By Kristin Boza
Home maintenance and repair is a year-round effort, especially for our historic homes here in Beverly/Morgan Park. Spring is the ideal time to check your home’s exterior and make a list of issues to fix. This checklist was compiled with the help of a few businesses on BAPA’s Trade Referral List. Check this list at www.BAPA.org to find trusted professionals ready to help you cross repairs off of your to–do list.
Window and Gutter Repair
Uhlmann Home Improvement
George Uhlmann’s father started their family’s home improvement business in 1945 out of their Hyde Park apartment, focusing on storm windows and doors, as well as garage builds.
Uhlmann still works on aluminum storm windows, like his father, but has expanded the business to include essential gutter work. “I spend every day in Beverly and Mt. Greenwood; it’s a nice area to work in and the people are great,” he said.
Uhlmann recommends walking around the perimeter of your home and take a hard look at all of the gutters, downspouts, and windows. Note any damage from the winter — especially after the heavy snow we had this year — and pay close attention to the window sills and caulking.
“Always call in a professional to repair gutters or windows,” Uhlmann said. “We have a seven-point inspection system that we use when we get up on someone’s roof and make sure everything is in good order to prevent leaks.”
While many landscapers offer gutter cleaning, Uhlmann warns that they often just clean out the leaves and debris. Professionals will pay close attention to the roof’s hangers, downspouts, miters, and roof grids. Not only can professionals like Uhlmann point out these issues, but they can repair or replace any damaged sections. Without regular maintenance, gutters will get clogged and water will back up into the roof, eventually draining into the attic or basement of a home.
Rogers Roofing is a family business for more than 50 years. Owner Ed Rogers says that homeowners should visually inspect their roofs for lifting, buckling, or missing shingles. However, since it’s difficult and dangerous for homeowners to get on their roof themselves, Rogers advises a yearly roof inspection by a qualified roofer to keep up with any maintenance or needed repairs.
“By getting a yearly checkup, you avoid small repairs from becoming major issues,” Rogers said. “Any buckling or lifting of shingles is an indication that existing shingles could be losing their sealant.”
Any signs of leaking inside the home could indicate an issue with the roof. “The best advice is to call a professional roofer to come and address those issues,” Rogers said.
Rogers Roofing was established in the Roseland neighborhood and is now based in Hammond, Ind., while servicing many Chicago and Northwest Indiana neighborhoods, including Beverly/Morgan Park.
“Most of our installers have been with us for well over 10 years and have expertise and training in both shingle and flat roofs,” Rogers said. “Our company prides ourselves on making sure the customer is well–informed on the roofing process from the day we come out to assess the issue to our quality control specialists following up at the end of the project.”
Electrical issues should be handled by a professional; attempting to fix these issues yourself could lead to a fatality. Charles Ostott, owner of Safe Electrical, offers tips on numerous first signs of an electrical issue that homeowners should never ignore.
Tripping Breakers. This is a telltale sign of a bigger problem. “It’s really hard to convince someone that this is a dangerous thing,” Ostott said. “We grew up watching our parents resetting the breaker, but it’s a definite signal of overloading the circuit.”
Once a breaker trips three times, it begins to diminish and is not as fast at tripping as it should be. “The longer it stays in that position without tripping, the worse the problem will be because now you’re overloading the wire in the wall,” Ostott said. “The breaker will have a bigger chance of failing to a point where it doesn’t turn the power off at all.”
Flickering Lights. This is the first sign that there’s an issue. “If your dishwasher kicks on and the ceiling lights begin to flicker, that’s a sign that there is something loose or beginning to fail,” Ostott said.
Buzzing & Crackling. Humming or buzzing near the electrical box is a symptom of a system overload or failure. “A cause could be having too many things going onto one circuit; this is definitely something to be checked out,” Ostott said. Crackling can occur when a light is turned on, and some customers can even see a flash inside the switch.
Loose Outlets. If the plug falls out when you plug something in the outlet is starting to fail. “The components inside the outlet could burn up when it’s loose, leading to a much bigger problem,” Ostott said.
Burning Plastic Smell. Often, Ostott will come out for a complaint of a burning plastic smell, only to find out it’s actually a dead animal in the attic. However, if portable heaters or air conditioners are plugged into standard outlets, they can produce a burning smell, which indicates an issue with the wiring behind that outlet.
Safety Tip: Exercise Breakers. Once a year, turn of all the power to the house and head to the breaker box.Turn each switch off slowly to exercise the springs and keep them in working order.
Safe Electrical has been in business for 12 years. “On every call, we do full inspections of the electrical box, even if that’s not the issue we’re called out for. The electrical panel can tell us a lot about other issues in the home,” Ostott said. The team will also vacuum, mop, and even patch any holes they make. “You will never have to clean up after our team; that’s definitely part of our job,” Ostott said.
