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Home Updates for Winter

 

As fall transitions into winter, now is great time to make changes to your home’s interior that reflect both the season, and your personal décor style. For winter, it’s all about layering; opting for some nice white, gray, and gold colors; and cozying up your space as much as possible for those chilly winter nights.

Here are four home updates you can make that will last you through not only the winter season, but all year long.

Statement Ceilings

How does your ceiling look right now? Often ignored in favor of your home’s four walls and furnishings, a ceiling can be easily transformed from dull to interesting, simply by creating a statement ceiling piece. Consider exposed beams for a rustic touch; medallions or delicate molding for a colonial home; and wallpaper or paint for a traditional or artistic look.

Fireplaces

The winter season can be a time of nostalgia for so many of us. Spending time in front of a roaring fire – whether gas or wood burning – with your friends and/or family is both comforting and warming. Fireplaces provide additional benefits as well, include energy efficiency, cost savings and ambiance. If you’re thinking of having a fireplace installed, there are plenty of styles, finishes and types available to select from.

New Colors

Consider giving your home a brand-new color scheme. Wallpaper or paint will do the trick nicely. The biggest color trend predictions for 2018 as told by BEHR include neutrals, nature-inspired hues like blue and green, and dark colors like their unplugged – a dark mossy green. Muted colors are also expected to be popular choices.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Engineered hardwood flooring is designed to withstand long cold winters. Because of its multilayered construction, the planks won’t expand and contract as much as solid hardwood flooring. Engineered hardwood flooring can be purchased with or without a locking system. Another option are floating floors, such as laminate or luxury vinyl planks, which also lock into place.

Caring for Your Hardwood Floors

hardwood floors

While your hardwood floors are highly durable, the heat, humidity and activities of summer can have a detrimental effect on your hardwood floors. Make sure summer is kind to your undeniably beautiful floors with these smart, but simple maintenance tips.

Vacuum Regularly

Vacuum your floors regularly using a soft-bristled attachment to trap dirt, particles, and other household allergens – especially in high-traffic areas. Don’t use vacuums with a beater bar or power rotary brush head. Using a broom can be effective as well. Vacuuming regularly (at least once or twice a week) is your best defense against scratches and surface damage.

Manage Humidity Levels

Wood reacts to its environment. In humid environments, wood gains moisture, causing it to warp and expand. In dry environments, the opposite is true of wood; it loses moisture and contracts. This is normal. Problems, such as cupping or gapping, occur when there’s too much moisture gain or loss. Prevent problems by maintaining an environment that is consistently between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and 30-50% humidity [Source: National Wood Flooring Association].

Take Your Shoes Off … Please

In many countries, taking your shoes off before entering someone’s home is not only common courtesy, it’s expected. If you choose not to take off your shoes, you can be considered rude or disrespectful, depending on the culture. Despite countless benefits to home and health, many parts of the US have not yet adopted a “shoes off” policy.

Fact Check: We walk across surfaces that have been contaminated by bacteria and toxins daily. Aside from this, shoes are also really good at tracking in small bits of sand, dirt and rocks. Those small particles can have a sandpaper effect on your hardwood floors.

If you are still hesitant to go bare indoors, purchase a good quality doormat to help trap mud, soil and dirt from coming inside. We recommend placing a doormat at every entrance to your home. Whether you decide to take your shoes off or purchase a doormat, this will help to keep your house neat and beautiful.

Use Protective Window Coverings

When we forget to liberally apply sunscreen during the summer months, we feel the burn. Those same UV rays are no friend of hardwood floors. If your floors are overexposed to sunlight, they can fade, become discolored and even warp over time. Not something you want after investing a lot of money in hardwood. Use protective window coverings to block fade-causing UV rays.

Heat Safety Tips for Construction Workers

heat safety tips

While equally important, in the construction industry, safety requires more than just wearing a hard hat and protective googles. The weather can also prove to be a significant safety hazard for construction workers. To help ensure the safety of our construction workers during the summer months, here are six heat safety tips you should be aware of.

Know the Signs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people suffer heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. Because heat-related illnesses are 100% preventable, it’s important for people to be aware of the warning signs of these two potentially life-threatening illnesses, and know when to seek immediate medical attention.

Warning Symptoms: Heat Exhaustion

Breathing that is shallow and fast, headaches, excessive sweating, pale or clammy skin, muscle cramps, tiredness, disorientation, nausea or vomiting, fainting, and a rapid, weak pulse. The skin may feel moist and cool to the touch. Get to a cool, air conditioned place, apply cool compresses and if conscious, rehydrate.

