Archive for the ‘Home Safety’ Category

New Year’s Resolutions

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

I usually avoid making New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I’m against the concept, it’s just that I spend a good part of the day trying to be better than I was the day before, so daily resolutions are more my speed.

Interestingly, many homeowners that we’ve spoken with recently are resolving to make small, medium and large modifications to their homes and habits in 2012. Here are a few of their ideas to consider in the coming year:


Stay Safe: By replacing smoke detectors, adding grab bars and better lighting and fixing the damage in your homes, you’ll be protecting yourself and your family members.


Winterize Your Home: Now that cold weather has arrived, don’t put off winterizing your home. Seal up cracks and repair the weather stripping around your windows and doors and remember to cover outside faucets, bring in potted plants and drip faucets when the temperatures go below freezing. It’s also a good time to add additional insulation to your attic, which can save you money on your heating and cooling bills.

Save Energy: Resolve to turn down your thermostat this winter when you’re at work or sleeping. Better yet, replace it with a programmable thermostat that remembers to adjust the temperatures for you. Also, install energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs to help reduce your carbon footprint while you save money.


Go Green: Make an effort to start recycling and properly dispose of old electronic equipment such as televisions, computers and cell phones. Take steps to save water and repair dripping faucets and fix running toilets. Also, consider installing low-flow showerheads and replacing old water guzzling toilets with new water saving or dual-flush models. When purchasing new appliances or electronic equipment, be sure they bear the federal Energy Star seal.


Maintain Your Home: Making a resolution to change the air filter on your central system every month or two will save energy and allow your system to run more efficiently. Draining your hot water tank once a year removes any sediment buildup. Cleaning your gutters regularly is another important home maintenance project that’s easy to overlook and avoid. Neglected gutters can lead to rotting eave boards, as well as damage to basements and foundations.


Resolutions, whether daily, weekly, monthly or yearly can have a big impact on your home and your life.

We wish you happy holidays and a wonderful New Year. If you have any questions or comments, reach me today at (301) 946-2356 or

David Merrick
Merrick Design and Build

Spray Foam Insulation

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

We recently invited a vendor to provide a brief training session to our staff  on spray foam insulation. We wanted clarity on the efficiency, durability and potential downsides of this type of insulation and learned about the details of open cell and closed cell foam insulation, including a few pros and cons of each.

Closed cell insulation, which has a tighter cell structure, is often used in walls to provide a barrier against air leakage. Closed cell insulation can be used in basements to protect against dampness, but may not provide a complete solution for all homes. It can also be be used in crawlspace walls and many other places. The disadvantages of the closed cell foam is that it’s denser, requires more material, and therefore, is more expensive.

Open cell insulation can be also used in many areas of the home, including roofs, because it’s vapor permeable. Hence, if your roof develops a leak, you’ll find out sooner rather than later. With closed cell foam, rook leakage could go undetected, allowing water to collect between the roof and the foam. The advantages of the open cell foam is that it’s lighter, requires less material, and therefore, is less expensive than closed cell insulation.

Both types of foam insulation show strong durability, although closed cell foam will generally last longer and provide better insulation. Additionally, there are both traditional and “green” spray foam products that may offer the right solution for your home. And, you might also consider other insulation alternatives, including denim insulation, made from post-consumer recycled denim scraps.

Like all insulation, foam comes with comes with potential downsides. On the website, we read that “Urethanes are non-toxic and only require protection for our operators during installations, but the finished product is completely safe and has no formaldehydes.”  Yet, some homeowners believe that out-gassing is possible and have reported reactions to it. If you have chemical sensitivities or worry about other hazards, it’s important to research this, and any potentially offensive materials that will be installed in your home.

As with any other service, installation plays a critical role in the success of your project. Buying good paint, but then having it applied by a non-seasoned painter will yield vastly different results than having seasoned painter do the job. Hiring a professional, licensed and competent foam insulation installer will ensure the best results.

Questions? Comments? Reach me today at (301) 946-2356 or

David Merrick
Merrick Design and Build

National Lead Awareness Week

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Today, childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children.  Yet, one million children today are affected by lead poisoning.  Pregnant women are also vulnerable to lead poisoning.  There is a good chance that any home, building, school or daycare center built before 1978 contains lead paint.  Just a few particles of dust from lead-based paint are enough to poison a child; the effects can last a lifetime.