Take the time to smell the roses — and check out your house’s exterior paint job while you’re at it. Gary Strickel, owner of Creative Painting, says it’s funny when we realize that we just move in and out of our doorways each day without actually studying our homes.
“A couple of times a year, and especially after a storm, get outside and spend a few minutes looking over your home,” Strickel said. “Look for any loose wood boards, peeling paint, and note anything that looks troubling.” Those trouble spots could be caused by undetected leaks, animals nesting in the home or roof, or damage from storm debris.
Paying attention to caulking is essential too; make sure to inspect for gaps in doorways, windows, and siding. “Having any gaps could raise your heating bill because air is getting into the walls,” Strickel said. “Or, these gaps could indicate insects or even moisture that’s getting into the walls and causing the issue.”
Strickel keeps meticulous records of his customers’ paint color and follows-up with customers every couple of years to notes any issues.
“The sunny side of the house is one to pay attention to. It’s really exposed and the wood will age faster in the sun,” he said. “If you keep up with it and take care of minor issues, it prevents major issues down the road.” Some of the homes Strickel painted have not needed a complete repaint in 15 to 18 years because the trouble spots are addressed as soon as they’re spotted.
Creative Painting has been in business since 1971, and on BAPA’s Trades Referral since 1974. Strickel runs the business with his son and son-in-law. He really enjoys the relationships he’s built with families over the last 50 years. “Much of our work is from referrals and I never treat people like a one-time customer,” he said. “My advice is to take care of your house; it’s an investment and you will get a good return on it if it’s always taken care of.”
Awnings were “green” before “green” was a thing, according to Chesterfield Awning owner Dave Ausema. “The original purpose for an awning was to keep the house cool during the days before air conditioning,” he said. “Canvas awnings were a really energy–efficient way to cool down your home in the hot summer. A 10-foot awning on a window will keep the interior room about 10 to 15 degrees cooler.”
In an area with so many old homes, awnings still are a way of life and they fit with the historic beauty of Beverly/Morgan Park.
Aside from the cooling benefits, awnings are beautiful and give a pop of color and dimension to a home. “Awnings give a house personality. You know it’s springtime in Beverly when the awnings go up,” Ausema said.
Typically, awnings don’t need much maintenance, aside from being taken down in the fall and put back up in the spring. Homes don’t need to be cooled down from the sun in the winter, and taking them down protects them from snow and ice.
It’s important to inspect the awnings in the spring and summer to check for condition and make sure there are no birds are nesting in them. “All of the fabric we use for our awnings are warrantied for 10 years,” Ausema said. “In Beverly/Morgan Park, the majority of awnings we do are canvas, and if you drive by Midway you see that they are mostly metal. Metal awnings are a great option for doorways to keep the area dry.”
Need to see a sample of Chesterfield Awnings’ work? Stop by Original Pancake House, 10437 S. Western.
The company was taken over by Ausema’s father in 1958. “We’re a very traditional awning company and have a good mix of residential and business customers. I appreciate being involved in the Beverly area and its strong customer base,” Ausema said.
Beverly/Morgan Park has the best brick in the city, according to Erin Tuckpointing owner Brendan Donnelly. “The houses here are really well-built; I always refer to Beverly as the standard for good brickwork,” he said.
Most of the bricks used in Chicago homes are “common brick,” meaning that they are softer than others. Common brick is more susceptible to the weather and efflorescence, the dusty white film you often see on the brick. Water can get into the brick and cause more damage. However, harder bricks will peel when faced with water damage, which results in a more difficult repair.
Donnelly urges homeowners to pay close attention to their chimneys. “Water can get in under the flashing and leak down into the ceiling,” Donnelly said. “Water will find its own level, so where it comes in isn’t necessarily where you will see it on the inside.”
The ideal chimney will be straight with a one-inch overhang and a four-inch concrete cap. When water and snow hit the cap, it will not be able to settle in. The settling in of water can expand in cold temperatures, ultimately cracking the mortar and causing a leak.
“A one-inch overhang ensures that water and snow will just bounce off of it, without giving it the opportunity to settle into the brickwork,” Donnelly said.
Since opening his business in 1981 and beginning to service Beverly/Morgan Park in 1991, Donnelly has worked on every street in the neighborhood. Now, he works alongside his son, Shane, to make sure Beverly/Morgan Park brick stays solid.
Decks and Porches
708-296-1415 (call or text)
Greg Driscoll of Driscoll Construction sees himself as a protector of Beverly/Morgan Park historical homes, and he does all kids of work, starting at with the foundation. “I believe this isn’t ‘your’ house, it belongs to the community and once these homes are gone, they’re gone,” Driscoll said. “What’s the worth in it when it’s no longer a historical home? Don’t gut your house and don’t be cheap with repairs and renovations.”
