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!

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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.

Tips to Prepare Your Deck and Paver Patio for Winter

We hope you enjoyed your summer!  The days are definitely growing cooler and winter is right around the corner.  Now is the perfect time to start thinking about preparing your outdoor living space for winter months; you’ll want to maintain your wooden deck, outdoor furniture, and paver patio to extend their life.  Here are a few tips to get you started.

Protecting Your Deck and PatioDeck and patio combination project

  • Sweep the surface removing all leaves and debris to help prevent mold and mildew forming.
  • Wash with mild soap and water.  If some dirt remains or if there are signs of mold, you may need to pressure wash the surfaces.  It is advisable that you use a professional as pressure washing at too high of a setting may cause damage.
  • If you have a deck, inspect the entire deck (slats,  handrails, railings, and posts) noting any rotting, loose rails, or warping. If  re-hammering the nails or tightening screws causes the nails or screws to sink into soft wood or splits the wood, then the piece should be replaced.
  • If you have a patio, add joining sand and sweep evenly into the joints of your patio.  Don’t put too much sand on the patio at one time. Most paver patios have tight joints between bricks and won’t need a lot of sand.

Protecting Your Furniture

  • Wash and store vinyl furniture indoors.
  • Inspect any wood furniture for damage and make the necessary repairs before covering or storing it for winter.
  • Cover with a heavy tarp or store inside a shed or garage to protect it from the elements.
  • Clean soil from planters.  Any pots made of clay or other fragile materials should be brought indoors.

Tips for Snow Removal

  • If you are shoveling snow from your deck, run the shovel lengthwise across the boards to minimize scratching or cutting into the wood. Another option is to use a plastic shovel.
  • Avoid salt and other ice melting substances as they may damage or discolor your deck finish.

Save A Tree, Build Around!

It happens to many of us.  We have grand visions of the outdoor living space we want to create, but something like a beloved tree may stand in our way. Sometimes all you need is a little creativity and a knowledgeable contractor. These homeowners knew they wanted to build around the tree, but getting started can sometimes seem a bit daunting.  We were pleased to be given the opportunity help them design a deck that wouldn’t harm their tree while also creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing space.  Read more about it here.

Macko

Tips for Preparing Your Outdoor Furniture for Spring

Spring is here and it’s time to break out your patio furniture.  Here are a few tips on how to prepare your outdoor furniture for spring.

Tips to prepare your outdoor furniture for spring

Winter Grilling 101

It’s February, and Spring is just around the corner. Your grill, sitting unused on your deck or patio, is calling to you.  The smell of grilled savory meat and vegetables seems a distant memory.  You want a barbecue – real barbecue.   What’s stopping you?  Summer may be the traditional season for grilling, but there is no reason you can’t continue to make use of your grill and outdoor living space during the winter.  With just a few tips, your winter grilling can be a success.  Check out this article, it gives great suggestions on how to keep you safe and your food delicious.