Page 1

2 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Specializing in Radiant Heat & Solar Thermal Installation •

Providing High Efficiency Heating Products, Installation & Service and Low Temperature Hydronics •

Provides Premier Plumbing Services for Residential & Commercial Properties


Alex Bosarge • (518) 586-1258 • 8 Depot Street, Ticonderoga, NY 12883 Fully Insured

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 3

Table of Contents 4 Improve your home’s curb appeal 6 Save on home improvement projects 8 Pick the right patio for your home 10 Disappearing home features

e f i e L m o r You Your H

12 Green home options 14 Building the perfect storage shed 16 Paying for that home improvement project 18 Avoid skyrocketing property taxes

k c a d n o r i d A le

y t S

22 Make the most of your small bathroom space

36 Remodel your interior doors

23 Improve the air quality in your home

37 Keep the chilly winter air out!

24 Give your bathroom a new look

38 The pros and cons of acrylic tubs

26 Winterize your lawn

39 Solutions for those post remodeling plans

28 Roofing in the fall? 29 Inexpensive ways to update your home 30 Create a fresh new look 31 Choose a green builder 32 Build an in-law suite

• Chippewa Granite • North Ledge Granite • Blue Indigo Granite • Adirondack Quartzite

33 Use air tight insulation in your home


34 Improve your indoor lighting

Published By: Denton Publications 102 Montcalm St., Suite 2

Ticonderoga, NY 12883 (518) 585-9173 Fax: 585-9175 Email:

Publisher Dan Alexander Sr.

Page Design John Gereau Sales Dannae Whalen Hall Emma Merfeld Scarlette Merfeld Beth Wells Susan Zacharenko Jessa Kahler Amber Elethorp John Rowe


(P) 518.499.9090 • (F) 518.499.9099 • Corner of State Route 4 and Ryder Road, Whitehall, NY 12887 24970

4 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Improve your home's curb appeal C

urb appeal is similar to getting ready for a big date, only you're not dressing yourself up to make a strong first impression. Instead, improving curb appeal involves dressing your home up in the hopes it makes a strong first impression on prospective buyers, many of whom will have a strong opinion about the property before they even get out of their cars to have a look around. A home with strong curb appeal can entice buyers who are likely to believe that a home with a well-maintained exterior is likely to have an equally impressive interior. Homeowners who want the process of selling their home to go smoothly can improve the property's curb appeal in a number of ways, many of which don't necessitate a substantial home improvement budget. • Clean up. The most effective way to improve curb appeal is to clean up the property. Many homeowners are savvy enough to remove toys and other items from the yard before showing a home, but cleaning up goes beyond removing clutter from the property. Make sure all hedges are trimmed and remove weeds, sticks and other debris from any flower beds. Lay mulch in the flower beds and garden, as mulch prevents weed growth while helping the soil retain moisture, resulting in more attractive gardens to catch a buyer's eye. • Get an "edge" on other sellers. Edging is another easy and effective way to improve curb appeal. Edge driveways, sidewalks and other walkways around the property, removing or trimming anything that is hanging over the driveway or walkways. If the boundary between your driveway and lawn is not distinct, consider installing edging materials such as stone or bricks. The edging can be level with the driveway or elevated, but keep in mind that elevated driveway edging can protect the lawn, preventing kids from riding their bicycles onto the lawn or cars from driving onto it. Adding edging is not a very difficult do-it-yourself project. • Take to the trees. Many homeowners grow accustomed to overgrown trees around their property and may not notice that low-hanging, unsightly branches are hiding the home from view. Buyers want to see the house, so take to the trees and trim any branches that hang too low or obscure your home. • Clean the gutters. Leaves and sticks hanging from the gutters are a red flag to buyers, who tend to associate clogged gutters with roof damage. Clean the gutters thoroughly before putting your home up for sale and keep them clean throughout

the selling process. If your property includes lots of trees, install guards to keep twigs and leaves out of the gutters. • Make the home accessible through the front door. Many homeowners enter their home through a side door or through their garage. If you fall into this category, keep in mind that prospective buyers will be entering through the front door, so make this area accessible. Clear any clutter, such as overgrown hedges, away from the front door, and consider upgrading the door handle to a more modern feature. In addition, make sure the lock on the front door doesn't stick, forcing the realtor and buyers to immediately struggle before entering the home. You want buyers and their real estate agents to get in and out of

