Category: Home improvement

Summer is fondly known as the season of pool parties and vacations. It’s also notoriously known as the season for out-of-control energy bills from running systems like your air conditioning.

No one finds pleasure in finding a hefty bill in their mailbox, so we’ve done a little homework to learn how to reduce those bills. While we can’t control the rising temperatures, these pointers may help cut down your energy bill during the summer.
Use ceiling fans to increase cooling efficiency.  When coupled with your air conditioning, a fan can increase the temperature of the room by about 4 degrees. This makes the cooling process less taxing on your air conditioning. Just remember to turn off ceiling fans when you leave the room, so you don’t use unnecessary energy.

Make an appointment for regular maintenance for your air conditioner.  Change filters as needed.  Vacuum vents and make sure they are clear of objects that could obstruct the airflow. Tackling these items helps your system run more efficiently.
Check your windows and doors for leaks. If there are any, caulk them or apply weatherstripping.  This helps keep the hot air out and the cool air in.

Consider adding awnings or window treatments. Awnings can reduce solar heat by 65%-75%, and window treatments can significantly reduce solar heat as well.

During the hottest part of the day, minimize any activities that heat up your home including use of the oven, dryer and dishwasher.  When you do run these systems, be sure to wait until they are full to reduce the number of cycles you need to run.
Just turning down your water heater to 120 degrees can also save energy and money. Water heating often accounts for up to 14%-25% of the energy consumed in most homes.

Finally, use natural lighting as much as possible, since powering lighting takes up energy and adds heat.

Now that weather is becoming warmer and evenings are so pleasant, many of us begin using our grills for preparing meals.  Now would be a great time to maintain your outdoor gas grills!

At least once a year you need to thoroughly clean your grill. First, start by disconnecting the gas and lift out the grill parts layer by layer. Once you get down to the burners, make sure you check for anything blocking the flow of gas. If the burner is clogged it will give you uneven heat and make for poor grilling. If you can clean it, do so, if not, then replace it. If your grill has lava rocks or ceramic briquettes you need to make sure that these are not heavily encrusted with cooked on foods. If so, replace them to avoid bad tasting smoky food that dirty rocks can produce.

With everything out of the grill, clean it completely with soapy water. If the paint is coming off, or if your grill is showing signs of rust then you need to apply paint. Grills require a special paint; check your owner’s manual or hardware store for the type of paint you need for your grill. Place all parts back into the grill and check the connections carefully, and then turn it on. Let the grill heat completely before you cook to make sure any left over soapy residue is burned completely off.

Now you are ready to enjoy beautiful evenings and perfectly grilled food! Bon Appetit!

  • DO:  Consider the layout of your home.

When choosing flooring it is incredibly important to consider the layout  of your home.  For instance, if you have an open floor plan you likely want to install the same flooring throughout the main living space of your home.  If you opt to install different flooring in different rooms, consider the natural flow and how it will look to the eye.  Having two different kinds of flooring, even with a nice transition, will break up the space to the eye and could make it seem smaller.

  • DON’T:  Forget to factor who lives in the home into the decision.

When choosing flooring type, who lives in the home will play a significant factor in your decision.  After all, if two retirees live in the home and have no pets, home flooring will see significantly less wear and tear than if it is a family of five with small children and pets.  Hardwood floors are lovely but if you have small children running around and dropping toys or pets running across hardwood flooring all of those marks and scratches will begin to show quickly.  You may opt to choose a more durable flooring option such as tile.

  • DO:  Consider the use of the room.

Is it a kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom or somewhere else in the home?  What the room is used for will affect the type of flooring you choose to install.  For instance, in a kitchen there is a lot of liquids and potential spills.  Because of this, hardwood flooring is likely not ideal because it can be more easily damaged or stained.  The same goes for the bathroom.  If you are choosing flooring for your living room it will likely see less foot traffic so hardwood flooring or carpet would make a lovely choice.

  • DON’T:  Neglect to consider the climate in which you live.

This may not jump out as a major concern but climate can affect the flooring you choose.  For example, if you live in an incredibly humid or moist climate hardwood flooring could warp over time and cause major problems.

  • DO:  Take style into consideration.

