Archive for March, 2010

Parents Protest Education Budget Cuts

columbia high school south orange maplewood

At the Board of Education Building on 525 Academy Street in Maplewood, special education parents have organized a protest to take place on Wednesday, 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.

The protest is scheduled before the Board of school Estimate public hearing at 7 p.m.  The “call to action” is for the community to oppose the decision by the Board of Education and the administration to outsource 76 of the district’s special education paraprofessionals beginning July 1.  NJ Governor Christie’s budget cuts have cost the district 80.9 percent of its state aid. The school district has responded by outsourcing the special education paraprofessionals .  Approval by the Board of School Estimate is the next step in adoption of the district’s proposed $108.6 million budget.

Maplewood Victorian (Shingle Style)


Maplewood Victorian


Cool Shingle style Victorian in South Mountain area of Maplewood.

Ark sighting in South Orange, NJ – Flooded basements


yikes, flooded basement

Actually Noah would probably be hard at work on the basement and/or the gutters instead of building an ark if he were around today… There are different solutions to flooded basements, but before we can do the fix we’ve got to find out the reason.
1) One of the primary causes of basement flooding is ‘grading’ – the level of the land around your home.  Nearly every home is designed with land sloping away from the home, which lowers the odds of basement flooding.  After awhile the grade changes for the following reasons:  a) Erosion and subjection to the elements,   b) Poor original grading job,  c) Changes in neighboring grades,  d) Poor landscaping

If the grade is covered with cement, stone, or other paving material, these can all be fixed by a pro.  If the gradient is soil, you can try buying extra soil and building it up near your home and sloping it down as you move away from the home.  A garden or shrubs will usually help prevent soil erosion and protect your new grade as the roots hold onto the soil.  Obviously don’t plant anything with big, powerful roots too close that will push into your foundation.

2) Another cause of flooding is a poor foundation sealing job.   This is a job for a pro.  Effective waterproofing and sealant is a must.

3) Blocked guttering is probably the most common problem and the easiest to solve.   If the southwest corner of your basement is flooded, walk outside and check out the southwest gutters and you may have found the culprit.  Fallen leaves blocking the waterflow or damaged gutters can easily be removed or repaired by a pro or a handy homeowner. 

4) Pumps/Drains – If you don’t hear your sump pump going in a significant rainstorm you know it’s probably got a mechanical problem and needs to be fixed or replaced.  For French Drains, first make sure the spout area is clear.  Silt in the pipe from eroded gravel could be causing a blockage.  The depth or grading of the pipe may have changed.  You’re probably better off calling a pro for either the sump pump or the French drain.  
Stay Dry!

Energy Audit


Energy Audit - Infrared and Blower Door


Even though it’s warmed up considerably, we’re still receiving two more heating bills. Air conditioning season begins in mid-June and drives up the electric bill.  So, recently I wanted some professional affirmation of the best ways to lower bills in both seasons… An energy audit.   Felt like my house was having a physical.

The energy expert comes to your home and examines attic and wall insulation, windows, the furnace itself and the whole building ‘envelope.’  In addition to visual inspection, two fun ‘toys’ are involved.  First was a “Blower Door test” which actually put a fan/blower in a frame in the doorway to suck the air out your home in order to measure pressure (in pascals) and let you know how ‘tight or leaky’ your home is.  The other toy is even cooler, an infrared camera which he points at most of the walls, corners and ceilings so you actually see the temperature in color (red/orange for warm and blue/green for cold). Parts of my walls were as low as 56 degrees even though the thermostat indicated that room temperature was 65.  I could certainly improve ‘the envelope’ which would also enable us to keep the air conditioner settings lower in the summer.

In November I had already done the inexpensive stuff.  I re-insulated my attic and went on the warpath caulking around windows and doors, replacing door sweeps and other door and window paraphernalia.  That dropped my bills by about $75 a month.  I’m hoping to bring it down even further, so next year the auditor suggested replacing my ancient (but attractive) windows, making a few attic repairs and fixing one or two ‘envelope areas’ would net me the most heating bill savings.  The following year perhaps we’ll be blowing insulation into the walls.

Home Energy Diagnostics  973-680-1244 
National Energy Audits  1-866-438-3637
CM Burrows, Inc. 1-866-BURROWS (287-7697)
Green Living Solutions 201-390-4280
Home Energy Tuneup  201-530-1553

Home Inspection Technologies  609-835-0101

Maplewood Dutch Colonial


Maplewood Dutch Colonial Revival


Black and White Dutch Colonial in Maplewood…Agricultural and Appetizing, Pastoral and Peaceful

South Orange Tudor (Newstead)


South Orange Tudor (Newstead)


Terrific Tudor combining parapets, window arches, a slate roof, a front gable and many other  details into one coherent, strong home

Solar News!


NJ Solar News - No Money Down


Despite Governor Christie’s budget freeze (which includes $158 million  in assets from NJ’s Clean Energy Fund) New Jersey remains second in the country after California in installed  Solar capacity.  Meanwhile, a host of Solar energy leasing programs have been developing in NJ anyway.  With no money down, homeowners who can’t afford the upfront costs of a solar installation can instead lease the technology.  The leases are based upon the predictable revenue streams from the installation which includes rebate payments.

Solar Powered !


Maplewood Dutch Colonial with solar panels (Clinton)

Maplewood Dutch Colonial with solar panels

This Dutch Colonial is the only home I’ve seen in town yet with enough solar panels to actually run the meter backwards.   Congrats! 

South Orange French Provincial (Montrose)



South Orange French Provincial (Montrose)


It’s got the French hipped roof and other provincial elements, but it seems asymmetrical.  I like it ALOT.