in order to best understand your priorities for your project.  At Archadeck, we use a very specific design process to help us understand our clients’ needs and desires.  Not all construction projects involve design or a “design process,” but the contractor’s method should strive to understand your needs and wants and clearly document the plan you agree to.   Here are a few important things to look for:

  • Clear and written details.  Project specifications should include details regarding materials and finishing information.  Any items the client will be responsible for should also be included.  For example, we note number one grade decking and stainless steel screws for our deck projects.  Or when we build screen porches, we note that the client buys the ceiling fan which we install.
  • Design plans.  In many cases, it is helpful to visualize your project.  With every project we build, we offer a plan view (view from above).  This helps ensure Archadeck and clients are in full agreement with what the end result should be.
  • Price or estimate?  Some contractors give estimates. Estimates can change and some contractors purposefully give a low estimate that they plan to increase once the project begins. We guarantee that the price we agree to will not change unless the project is changed by the client or something unforeseen (not visually present or a requirement by a building department outside of noted building codes) occurs.
Project Management

Project management is crucial in construction.  Understanding how a contractor manages the multiple issues that can arise during the course of the job should be important in deciding who you want to hire for your project.

  • Archadeck of Chicagoland ReviewWhat system does the contractor have in place to ensure your project runs smoothly? At Archadeck, we have a system called the Job Progress Methodology.  This is an elaborate checklist with over four supporting guides for the field personnel that keep us on track.  We use this tool in conjunction with a series of construction standards that clearly reflects how each detail of the project will be built.
  • Who are the crews and how are they managed?  We work hard to find skilled, reliable, and trustworthy tradesmen.  We issue a written test, conduct background checks, follow up with references, check that all insurances are up to date, and that our crews are properly licensed.  With new crews, our Construction Manager is on site daily for the first two to three weeks to ensure they are building to our expectations.
  • Does the contractor handle permitting and inspections?  If you want a full service contractor, they should handle all issues related to the permits and inspections required for your project.  This includes contacting JULIE (Illinois utility locator service) and providing any drawings and information your Home Owners Association might require.
  • Do they keep their clients informed of the job progress?  Some of the feedback we often hear from our clients is how much they appreciate our daily communication and updates about the progress of their project.  It is helpful to understand what’s been done, what is planned, and if there are any problems that need to be or were addressed.  This grants peace of mind that every detail is being handled and allows for less disruption in our clients day to day lives.
Safeguards

It is important to understand what the contractor has in place to protect you and your home.  The safeguards they have in place and the manner in which they respond to these questions help indicate how trustworthy a contractor may or may not be.

  • Liability insurance is a must.  This protects your home from any damage caused during the construction process.
  • Workers’ Compensation is also important and required for any company with employees.  This protects you from an employee of the contractor getting injured on the job and suing you for the bills.
  • Contractors should be licensed in the town or city the construction is being performed.  Request a copy of their insurances and applicable licenses.
  • What type of warranty do they offer?   We offer a warranty of one year on workmanship and five years on structural issues.  For added protection, we also offer a third-party guarantee of performance and warranty coverage.   Archadeck clients receive a National Guarantee Corporation Warranty.  This insures their project is completed and they receive at least two years of warranty coverage.
  • Will the contractor stand behind their work?  All too often we hear about contractors or companies that hide behind a clause in their warranty.  A good contractor will stand behind their work and do the right thing, regardless of the warranty terms.
Go With Your Gut

What do your research and instincts tell you about the contractor or company?  Can you trust them to do what they say, to stand behind their work, and to do what is right?  After interviewing with your contractor, you should feel comfortable in your decision, knowing they are experienced, insured, organized, and ethical.