When choosing flooring it is important to consider all practical factors but you still need to consider what your personal style is.  Do you love the look of hardwood floors?  Are you very interested in ceramic tile?  Are you intrigued by travertine?  If you have an interest in a particular kind of flooring you should, by all means, consider having it installed.  Just factor in the practical considerations when making your choice as well.  If you want to install tile in a herringbone pattern in your master bathroom – do it!

  • DON’T:  Go overly trendy.

Speaking of herringbone pattern – be wary of going too trendy with flooring.  It may be tempting to try the latest and great in flooring or try interesting installation patterns but if you go overboard with trends you will likely live to regret the decision.  For example, a herringbone pattern installed in a master bathroom will look great and visually interesting and it is not a huge commitment.  If you choose to install a herringbone pattern throughout the entirety of your main living area in an open concept floor plan, you could become incredibly sick of the pattern in a few years and have to undergo a major flooring transformation to make it something a bit more timeless.

Laundry rooms tend to be one of those “catch all” locations where everyone drops all of their things and laundry accumulates as well. It does not take long for a mountain of random articles of clothing and other items to grow into a disorganized mess in the laundry room. While you may not be sitting down in your laundry room to eat dinner or enjoy a movie you will spend time in there and as another room in your home it deserves attention and organization so that you can enjoy your time spent in it.

To begin with any organizational project, it is important to start with a clean slate so first remove everything from the room o that you can see what you are working with. Some laundry rooms are barely the size of a closet while others are spacious – no matter the size, there is always a way to be more organized and efficient so that you can make the most of your laundry room. Once the room has been emptied, take stock of what you have and what you intend to store in the room. This will be an important factor in determining what organizational items you need to purchase.

Once you are organized it is time to purchase and gather your organizational items. Depending on your budget, one wonderful option is to install cabinetry in your laundry room. There are a wide variety of options to fit almost any budget. You can purchase pre-fabricated cabinetry from your local home improvement store and have them installed or install them yourself the same day. If you prefer the look of shelving to cabinetry, you may want to purchase an assortment of baskets or bins to help you organize your laundry room essentials. They can be plain and simple or they could be stylish to match your home decor. Just because your laundry room is utilitarian does not mean the style of the room has to be. One way to add form to function is to choose organizational items that double as home decor. In addition to bins, use things like canisters or glass jars to organize things like laundry detergent or other odds and ends. Putting your laundry detergent in a cute canister or container will only take a moment and may seem unnecessary but it is just one more way to reduce the industrial look and add style. Additionally, consider installing things like a drying rack or ironing board. By doing so, you keep things form ending up scattered all over the place or throughout the house. Everything can be accomplished in one room which will help your whole home stay more organized.

When moving into a new home, it is easy to stick your couch, some chairs and coffee table in a room and call it a day.  But, there is more to arranging furniture than simply putting it in a room and pointing everything at each other.  When you take the time to arrange your furniture properly, not only will your home look more put together and stylish but you will also maximize your space.  How do you know what is right for your space and your furniture, though?  It may seem confusing but you do not need to hire an interior designer to learn how to properly arrange your furniture.  Follow the tips below to arrange your furniture correctly and make your home look its best.

Use an Online Floor Plan Designer

In today’s virtual world, there is a program or an app for everything.  Furniture layouts are no exception.  There are many free programs and apps available in which you can input your rooms dimensions as well as furniture dimensions and virtually arrange your furniture to see what works best in the space.  It can be a pain to move furniture around so doing it virtually first will save you time and energy.

Aim for Balance

An unbalanced room will look awkward and strange.  A room full of way too small furniture will look smaller and just downright strange while a room full of furniture that is way too big will look cramped and small.  Just because you have a small room does not mean you have to avoid large furniture all together, and the same is true for large rooms and small furniture.  It simply means you need to aim for achieving a balance.  Arrange large pieces with small pieces mixed in so that things look visually interesting without being matchy-matchy and strange.

Determine a Focal Point

Depending on what room you are in, there will be different focal points.  Perhaps in the family room, the focal point is the television.  But, in the living room, the focal point may be a beautiful bay of windows that overlooks the scenery.  Once you determine the focal point of the room, it will help you decide how you want to arrange furniture.