the home as smoothly as possible. • Make sure all plants, including flowers, are living. Dehydrated or dead plants and flowers are eyesores, and they will give buyers the impression that you didn't pay much attention to your property. Make sure all plants are alive and thriving and replace those that aren't. You can replant new flowers or plants or just use potted plants instead. When purchasing new plants, choose low-maintenance varieties that appeal to buyers who want good vibrant plants but might not want to put in much work into the garden. When selling a home, homeowners can employ a number of tactics to improve their home's curb appeal.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 5

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6 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

How to save on home improvement projects


ith the economy still struggling, money is tight for many homeowners. That reality can present a problem to those who want to improve their homes without spending too much money. The cost of a home improvement project depends on a host of factors, including the scale of the project and the availability of materials. Upscale projects like a full roof replacement will set homeowners back a substantial amount of money. In its 2011-2012 "Cost vs. Value Report," Remodeling magazine revealed that the average cost of a such a project was nearly $38,000. However, a smaller project like a garage door replacement could be completed for fewer than $3,000. When deciding if a home improvement project is within your budget, it's a good idea to consult such figures before choosing a project. For example, if your home is a fixer-upper, then one project may not be more urgent than another, something that may allow you to choose less expensive projects now while saving money for more expensive projects down the road. It's also important for homeowners to know that figures such as those in the "Cost vs. Value Report" are just averages. Some projects might cost more than the average, while others might come in well under budget. To ensure your project is one of the latter and not the former, consider the following ways to trim costs off your next home improvement project. * Avoid the DIY movement if you don't have adequate experience. Many homeowners fall into the DIY trap, feeling they can pull off a project without hiring a professional contractor. While this is an option for those homeowners with home improvement experience, it's an approach that's best avoided by those without such experience. Homeowners who decide to

go it alone on a home improvement project should know that mistakes are costly. One mistake could have you paying for the same materials twice: once when you begin the project, and then again when you need to hire a contractor after your efforts didn't work out. A failed DIY project also costs you time, something homeowners hoping to sell their homes postproject cannot afford to waste. * Hire the right contractor. The best contractor for the job won't necessarily be the one who comes in with the lowest estimate. The right contractor will know how long a project will take and what the materials will cost. The wrong contractor, who might lack the experience of his competitors, might make empty promises that ultimately cost you more money via overrun costs. Find a contractor who comes highly recommended and is willing to provide references and show you his or her past projects like the one you're hiring him or her undertake. If you hire the wrong contractor, the project may never be completed and you may find yourself

in court, where the money you had budgeted for home improvements is being spent on lawyers instead. * Consider supplying your own materials. If you diligently research your project, you should be able to buy the materials yourself, even if you plan on hiring a contractor to do the work. Some contractors mark up the materials as a means of padding the bill. If you research the project and learn about the materials you want to use, you can save a substantial amount of money buying those materials yourself and then hiring a contractor. * Don't overlook recycled materials. Buying recycled materials is another way to reduce home improvement costs. Bathroom fixtures, doors, flooring, and lighting are just a few of the materials that are commonly recycled and resold at a fraction of the cost of new materials. Shop around for stores in your area or peruse the Internet for recycled materials. Homeowners undertaking a replacement project rather than a remodel might even be eligible for tax breaks if they donate their old materials. * Choose projects that provide more bang for your buck. Another way to save is to choose projects that provide a strong return on your investment. The "Cost vs. Value Report" compares the cost of popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale. If money is a motivating factor behind your project, choose a project that will get you the most money back at resale. While the economy has not necessarily been kind to the home improvement industry, there are still plenty of homeowners looking to improve their homes. Savvy homeowners can do just that and save some money along the way by putting a few strategies to work for them.



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8 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Choosing the right patio material


hen designing a patio, homeowners must make a host of decisions, not the least of which is choosing a patio material.