Warning Symptoms: Heat Stroke

Dizziness, a high body temperature (above 103˚F degrees), red, hot and dry skin without sweating, a rapid, strong pulse, a throbbing headache, nausea or vomiting, disorientation and possibly, loss of consciousness. If you see any of these signs, have someone call 9-1-1 while you begin cooling the victim.

Pace Yourself

Pace your work and take frequent breaks. This is especially important if you’re not accustomed to working in the heat. It may take several weeks for a person’s body to adjust to working in a hot environment. Lastly, it’s important to use the “buddy system;” working in pairs during the heat so that symptoms can be effectively communicated.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Drink plenty of water and other liquids. Don’t wait to rehydrate until you’re thirsty. Adults should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. More if you exercise or spend a lot of time outdoors. Avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks. These can lead to dehydration and increase the effects of heat-related illnesses.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen

Protect yourself from the sun by wearing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing (also keeps you cooler). You should also wear a wide-brimmed hat along with sunglasses. Apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply throughout the day following package directions.

Use Common Sense

  • Avoid hot, enclosed spaces, such as cars
  • Eat meals that are well-balanced and light
  • Try to stay in relatively cool areas during breaks

Creating Safer Work Zones

safer work zones

It only takes a split second of distraction to dramatically change lives forever!

In Michigan, last year, there were 4,908 reported work zone crashes. Of these, there were 17 fatalities and 75 injuries. Unfortunately, despite yearly campaigns such as the National Work Zone Awareness Week, these numbers are up from 2015 numbers.

Joining forces with national safety agencies to warn drivers of the dangers of driving through construction zones is the Michigan Department of Transportation. This year’s theme? “Work Zone Safety is in Your Hands.”

You can show your support for NWZAW by wearing orange on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. To participate, simply share a photo on social media of you and/or your work crew wearing orange, including the hashtags: #Orange4Safety and #NWZAW.

Safe Driving Tips

To maintain a safe work zone during times of construction, everyone must play their part. To play your part, ensuring the safety of drivers, workers and pedestrians, follow these tips when driving through a work zone:

  • Slow down
  • Stay alert
  • Be patient
  • Merge early
  • Don’t tailgate
  • Obey all posted signs
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Change lanes safely; using your turn signal
  • Dedicate your full attention to the road in front of you
  • Follow flagger instructions (they are there for your safety)
  • Plan ahead, taking an alternate route to avoid congestion, if possible

In Michigan, you now risk more than just a speeding ticket if you go over the posted speed limit – 45 mph, in areas where workers are present. Traffic violations for speeding in work zones are double that of the normal fines/points for speeding.

For more information, click here.

Here at Sobie Company Inc., we realize construction work involves many types of physical hazards, which is why we are 100% committed to ensuring our workers safety each time they are out on the field. To contact us, call (616) 698-9800.

Advancing Construction Technologies

Construction Technologies

The 21st century is certainly taking the construction industry by storm with what were once considered futuristic technologies, such as 3D printing, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and augmented reality systems. In use today, these technologies have the ability to increase efficiency, allowing fewer projects to run behind schedule or over budget. Just some of the advancing construction technologies include:

3D Printing

When using a compatible printer, 3D printing gives you the capacity to mold just about anything with the right materials. Many construction firms are excited to adopt this way of printing. The technology has many advantages over “standard” construction methods, such as the ability to create complex shapes, eliminate material waste, and increase overall efficiency. Chinese based company WinSun made global headlines when in 2013, they built 10, single-story houses in under 24 hours. WinSun is also behind the first 3D-printed office system building which opened in Dubai in May of last year.

Drone Surveying

Currently in use today, drones obtain real-time data at a much lower cost than traditional land-surveying methods. In addition to land-surveying, these devices have successfully been used to inspect hard to reach structures, monitor environmental factors and improve worker safety. The success of the drone is made possible by technological advances in GPS modules, 4D cameras, digital radios, and microelectromechanical systems. Operator licenses must be obtained through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Augmented Reality (AR)

The market for augmented reality is growing. Allowing information to be shared in real-time, AR makes it possible for contractors like Sobie to spot potential issues early on, eliminating risks. AR makes collaborating with clients, investors, and workers easy. Clients can “interact” with their projects, provide feedback on the design, and have their concerns addressed before any work begins. The technology’s capacity to increase efficiency allows fewer projects to run over budget and behind schedule. This alone makes it a worthwhile investment; wouldn’t you agree?

Outdoor Winter Safety Tips for Construction Workers

outdoor winter safety tips for construction workers

While we may only be halfway through November, we’re already starting to get a sense of what to expect this winter, as many Michigan counties are already under a blizzard watch. In light of this, it is important to take some safety precautions, especially if you work outside.