Start with the Largest Piece of Furniture

For a bedroom, the largest piece of furniture is typically the bed.  For the living room, the largest piece of furniture is probably the sofa.  The largest piece of furniture will determine how you will arrange furniture in the room.  Perhaps the sofa only works well in one place in the room, this will subsequently determine where you will place the coffee table.

Use Area Rugs

Area rugs anchor the room and help create specific areas within a room.  It is important to go big with the rug.  A too small rug will make the room look smaller and just look out of place.  A rug that flows underneath furniture but not all the way to the wall looks luxurious and stylish.

Consider Natural Traffic Flow

Even though a sofa may look good in one place, it may impede natural traffic flow and end up being more of a headache than a stylish decor choice.  When arranging furniture, consider how people move through the home and what is most practical.

The laundry room – hardly the most exciting room in the house.  But, even if it is not the room you get excited to show guests on the home tour, it does not mean that it should go completely neglected.  In fact, it should have just as much attention paid to it as the other rooms in your house because, even if it is just the place you do laundry, you will be spending time in there and it should be a place in which you enjoy spending time.  If your laundry room, like many others, is looking a bit drab and sterile, there are some very easy ways to spruce it up and give it the makeover that it deserves.

Clean & Organize

It is difficult to start any new project without first cleaning and organizing the room first.  Take everything out and take stock of what you want to keep in your laundry room.  By doing so, you will be able to know what types of organizational items you need and how you want to prioritize your laundry room makeover.

Purchase Supplies

How much you need to buy depends on how in depth your makeover will be.   Whatever your budget, your laundry room can experience a truly transformative renovation with even a few small tweaks.  Purchase your supplies or organizational items before starting so that everything can come into place easily.  Leave tags on items like baskets or trays so that you can be sure it will work properly in the space before completely committing.

Plan for Tasks

While you probably will not spend hours reading a book in the laundry room, you will be completing tasks.  For this reason, it is important to keep in mind what tasks you will be working on in the space.  You will be sorting laundry, folding laundry and more.  Organization is the key to a laundry room that flows nicely and eliminates clutter.  If you have the room, make plans for a sink in the laundry room for pre-washing items or soaking things.  Make space for folding by adding a folding workspace.  Even in the smallest laundry room, you could add a small surface directly above the washer and dryer that will increase your workspace for minimal cost and maximum efficiency.   If you anticipate your tasks in advance, it will help clarify what you hope to accomplish in the space.

Drying and Hanging

A luxury that everyone would enjoy is a place to hang clothing in the laundry room.  Even in a small laundry room, a wall-mounted drop down drying rack can be installed on the wall so that it is out of the way when not in use.

Shelving or Cabinetry

If you do not already have shelving or cabinetry, now is the time.  There are many low cost, easy to install options for the DIY lover or the novice.  Cabinetry or shelving takes advantage of that wall space you have that is going unused and helps give you a place to store things like laundry detergent and dryer sheets.  The benefits of cabinetry is that things can be hidden away.  Open shelving makes a space feel bigger but will show more.  One way to use open shelving but hide the things you do not want on display is with some baskets or bins.  There are many available in different colors, patterns and styles and you can even label them so that you know what is in each one.

Most homeowners will tell you that a lot of time is spent in the kitchen.  Whether preparing meals throughout the day for yourself and your family or hosting guests for parties, you will be spending many hours in the kitchen.  If you are designing a new home or remodeling your existing kitchen, you know there are a lot of choices out there.   One important decision to make about your kitchen is what type of countertops to install.  While the popular choice in recent years has been granite, there are certainly additional choices available that are appealing, durable and low maintenance.  Below we discuss three low maintenance kitchen counters choices every homeowner should consider.

1. Soapstone

Soapstone is a natural quarried stone that is both beautiful and low maintenance.  The stone contains talc which is what gives it its soft, soapy feel and milky or powdery appearance.  Soapstone is less hard than granite but it is still incredibly durable.  It is very resistant to cracks because it is somewhat pliable and is non-porous, which helps it resist stains.  Because it is non-porous, it is far more resistant to stains than granite or slate and does not need to be routinely sealed like those materials do.  It can also stand up to acidic materials if spilled on the surface and is heat resistant so you can put those hot pans right on the surface and it will not do it any damage.  Because it is non-porous, it also resists bacteria so harsh chemical cleaners are not needed.  While soapstone may incur some nicks or scratches over time, it is considered a beautiful part of the surface and part of its rustic appeal.  If the nicks or scratches bother you, you can simply sand them down and they will be gone.  Soapstone is a hardworking, low maintenance countertop that will look beautiful for decades to come.