Concrete Concrete is one of the more affordable patio materials. With stamped concrete, homeowners can enjoy more colors and designs than ever before, and new technology in tinting and styling enables concrete to look like other expensive stone materials at a fraction of the cost of stone. For the experienced mason, laying concrete is a relatively easy job. It may be more difficult for the novice do-it-yourselfer because laying concrete requires knowledge of grading and also installing spacers correctly to deter cracking. Because concrete is not as labor-intensive as some other materials, homeowners may save some money if they choose concrete. Concrete is durable, but over time cracking is inevitable. Some concrete requires the application of a sealant every few years to protect coloring and durability. Around pools, concrete can become slippery when wet if an anti-skid agent was not applied on it.

Paving stones Many homeowners gravitate toward paving stones because their varied texture and shapes can create quite an appealing look in a yard. If installed correctly, pavers will not crack and it is possible to easily add on to an original design because of the portability of these stones. And because they can be moved, pavers can be repaired from underground and stones can be replaced without any demolition. Homeowners like that pavers can quickly make a yard look high-end. Although pavers can be installed as a do-it-yourself project, such installation can be labor-intensive. The ground needs to be accurately leveled and prepped before the stones can be placed to help ensure there is no shifting or movement. Polymeric sand should be applied and pushed into the joints between blocks to alleviate shifting. The sand contains a polymer that hardens and locks the blocks in place. Such detailed work is beyond the abilities of many homeowners, who typically pay a substantial amount to have the stones professionally installed.

Though the sand may inhibit weed growth, weeds can still pop up between the blocks, so maintenance is necessary. Also, paving blocks are slightly uneven and they can loosen, which can prove a safety hazard to the elderly or young children.

Wood Wood is often thought of in a raised deck scenario, but it can also be laid at ground level to create a low-lying patio. A wood patio can be unique and stained or painted in a variety of colors. It also may be less expensive to install than concrete or pavers. If the shape is relatively simple, a do-it-yourselfer also may be able to do the job without hiring a professional. Though wood is a good choice for many homeowners, it is one of the more maintenance-heavy materials. Wood must be routinely cleaned, stained and sealed. Even with the best care, wood can warp, splinter and chip. When surrounding a pool, wood may deteriorate after coming in contact with chemicals from the pool water. It may be susceptible to insects and other pests.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 9

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10 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Home features that are disappearing


here is no denying the profound impact that the recession has had on the real estate industry. For the last several years, the real estate market went from booming to one characterized by homes sitting on the market for months on end. New home sales also have been conservative, and builders are cutting back on some offerings that were once commonplace. The National Association for Realtors says that, despite floundering sales, there are fewer foreclosed homes available now than in recent years. Distressed homes -foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts -- accounted for 25 percent of homes sales in May of 2012. That figure is down from 28 percent in April and 31 percent in May of 2011. While home sales have increased, money is still tight in the building industry and among home buyers. As such, instead of over-the-top features in homes that were once becoming the norm, builders are now focusing on more value-conscious designs and offerings. The list of add-ons also has

been reduced. So what can buyers expect to live without when buying a newly constructed home? Here are a few of the common features that are falling by the wayside. * Sunrooms: Although the "bring-the-outside-in" movement was once strong, builders are now focusing on home features that immediately add value and attract the eye of buyers. Therefore, they're putting their resources into linen closets and laundry rooms while de-emphasizing sunrooms. * Extended ceiling heights: It can take a lot of energy to heat rooms with 15-foot ceilings. As a result, grandiose family rooms and two-story foyers are less attractive to buyers focused on saving money. Homeowners want spaces that are easier to heat and cool. * Luxury bathrooms: Many private residence luxury bathrooms rival those found at popular 4-star hotels. But luxury bathrooms are being phased out in favor of less expensive, more practical options. * Outdoor kitchens: Although entertaining at home is one way to keep budgets in

check, some homeowners have realized they don't need a complete backyard kitchen with a pizza oven and brick fireplace in order to host guests. According to a survey from the National Association of Home Builders, outdoor kitchens are the second least-likely feature to be included in homes built in 2012. * Media rooms: Individuals certainly love their gadgets, but many of these gadgets have become smaller and more portable. That reduces the need for giant home theaters and gaming spaces. While certain features are disappearing, there are others that are growing more and more popular. Dual sinks in kitchens, walkin closets, extra storage areas, and hidden charging stations for devices are likely to show up more and more in new home designs. The design of new homes is changing to be more budget-friendly and also represent the changing priorities of home buyers. As a result, today's newly designed homes will likely look much different from homes built just a few years ago.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 11