When it comes to the iconic back porches commonly seen in Beverly/Morgan Park homes, be sure to know what’s underneath before turning it into a bedroom or kitchen.
“There’s no foundation underneath these back porches. If you don’t properly install a foundation, you’re adding more weight to nothing,” Driscoll said.
Homeowners can test the stability of their back porches by poking the posts with a screwdriver or pen; rotted posts will easily give way. Driscoll can lift the footings and install new posts to properly stabilize the porch.
Stair treads should also be reinforced and checked annually. “The stairs attached to the house can fall down due to a lack of proper anchoring,” Driscoll said. “When I’m repairing a deck, stairs, or porch, I make sure to do two sets of posts and tie it into the house. The anchor to the house prevents pulling the structure sideways, and it should not be the only thing holding it up.”
For 31 years, Driscoll Construction has exclusively served the Beverly/Morgan Park community. “I know the houses here and I know I’m needed here to preserve the homes. I’m an old-fashioned stickler and believe the home belongs to the community. When renovating, ask yourself, ‘was it invented when my house was built?’ If not, don’t do it,” he said. “I hope we can keep the neighborhood looking the same way that it has been for 100 plus years.”
Always Ready Repair
Always Ready Repair is a family-owned business established in 1935. Jason Wiersma is the third-generation owner and the company provides quality installation and service of HVAC systems.
Spring is the time to get your air conditioner checked. Wiersma wants homeowners to listen closely for any strange noises coming from their air conditioning unit, as this could indicate a problem.
“Also, be aware if it takes a long time to cool down, or if there’s any frost on the pipes or water around your furnace,” Wiersma said. “Paying attention to these cues can help you make sure your system is running efficiently and avoid costly breakdowns.”
Outside, homeowners should regularly trim any bushes from around the air conditioning unit so that the air flow isn’t blocked. Filters should be changed annually and that is something homeowners can do on their own.
Plumbing and Sewer
H. Mechanical Plumbing and Sewer Services
Regular plumbing and sewer maintenance by a professional licensed plumber is important for three reasons, according to H Mechanical owner Monique Phillips. “First, we keep your plumbing system up to date and prepared for each season. Second, we help with early detection of larger issues. And third, regular maintenance has long-term financial benefits,” she said. “Our company offers maintenance services that help homeowners to save time and money in the long run.”
Phillips notes that some plumbing “symptoms” can be connected to larger issues. For example, a leaky faucet, a slow drain, or low water pressure can signify something else going on, and H Mechanical’s technicians can help diagnose plumbing issues early.
Regarding sewer maintenance, if homeowners have a lot of large trees on their property or tilted sidewalk areas, paying attention is critical. “Tree roots can clog up your sewers. At this point, it’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when. For issues like this, it may be time to contact us for an exterior clean out or sewer rodding,” Phillips said.
Spring is an essential time to check your plumbing as everything thaws out from the winter freeze. “Homeowners should check bathrooms, kitchens, large appliances with water lines, and basements to make sure the water is flowing properly and there are no signs of potential damage,” Phillips said. “Also, check the exterior of the home for signs of tree root issues or damage from frozen spigots.”
- Mechanical Plumbing and Sewer has been in business for more than 14 years. They offer a quick starter checklist for homeowners on their website: HMechanicalPlumbing.com.
“We really enjoy educating our clients on the importance of plumbing. Actually, professional plumbing is vital to the health of you and your family,” Phillips said. “By making sure water, drains, and sewers are clean and functioning, we are, in a way, supporting public health initiatives. We love being in Beverly/Morgan Park and can’t wait to meet more of our neighbors!”
AAA Foundation Sealers
In an unfinished basement, foundation cracks will be glaringly obvious, according to Bud Kaapke, owner of AAA Foundation Sealers. “Most bungalows will have two to four cracks per long wall, and Georgians will have one,” he said. “The issue is in finished basements when the homeowner will only notice a crack when there’s water seepage.”
Kaapke has been repairing foundation cracks since the mid-1970s when he took over the business from his father. He begins the foundation crack repair by drilling several small holes directly in the crack, inserting a plastic port, and sealing the wall. Once that is dry, he comes back to pump epoxy into the holes, which penetrates the wall from the inside to the outside. His work is 100% guaranteed and he offers a lifetime warranty, which is transferrable if he ever sells the business.
“Lots of homes in Beverly/Morgan Park have clogged gutters and downspouts, which are sometimes completely unknown to homeowners,” Kaapke said. “Get someone out to clean the gutters and downspouts and make sure the roof is draining properly, as all of that will affect any water you get in your basement. Keep in mind that your basement is just a hole in the ground and all the water will end up there.”
Resealing cracks and continually maintaining the roof, gutters, downspouts, and brick could prevent a lot of seepage in the basement.