Here are five outdoor winter safety tips to implement this year.

#1. HYDRATE

We know the importance of staying hydrated during the summer, but did you know it’s just as important during the winter? Whether it’s 110+ or -60 degrees, drinking enough water – 3 to 4 liters per day on average – ensures you don’t become dehydrated when working, exercising or playing outdoors. Water (plain or fruit infused), hot herbal tea, hot chocolate, and electrolytes are all good sources for staying hydrated.

#2. BUNDLE UP

Layering is the golden rule for staying warm in the cold. However, selecting the right combination of base layers, jackets and shoes can be daunting. Base layers, like synthetic materials and long-johns, keep the body’s core warm. This in turn helps warm the extremities. You can dress normally over the base layer. Your outermost layer should be wind, rain, and snow proof. As for your footwear, make sure that your work boots are both insulated and waterproof, as well as slip-proof.

#3. MIND MOTHER NATURE

Although working outdoors is part of the job, construction workers should never be subjected to working outside during a blizzard, or extremely adverse winter weather conditions. During the winter, employers should pay attention to the local weather, as well as the National Weather Service to know when temperatures and conditions could pose a significant safety risk to their employees.

#4. WATCH FOR SIGNS OF ILLNESS

When working outside, it’s important to keep your body temperature regulated to ensure you don’t catch the flu, bronchitis, or hypothermia. You can do this by maintaining good circulation. Hypothermia develops when someone’s temperature falls below normal due to being exposed to colder temperatures.

As hypothermia sets in, a person may quickly go from shivering to not shivering, become lethargic, and seem confused or dizzy. If you suspect hypothermia, make sure the affected person gets inside a warm area, such as heated trailer quickly in order to warm up, and then immediately seek medical attention by dialing 911.

#5. DRIVE SAFELY IN ADVERSE CONDITIONS

It doesn’t matter where you’re going. It doesn’t matter whether you’re already running late. It doesn’t even matter that traffic is taking longer than usual. When you’re driving, 100% of your attention must be on the road, thus ensuring your safe arrival. Paying attention to the road, not tailgating, and abiding to the speed limit is particularly important when driving in adverse conditions. Not driving safely during the winter can lead to people like you and Sobie‘s construction workers getting hurt.

What is Fireproofing?

fireproofing

No one wants to believe a house fire can happen in their home. Yet, in 2013 alone, fire departments responded to 370,000 home structure fires in the United States. These fires resulted in damages totaling $6.8 billion. This according to the National Fire Protection Association. (NFPA, 2013)

Two out of every five home fires start in the kitchen between the hours of 5:00pm and 7:00pm – just as families are preparing dinner. Sixty-two percent of reported home fires had no, or no working, smoke alarms present. Often, no effective measures were enacted, as residents falsely believed they were safe from harm.

Taking effective measures to prevent, or at best, minimize the disastrous effects of home fires is important. We can’t stress this enough! Besides educating family members, both young and old, on fire safety all homes should have working smoke alarms and fireproofing materials.

In fact, fireproofing is a requirement for most multi-family and commercial buildings, as it can effectively protect property and life. Even those entirely made of metal and concrete would benefit from being treated with a quality fireproofing material. Just how effective is fireproofing?

Well, according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2009, fireproofing not only saved buildings but also offered a greater degree of safety for occupants by allowing a 15-times longer escape time than non-treated homes and buildings.

Fireproofing is used to keep a building’s internal structure, typically steel, below the temperature that causes structural weakness. Electrical circuits can also be treated. Once treated the material prevents electrical circuits from overheating. Hiring a professional contractor that specializes in fireproofing is your best bet.

Structural steel, spray-on fireproofing, offers exceptional fire resistive and physical performance characteristics. Active ingredients that are commonly associated with spray-on fireproofing include Monokote MK-6, Cafco 300, and Cafco Blaze Shield. Modern sprays are free from asbestos and are safe for use in homes.

In addition to fireproofing, every household should adhere to the following fire safety tips, which will greatly reduce their risk of becoming injured or worse.

  • If a fire occurs in your home – get out, stay out, and call 9-1-1.
  • Install working smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms, and outside every sleeping area for the best protection.
  • Test smoke alarms once per month to ensure they’re functioning properly. If they’re not working, change the batteries immediately.
  • Talk with family members, create, and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of your home in the event of a fire. Designate one person to be in charge of getting infants, small children, and pets safely out of the home. Choose a safe meeting place outside. Practice this plan twice a year.
  • Smoke is toxic. Teach children to get low and get out if there is smoke when they’re leaving the home. Practice the drop and roll as well as feeling the door, doorknob, and cracks with the back of their hands. Teach them to never play with matches, lighters or fireworks.