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12 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Green options for your home


rivate residences consume lots of energy. The Energy Information Administration says that Americans are increasing their electricity consumption at home, with some homes even using more energy than small businesses. The EIA says that on average a home uses between 936 and 1,000 kilowatthours of electricity each month. There is also a heavy reliance on natural gas, one of the primary fuels used to heat homes. On average homes use 100 million BTU for heating and cooking needs per year. Thousands of dollars are spent every year on home heating, cooling and electricity needs, but there are many different ways to conserve energy. This includes using alternative energy sources that may be better for the planet and more costeffective for the average homeowner. When considering green energy, many homeowners think of solar panels, which currently account for .01 percent of all electricity used in homes across the United States. However, solar power could provide as much as 10 percent of that electricity by 2025. California leads

the nation with the most solar projects to date, but homeowners across the country are considering solar panel additions to their homes. While the initial cost of solar panel installation can be considerable, the panels generally pay for themselves in energy savings within a few years of installation. Also, some solar power companies now allow homeowners to rent the photovoltaic panels, which can cut down on the cost of installation. Choosing green energy may not involve any effort on the part of the homeowner. In fact, there are many different companies that work in conjunction with traditional energy suppliers so that a portion of the energy supplied to homes comes via an alternative energy source. Companies like Viridian Energy ( enable homeowners to switch a certain percentage of their energy usage to renewable energy. The company says that their collective impact has reduced total carbon emissions by 478,000,000 pounds, saving roughly 5 million trees and 24 million gallons of gasoline as a result. Homeowners who choose this option will still receive

the same bill and must still open an account with their local utility companies. Delivery of the energy to that local utility changes, but consumers won't have anything to do with that process. Homeowners interested in making any other changes for energy savings can sign up to have an energy audit. Conducted through a utility provider or a third-party organization, energy audits assess many things in the home. Appliances are examined, as are insulation and the types of windows and doors used in the home and an inspector will check the home for drafts. A report is generated, and homeowners are provided recommendations as to how they can improve their home's energy efficiency. Making such changes may make homeowners eligible for tax breaks or even rebate incentives while reducing the cost of their monthly utility bills. Homeowners hoping to embrace green energy have many options at their disposal. It's just a matter of researching those options and taking the initiative to make changes.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 13


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1-866-944-0135 *Weather conditions may extend installation and sure times. All dealerships are independently owned and operated. ©2008 Rhino Linings Corporation. All rights reserved.

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E. F. NOLAN Building g Contractor Celebrating



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14 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

How to build a storage shed


any people find that space around a home is a precious commodity after years spent accumulating different things. The basement, attic and garage are commonly used to store items that won't fit anywhere else. Though spring cleaning is a great way to cut down on clutter, a storage shed makes a great place to put those items you can't bear to discard. Sheds come in many shapes and sizes. Ready-made sheds can be erected on your property immediately, and some retailers will do so for an additional fee. The cost of a shed can vary greatly, from simple plastic sheds that cost roughly $100 to more customized sheds that cost $1,000 or more. After looking at many storage sheds from builders or prefabricated models, you may want to build one yourself. This way you can be sure it is customized to fit your yard and is the right color and style and made of secure and durable materials. While an adventurous project, shed building is typically within the skill set of the average homeowner. Also, a shed can be

built in a weekend or two, depending on how much time you can devote to the project. Here's how to get started. * Consult with your town, city, province, or municipality to find out the zoning laws regarding sheds. You may need a building permit if the shed will feature a permanent foundation or is larger than a certain size. Storage sheds greater than 120 square feet generally require a permit. There also may be rules regarding how far away the shed must be from the property line or even the height of the structure. It pays to know this information in advance so you don't run into legal trouble after the project has begun. * Find a style of shed that you would like to emulate. Drive around to different shed retailers or big box home improvement stores and peruse the stock. Choose the features you like and mark them down. Take photos of the ones you really like. * Research available plans. You can purchase shed plans or have an architect draw them up, but that may be costly. There are

also free shed plans online, some of which provide a list of necessary supplies. * Order your supplies and organize everything. A building materials center or a home improvement store may deliver all of your materials right to your home, saving you the hassle of going back and forth to get things piece by piece. Once they are delivered, sort through everything and mark whether the material is for the floor, walls or roof. If the shed will not be rooted to the ground but kept on skids or blocks, you will likely want to have some sort of base material, like rocks or gravel underneath to deter animals from making a home under the shed. * Enlist the help of a friend and get building. Once you get into a groove, you may find that the shed building comes easy to you. But the work will go more quickly if you have a friend available to help you hold materials in place while you secure them. Building a shed can be a rewarding doit-yourself project that saves you money and frees up space in your home.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 15