2. Quartz

Quartz countertops are engineered stone countertops that are both incredibly beautiful and have lived in the shadows of granite for far too long.  Quartz countertops are made from a combination of primarily quartz granules mixed with resins and colorants which means you can find quartz countertops in a wide range of colors.  Quartz countertops are incredibly durable and long lasting.  They are much stronger and harder than granite countertops and are very scratch resistant.  Quartz is a wonderful kitchen countertop surface because it is tough and can stand up to spills, slips of the knife, and more.  Additionally, quartz is non-porous, unlike granite, and will stand up to spills well.  You will not need to worry that the tipped over glass of red wine will leave a permanent mark.  Also, unlike granite or marble, quartz does not need to be sealed regularly because it is resistant to damage and bacteria so it is simple to clean and maintain.

3. Laminate

Laminate kitchen countertops may have gotten a bad rap over the years in favor of products like granite or marble but laminate deserves a second look.  Laminate countertops have come a long way in recent years and are now available in a wide array of colors, patterns and looks.  The variety and quality available is truly amazing.  In addition to being one of the most inexpensive countertop options, they are very low maintenance.  While you cannot use your countertop like a cutting board, laminate countertops are still a very durable countertop option.  Laminate countertops do not need to be sealed and are easy to clean with household cleaners, soap and water, and a sponge.  They are also resistant to stains, making them an appealing option for many homeowners.

Have you grown tired of your kitchen?  For many, the kitchen is the heart of the home and many hours are spent  cooking and enjoying time together.  For those that love to entertain, the kitchen is not simply a place to cook, but a place to prepare meals for gatherings and warmly invite guests into your home.   If your kitchen is outdated or you just no longer enjoy it’s look for functionality, you may be considering an update.  There are many home renovation shows on television that show contractors gutting kitchens completely and starting fresh.  While this may sound fun, it is also tends to be very expensive.  One way to get a high end feel with your new look is to pick one item on which to splurge.  If there is one thing you have had your eye on (a new range hood, a new farmhouse sink, etc.) budget for that one special splurge and stick to a tighter budget when updating the rest of your kitchen.  But, you can give your kitchen an updated look and facelift on a budget and still enjoy a complete transformation without emptying your bank accounts.

1. Update Lighting Fixtures

You do not need to spend thousands of dollars on a new chandelier or pendant lighting.  There are lighting fixtures for every budget and every design aesthetic.   The impact of new lighting can be very significant and will help set the mood for the room.

2. New Hardware

While you may think adding new hardware or updating existing hardware will hardly be a noticeable change, you will be amazed at just how big of a change it will be.  Outdated hardware can really put off the wrong feel in a kitchen.  Some cabinetry is classic and in perfectly good condition but the hardware is out of style.  Rather than completely gutting your cabinetry, give it a facelift with new hardware and stand back in awe of how good the update looks.

3. Replace Faucet

Faucets may seem like something that never really changes over the year but, in fact, they change quite a bit.  If you have not updated your faucet in many years, it may look outdated or just be boring.  These days, there is a faucet design for every home design aesthetic.  Let your faucet design blend seamlessly with the rest of the room or enhance the existing look.

4. Refinish Cabinetry

Buying all new cabinets for your kitchen will look beautiful but they will cost a lot.  If you are trying to stick to a tighter budget, there is probably not enough money to purchase all new cabinetry.  But, if your kitchen cabinetry is in relatively good shape, consider painting it or staining it.  Sometimes, it is the stain that is looking worn out, outdated, or is just not the color direction you want to go with your new kitchen.  You would be amazed at what some paint or stain can do.  It will give your kitchen cabinetry a new life and, in many cases, a completely new look.