The disturbance of lead paint in home renovation creates lead dust.  Last year, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued lead paint rules governing the renovation of pre-1978 homes. Home renovation that disturbs lead paint should be handled by EPA-certified renovators, including Merrick Design and Build, who are trained in lead-safe work practices.  It is vitally important that you understand lead hazards and how your can protect yourself and your family from lead poisoning, particularly if you’ll be undergoing a home renovation.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is a professional trade association whose members advocate for consumer awareness and protection from lead poisoning.  As a NARI member and in commemoration of National Lead Awareness Week, which is happening from October 23-29, I would be happy to speak with you about the dangers of lead poisoning and how your can protect yourself and your family.

If you’d like more information or have any questions on this important topic, please contact me today at (301) 946-2356 or

David Merrick
Merrick Design and Build

What is Deck Flashing?

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Decking flashing is the barrier that prevents moisture from entering the house through the openings which are created when a deck is built. Flashing is a deck building material that’s affixed to the exterior of the home where the deck meets the house and comes in a variety materials including aluminum, stainless steel, copper and vinyl.

If a deck is not properly flashed, water penetrates into the house framing, which can result in severe mold, decay, and overall serious and expensive damage. To support the goal of keeping moisture out, it’s critical to ensure deck flashing runs the entire length of the ledger board (the ledger board extends from the house and is responsible for jointly sharing support of the deck’s joists along with the deck posts). As part of proper flashing installation, silicone caulking seals the end butt joints and any places where water might intrude.

What happens when a deck is not properly flashed? Take a look at these photos to see!





































If you have any questions or comments about proper deck flashing, reach me today at (301) 946-2356 or

David Merrick

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality This Summer

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

As the summer months heat up, we’ll spend more time indoors, so now is a great time to improve your indoor air quality. Here are a few tips to achieve your quest for cleaner air:

  • Properly ventilate your attic and crawl spaces to prevent moisture build–up.
  • Keep a healthy level of humidity. Dust mites and mold love moisture. Keeping indoor humidity around 30%-50% helps keep them and other allergens under control. Air conditioners reduce the indoor pollen count – another plus for allergy sufferers.
  • Keep your floors clean by vacuuming and mopping up dirt to reduce the dust and chemicals in your home. Also, use an entry mat to trap dirt from shoes or, even better, ask all residents and visitors to remove their shoes in the foyer.
  • Avoid synthetic air fresheners. You might associate a lemony or piney scent with a clean kitchen or clean clothes, but synthetic fragrances in laundry products and air fresheners emit dozens of different chemicals into the air. Conventional fabric softeners, dryer sheets and air fresheners may also release such gasses.
  • Carefully seal paints, solvents, pesticides and chemicals of any kind in your home. Keep quantities to a minimum and, whenever possible, keep these items stored in your garage or shed.

If you have questions or comments, please contact me at (301) 946-2356 or

David Merrick

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality in the Fall

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

As the cold weather moves in, we’ll spend more time indoors, so this a great time to improve the quality of your indoor air. Here are a few tips to utilize in your quest for cleaner air:

  • Properly ventilate your attic and crawl spaces to prevent moisture build–up
  • If you use cool mist or ultrasonic humidifiers, clean them according to the manufacturer’s instructions and refill them daily with fresh water. Some homeowners use vinegar to clean their filters. To learn more about this method click here.
  • Carefully seal paints, solvents, pesticides and chemicals of any kind in your home. Keep quantities to a minimum and, whenever possible, keep these items stored in your garage or shed.

For more tips and information on improving your indoor air quality, visit this article.

Do you have questions, comments or concerns about your indoor quality? I’m a phone call away at (301) 946-2356.

David Merrick

Smoke Detectors

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Smoke detector requirements in Montgomery County specify that the detection units are:

- located in every bedroom,
- located in the hallways outside of bedrooms and on every floor, and
- hard wired and interconnected with each other.

Up until recently, the county required that, when work was done in one part of your home, the smoke detection systems in that area had to be checked (or installed) and up to code.

The county has now declared that any for permits issued for remodeling work inside your home, that all smoke detectors be up to code and working properly throughout your home.

This may sound like daunting task, but we can easily assist you with this and the new requirement will save more lives by making homes safer.

It’s also important to note that smoke detectors have a life span of about five years and that the “test” button on units may not be providing accurate information. Sometimes, the test button will work even if the unit is not functioning properly. Older smoke detectors can become filled with dust and encounter other problems.

Also, in addition to having the proper smoke detectors, we recommend having carbon monoxide detectors on each floor. They’re easy to install and also save lives.

Do you have questions or comments about the new smoke detector requirement? Call me today at 301-946-2356.

David Merrick