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16 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Financing a home improvement project


fter years of funny financing and few limitations on loans, banks and other lenders have tightened up their lending policies. As a result, homeowners considering a home improvement project might need to look elsewhere to secure financing. There are no certainties in the real estate markets. Though statistics suggest marked improvement in home sales over just a few months ago, many homeowners remain weary about selling their home to try to move up to something bigger and better. The National Association of Home Builders says many people are choosing to stay put in their homes and remodel or make renovations to transform the house into something more comfortable. While there are many worthwhile home renovation projects, the NAHB recommends projects that bring your home up to par with the neighbors'. It doesn't pay to transform your home into the most expensive on the street -- unless you plan to live there for the rest of your life. Real estate experts recommend that a remodeling investment increases the value of your house by no more than 10 to 15 percent above the median sales price in your neighborhood. When it comes time to finance a remodel or renovation, you may not know where to start. Credit restrictions on home mortgages that have troubled many would-be buyers have also plagued individuals looking to finance home improvements. However, homeowners hoping to finance a project do have options, and not all of them require stellar credit ratings. * Borrow against a retirement plan. Many retirement plans, such as a 401(k), allow plan members to take out a portion of the savings to put toward a home loan. This does not mean you are taking money out of the account permanently. Rather, you are borrowing against yourself, with repayment necessary in a certain timeframe. Because these loans often offer very low interest rates, and essentially the interest is being paid back to you, they might be a good option for men and women who cannot secure a traditional loan. However, if you have been laid off, there may be a shorter repayment period. Also, the interest on these loans is not taxdeductible. * Borrow against other investments. CDs, bonds or mutual funds can provide the collateral you need and earn you a lower interest rate. Fixed-income investments are more stable options to borrow against, as their value won't have a chance to decline.

* Apply for a home equity loan. Many people have heard of a home equity loan, and it is usually the first choice when borrowing funds for renovations. Essentially a home equity loan is taking out a second mortgage on your home to pay for the work you want to have done, which is based on the equity, or the difference between the home's fair market value and the outstanding balance of all liens on the property. The interest on these loans is taxdeductible, which can make this financing option quite popular. * Secure a home equity line of credit. A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is another type of home equity loan. Instead of receiving a lump sum to use toward renovations like you would with a traditional home equity loan, a HELOC is sort of a credit card type scenario based on the equity in your home. You are given a line of credit, against which you can buy items. This is good for intermittent needs, when one large sum is not needed. HELOCs have a draw period, during which the borrower can use the credit, and a repayment period, during which it must be repaid. HELOCs generally have lower mortgage fees at the start and are generally subject to the same tax incentives as regular home equity loans. * Consider refinancing. Interest rates on mortgages are at historic lows. You may qualify to do a cash-out refinance, where you borrow against the value of your home and create an entirely new mortgage at the lower rate. Although you will start your mortgage all over from day 1 and have to pay closing fees, this type of refinancing can be more advantageous to homeowners with significant equity in their homes. * Apply for a government-sponsored loan. The government may offer programs aimed at helping individuals who are

underwater on their home loans borrow money to make necessary improvements. While the funding cannot be used to purchase luxury items, such as a swimming pool, it can be used for necessities. Residents of the United States can explore FHA 203(k) refinance options and an FHA title 1 improvement loan. * Discuss financing with your contractor. Some contractors may offer financing. Keep in mind that the interest rates may be high, and it may be difficult to investigate the security of these types of loans. Many homeowners also look to credit cards to help finance some home renovation projects, but they should be used as a last resort. Credit cards typically come with high interest rates, and while they are good for some small projects, financing larger projects on a card may land you very deep in debt. Homeowners who choose to stay in their homes and make renovations have a host of options at their disposal to finance those projects.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 17

TIME TO SPRUCE UP YOUR HOMEOWNER’S INSURANCE? ■ Is your insurance “REPLACEMENT COST”? ■ Is your insurance limit adequate to rebuild your home? ■ Are the Winter perils of collapse from weight of ice/snow, and water damage from ice dams covered? ■ Are your out buildings adequately covered? ■ Are your valuables adequately insured? Don’t find out the anwer to these questions after you have a loss.