The garbage disposal is an incredibly helpful household appliance that most of all take advantage of.  It reduces the amount of food that you have to throw in your trash which helps cut down on how many trash bags you use and helps reduce odor for the trash can.  But, any garbage disposal that gets used with some regularity is bound to start to smell a little from time to time.  And once that garbage disposal starts to smell, you will notice it when you wash dishes and spend any amount of time in your kitchen.  If you do not do some work to clean your garbage disposal, that smell will stick around and keep bothering you.  Your garbage disposal may seem like a dark place where you cannot really see what is happening so how exactly will you clean it?  But, there are some very easy ways to clean your garbage disposal and keep those nasty odors away.

1. Prevention is Key

You can help avoid odor from accumulating in your garbage disposal by avoiding putting the wrong things down the drain.  Never put things that are not biodegradable down the drain and never put any liquid grease down the drain.  Liquid grease will cool and harden which will cause clogs.  Foods like bread or pasta will absorb water and expand, also causing clogs.

2. Use Cold Water

Turn on the cold water and the garbage disposal and let them run.  It is best to use cold water and let the water run for 30 seconds after you turn the disposal off.  Often, the odor comes from food particles that have been crushed up adhering to the walls of the garbage disposal and eventually starting to smell.  Many times, by running the water and garbage disposal for a minute or two you can get rid of that bad odor.

3. Use Citrus

The peelings from a lemon or orange work wonders when put down your garbage disposal.  The garbage disposal will grind up the peels and they will release their naturally wonderful smell while also helping to clean the blades.

4. Ice Cubes

Grind up some ice cubes in your garbage disposal.  The ice cubes will help remove built up food particles and will sharpen the blades as it grinds.  To give the ice a boost, pour some dish soap in while it is grinding and it will give it some extra cleaning power.

5. Vinegar & Baking Soda

If those pesky odors are still sticking around, some common household items will get that garbage disposal clean in no time.  Pour 1/2 cup – 1 cup of baking soda down the drain and then pour 1 cup of white vinegar down the drain.  Let it works its magic for about 30 minutes and then run  some water down the drain to clean everything out.  The baking soda and vinegar will loosen tough, dried on food and other debris and the water will rinse it all away.

6. Bleach

When all else fails, pour a mild bleach down the drain while cold water is running and the bleach will also help loosen food particles and clean the disposal and pipes.

Every homeowner has one, and for most homeowners, it is probably a mess – the junk drawer.  Everyone needs a place to keep all of their odds and ends – pens, paperclips, tape, matches, note pads, rubber bands, and who knows what else.  Every home is different and every junk drawer is different, making the task of organizing it all the more challenging for most people.  There is no “one size fits all” approach to organizing the junk drawer but, there are a wonderful selection of organizing supplies available for purchase at most stores and there are some basic tips every homeowner can use as a guideline for organizing their junk drawer.  By following these tips, the next time you need a rubber band or paperclip you will not need to waste time digging around and crossing your fingers that you will find what you need, you will know exactly where it is.

1. Start Fresh

You cannot properly organize your junk drawer without completely emptying it.  Take everything out and keep like-items together as you go.  This will make the process of putting everything back much easier.  With everything out of your drawer, wipe it out and start with a completely clean drawer.

2. Throw Things Out

For many people, throwing things out can be a challenge.  They wonder – “What if I will need this one day?”  Or they say, “What a waste to throw out this perfectly good Easter magnet from 5 years ago, maybe I will need to erase something!”  But, here is the rule of thumb – if you have not used it in 6 months to 1 year, throw it out or give it away.  If you have not used it recently, the likelihood of you ever using it is slim to none.  So, why keep storing things in your drawer and adding clutter that you will never use?  Make room for new things you will actually use.

3. Purchase Organizational Items

If you have a lot of small things to organize, you will probably want to purchase some drawer organizational items.  Before making any purchases, measure you drawer and get exact dimensions so that you can know what types of items you need and what will fit.

4. Organize Like-Items

If you have a lot of small office supplies like paper clips, push pins, rubber bands, erasers and more, keep them all near each other in the organizer.  If you have other things like batteries or small tools, keep them in a different section of the organizer.  Separate pens, pencils and markers and give them each their own section if possible.    Put tape in its own compartment and scissors in another.

5. Label It!

If certain compartments work really well for certain items, use a label maker or a sticker label and label the compartment.  That way, anyone who uses the drawer and takes something out will know exactly where to put it away when they are done.  It will help everyone keep the drawer organized.