Hardwood Flooring Benefits

hardwood flooring

Hardwood flooring or tile? Both types of flooring materials have distinct advantages and disadvantages as far as installation and maintenance go. Hardwood flooring, however, provides benefits not found in tile including: better acoustics, healthy indoor air quality, and elegant aesthetics. Here are just some of the advantages, and disadvantages, of hardwood flooring and tile flooring so that you can make an informed decision when choosing your next flooring material.

Hardwood Flooring Benefits

  1. Hardwood flooring is easier on your feet. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking, entertaining, or both.
  2. Hardwood flooring is warmer on your feet. Tile draws heat away, leaving your feet feeling the draft, especially during winter. For extra warmth, consider installing radiant heat.
  3. Hardwood flooring can help make your space look larger. By using the same surface and color in each room, hardwood will give the illusion of a larger space, even in the smallest areas of your home.

Tile Flooring Benefits

  1. Tile floor is extremely water resistant. No more worrying about spills. In fact, you don’t have to worry about much at all. Tile is nearly indestructible.
  2. Tile flooring has many design possibilities. You can get really artistic with tile designs by using multiple shapes and sizes or adding borders. It’s also easy to match tile with wood cabinets – adding more contrast and becoming more eye appealing than all hardwood flooring and wood cabinets.
  3. If you are using radiant heat, tile will conduct heat better. Any type of tile will work. With hardwood and radiant heat, your options are limited, and you often have to purchase high-end wood flooring for the best effects.

Hardwood Flooring Disadvantages

  1. Hardwood flooring is not waterproof, so be careful to pick up spills right away.  The good news is that if small sections are damaged by water, they can be replaced and you can refinish the whole floor later.
  2. Real hardwood floors will need to be refinished periodically. This is not terribly expensive, but it is a necessity when getting hardwood flooring. The good news is, it may only need to be done every 8-10 years.

Tile Flooring Disadvantages

  1. They can (and often do) crack. This can be for a number of reasons, but the most common reasons stems from poor installation. Some installers often don’t realize how important floor prep is, and as a result, often install on top of plywood and/or don’t level the floor.  Both of these will cause the tile to crack..  Another reason for damage could be that over time a house can just settle a bit and cause cracks. If you’re tile is cracked, it is extremely difficult (and often impossible) to repair just a few tiles without causing additional cracks in other areas.  In the long run, solid hardwood will probably last much longer.
  2. The grout gets dirty and starts to chip away. If you reseal your grout every year, this will help, but over the long run, the grout will often need to be replaced.

For all your flooring options, consider Sobie Company, Inc.!

Tips for Finding a Reliable, Licensed Contractor

licensed contractor

“You get what you pay for.”

Who hasn’t heard this expression before? This saying is never more relevant than when you’re planning to hire a contractor. You must be prepared to do a fair amount of research in order to find a highly trusted, reliable, licensed contractor. Going by price alone increases the risk of project failure and could end up costing you more.

The next 5 tips will help you find a reliable, licensed contractor.

  1. Verify Their License(s)

Never hire an unlicensed contractor; period! If the contractor’s offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Hiring an unlicensed contractor may end up costing you more money when all is said and done. No license equals no insurance! To verify a contractor is licensed in the State of Michigan, please click here.

  1. Insurance Coverage

All contractors are required by law to maintain general liability insurance, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage at all times. Ask the contractor for copies of their insurance certificates, and make sure they’re current, before starting any new projects with them.

  1. Do Your Research

At your request, a contractor should be able to give you the names, addresses and phone numbers of at least three clients with projects similar to yours. Ask each client if they were satisfied with the project. Was it completed on time? Were there any unexpected costs? Did workers show up on time and clean up after finishing the job?

  1. Get Three Estimates

Whether you’re planning a big remodel or just want to add some finishing touches, you have to arm yourself with enough information to make an informed decision, which includes soliciting at least three estimates. How will you know you’re getting the best deal if you don’t take the time to get those estimates?

  1. Request a Written Contract

Before any work commences, make sure you have received a written contract, which outlines all the agreed upon terms. Make sure you fully understand these terms before signing on the dotted line. Avoid contractors that ask for cash instead of a check or credit card slip made out to the company as well as those that ask for more than 30% of the total project cost upfront. In most cases, an estimate is not a guarantee of service, so always request a written contract.