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18 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Home renovations could increase property taxes


f you live in New York's Nassau County, you are possibly paying some of the highest property taxes in the country. Nassau County residents had an average property tax bill of nearly $8,500 in 2011. Understanding property taxes is not very cut and dry. They are supposed to rise and fall with home values, but this isn't always the case. There is roughly 80,000 pages of federal code on property taxes, and each state and town often has its own rules governing how property taxes are assessed. State and local budget cuts can raise taxes even if your home value remains the same, as will an increase of benefits for public employees. Property tax is typically the primary means that many jurisdictions raise revenue. So if your community needs money, you can probably count on it financing that need through higher property taxes. The two things that determine property taxes are the assessed value of your home

and the property tax rate for where you live. In many cases, making improvements to the inside and outside of your home can result in higher taxes on your property. Many homeowners do not think about the tax man when they are about to renovate their home. But it is important to consider that home repairs -- even planting a garden -- could lead to higher property taxes. Although the vast majority of repairs that most often affect taxes include major renovations, there are lesser known repairs that can catch even savvy homeowners by surprise. Here is a look at some of the renovations that could raise your property taxes. * Adding a room: Converting the garage into a bedroom or adding on a new bathroom will increase your home's value and the property tax you'll pay on the home. Although tax assessors don't usually make surprise trips to your home to check for renovations indoors, they may peruse permits filed at the clerk's office and then

investigate. Permits are the primary way assessors learn about improvements, so much so that some homeowners look to circumvent permits when making renovations. But that can cause a number of problems down the line if and when you decide to sell. * Pools and outdoor structures: Changes to a home's exterior are some of the easiest to see and document. Permanent changes outdoors, such as the installation of a shed with a concrete floor, a deck or a pool can definitely increase property taxes. * Landscaping: Hiring a professional to do your lawn and plants can result in higher taxes. It's called "alteration of land improvement." Repaving a driveway or adding a new cement walkway may also increase your home's value and, subsequently, your property tax bill. * Fireplaces: The installation of a fireplace can also increase a home's value, leading to a higher tax bill as well.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 19

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20 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

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Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 21



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22 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Make the most of your small bathroom R enovating bathrooms is commonly at the top of home improvement todo lists. Though some rooms around the house may remain timeless, bathrooms, like kitchens, show their age (and era) much more easily, which could be why homeowners are always on the lookout for new ideas. Although many people may dream about creating a spa-type oasis in their homes, not everyone is lucky enough to have a large bathroom, much less a large budget for a full-scale renovation. Small bathrooms are common, particularly in older homes, but they needn't force homeowners to compromise on style when renovating. Small bathrooms may be a half-bath on a main home level or even a full bath, depending on the home. By thinking creatively, homeowners can maximize their spaces and redo bathrooms in ways that bring out their best assets. •When space is at a premium, it's best to look for fixtures and items that fit with the scale of the bathroom. Although you may want a large vanity and cabinet in which to hide all of your toiletries, this simply may not be practical -- taking up most of the bathroom real estate. Instead, look for elegant pedestal sinks that have a much smaller profile. They'll also help you control the clutter in the bathroom because there won't be anywhere to hide it. •Use optical illusions to make the bathroom appear more roomy. For example, lay tile diagonally to create the impression of space. A large mirror will reflect the room back and make it appear much larger than it really is. •Select lighter hues in paint colors and accessories. Dark paints and fixtures could make the room feel cramped. Dark colors are generally used to make spaces feel more cozy. In a small bathroom, it may make the space feel claustrophobic. Instead, think light and bright and the room will instantly feel more airy. •Minimize wall hangings and keep fixtures smaller. Filling the walls with knickknacks may contribute to clutter and make the space appear closed in. Use decorative items sparingly. •If possible, store towels in a closet outside of the bathroom. This way you won't have to devote space inside the bathroom to a closet, leaving more room for other things. •While some people like the thought of a separate bath and shower, in smaller bathrooms this may not be possible. Instead, look for a combined shower and bath, or select a walk-in shower with a much smaller profile. •Windows are often welcome in bathrooms because of the ventilation they provide, but they could be a hindrance in smaller bathrooms because they take up prime wall space. Cover a window in a shower stall to free up space. Just be sure to install a venting fan to reduce moisture in the bathroom.

