Summer Weatherization Tips: Part Seven

One of the most pleasant methods for cooling off in the summer without the use of AC is to simply make use of your front, side or back porch.

Our post next week will cover the cooling benefits to the whole house from the shading of surfaces by awnings, eaves and porches, but today we would like to highlight the basic livability improvements a nice porch provides in summer. Historic homes, especially Arts and Crafts and Victorian homes, were often built with not only a front porch, but several porches located in different of the house. A century ago, the ease of access to fresh air that these spaces provide was actually touted as a crucial health tool, and sleeping porches, (i.e., screened-in porches located in more private areas of the home, like the second floor or private side porches) were marketed extensively to homeowners. Lynn Elliott writes about the history and use of sleeping porches in this article from Old House Journal.

In this short Bob Vila Magazine article, author Donna Boyle Schwartz makes the following suggestions for improving porch spaces, especially for sleeping porches:

  • Covering. The space should be covered against the elements and for safety, it should have at least a low railing around the perimeter.
  • Screens. If you live in an area where bugs abound in summer, it probably goes without saying that screens are essential. Many choose also to integrate fabric shades or awnings, which can be lowered for privacy.
  • Water- and fade-resistant fabrics and furnishings. Furnishings should be casual, comfortable, and resistant to the effects of water and sunlight.
  • Sleeping arrangements. Since sleeping porches often serve as living areas during the day, fill these spaces with versatile pieces that perform more than one function. Consider a suspended bed doubles as a porch swing or daybed that doubles as deep seating.
  • Ceiling fan. After all, the key to a comfortable sleeping porch is air circulation. Shop for a top-rated ceiling fan with our tips.
  • Indirect lighting. You’ll get plenty of natural light from the big windows around a sleeping porch, but supplement these with some table lamps or flameless candles.


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Summer Weatherization Tips: Part Six

Did you know that one method for cooling your home is simply planting the right landscaping?

According to the Department of Energy, the air temperatures under a shady tree can be as much as 25 degrees F cooler than the air temperatures over nearby blacktop! Scroll to the bottom of this post to see an infographic for more information.

In addition to providing shade, plants cool ambient air by as much as 6 degrees F through the process used to absorb water (transpiration). Transpiration is the method plants use to move water from the ground through the body of the plant and then diffuse it outwards into the environment. It may not seem like a tree here or there can do much to affect the air temperatures, but a single large oak tree can transpire 40,000 gallons of water into the atmosphere over the course of a year!

When planning landscaping, you generally should aim to plant taller trees on the south side of your home to shade your roof in summer, and shorter trees or shrubs on the west side to shade your home in late day sun. Choosing deciduous (leafy) trees over evergreen trees will mean that the trees will not continue to shade your home through winter – but also consider planting evergreen trees or shrubs in areas where a windbreak will help during wintertime.

The forestry department of your city should be contacted if you would like a new tree to be planted in the city right of way (the area between the sidewalk and the curb); to contact the City of Buffalo Bureau of Forestry, call 311 – the city will plant one for you, or approve or deny a permit for you to plant one yourself, depending on the space considerations and if there are any utility lines that may prohibit planting.

Planting vines like ivy in a container with a trellis spaced away from your home is also a great method to incorporate some additional greenery, especially if you have limited space to work with or if deep root systems would be problematic. However, to prevent damage to your home, do not let ivy directly climb on your home – while some architects suggest that the possible damage from ivy to buildings depends on the type of siding, we suggest erring on the side of caution. In addition to root systems which dig into gaps and cracks in siding, increasing possible damage from freeze-thaw cycles, ivy can trap moisture against the siding, and harbor animals and insects. To remove ivy, simply cut the vines at the base of the trunks, let it dry out as it dies, then use a stiff brush to remove any remaining loose parts.



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Fix It Friday: DIY and COVID-19 Considerations

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We’re all itching to start our springtime home renovation projects, even more so than usual since we’re spending more time than ever in our homes. However, we should think very carefully and meaningfully before proceeding with any DIY projects at this time. All non-essential commercial construction, (i.e. any project other than those necessary to protect health and safety of building occupants) is halted until the NYS PAUSE order is lifted. This includes any home contractor work that will require more than one person on site.

For DIY-ers, folks are strongly discouraged against browsing hardware store shelves and asked instead to put orders in for pick-up by ordering online or calling ahead. DIY-ers are also asked to avoid taking any unnecessary risks with safety- a preventable accident that requires an emergency room visit is the last thing anyone needs when health providers are strained by the COVID health emergency. We also must consider the fact that personal protective equipment like n95 masks are badly needed right now by frontline healthcare providers.

The COVID-19 crisis does not mean fully putting off all home renovation projects- making small little fixes isn’t just a good way to pass the time, it’s also good for mental health, as it is a way to address little stressors in our lives. It instead means thinking carefully about what projects to take on at this time instead of jumping into DIY work on a spur, and proceeding with the level of caution and attentiveness towards safety that we should always be using. For example, consider putting off that bathroom remodel that will require a contractor and lead safety practices, but feel free to patch those holes in the drywall. This is also a great time to plan projects- make sketches, talk with members of your household, brainstorm, budget and research ideas.