•Maximize wall space if you need storage. Find cabinets that will fit beneath windows or be able to fit in thin areas between sinks and toilets. Over the toilet is prime area for cabinetry. •Consider a frameless shower. This is a partitioned area of the bathroom that's set aside for the shower and is typically only cordoned off by a thin wall or piece of glass. Or a shower with no walls at all is the ultimate in space-saving. The entire bathroom floor is decked out in tile, and a portion is sloped toward a shower drain. •Think about installing a skylight if you prefer natural light, but there is no room for a traditional window. Thinking creatively can help turn a cramped bathroom into a space-saving and well-designed room homeowners desire.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 23

Improve air quality with advanced insulation


nterior renovation projects give us the perfect chance to upgrade all aspects of a home's interior, including your home insulation. Wall insulation may not be as exciting as visible upgrades, but the latest products can single-handedly give you lower fuel costs with far improved air quality, comfort and energy efficiency. In demand right now, for example, is a user-friendly method called Nudura RetroFit Insulation Technology, a system for filling foundation walls, inner and outer walls, as well as flat, or cathedral ceilings. This do-it-yourself product is a shiplap system of expanded polystyrene (EPS), which allows large 4 X 8 foot sheets of foam to be installed without any gaps for air leakage. Take a look in the home owner section of Made from recyclable material, it is easy to cut, easy to install, and the performance value is up to R-14. Drywall can then be attached directly to the embedded fastening strip allowing the electrical wiring to be easily run.

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24 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Simple ways to give your bathroom a new look


ccording to the "Remodeling" magazine's 2011-12 "Cost vs. Value Report," which compares the average cost for 35 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale, homeowners can expect to spend upward of $52,000 on an upscale bathroom remodel. For many homeowners, that costly price tag is simply too much money to commit, especially in an economy where money is still hard to come by. Fortunately, there are several simple ways homeowners can give their bathrooms a new look and feel without breaking the bank. •Install a new shower. One of the best ways to give a bathroom a new look is to replace the traditional tub and showerhead with a bigger, more airy shower. Such showers are typically found in modern hotels that boast luxury amenities. Instead of the tub and slide glass, choose a hinged door with heavier glass, replacing the bathtub entirely. •Add windows and a skylight. Many

bathrooms, particularly those in older homes, sorely lack adequate lighting. Adding some extra windows and a skylight can give a bathroom an entirely new look, even if you don't replace any of the existing features or fixtures. Sunlight can make a bathroom more inviting, giving the room the feeling of a sanctuary that many of today's homeowners prefer. •Add some entertainment. Just like they offer larger showers with more room to breathe, many luxury hotels now ensure guests can be entertained even while they're in the bathroom. Such hotels often feature small flatscreen televisions that sit behind the bathroom's mirror. Guests don't even see the television until it's turned on. Homeowners can bring this lap of luxury into their own homes. This is especially valuable to homeowners whose bathrooms currently feature soaking tubs where they can escape the daily grind with a hot bath and now even watch a little television while they soak. •Replace old tiles. Many homeowners

cite their bathroom's tiles as the feature they would most like to change. Old linoleum tiles give many bathrooms a dated look that few of today's homeowners find appealing. Glass tiles are growing in popularity, but those old linoleum or glazed tiles can be swapped out with porcelain or stone tiles to give the room an entirely new look without spending excessively. •Replace the toilet. Another easy way to give a bathroom a new look is to replace the toilet. Older toilets may be eyesores and many are not very eco-friendly, either. A new toilet can give the bathroom a sleek, modern look, and since many of today's luxury models are low-flow, you'll also save money on your monthly water bill while doing something good for the environment. Renovating a bathroom is a top priority for many homeowners. But if a full-scale remodel is not within your budget, there are still plenty of inexpensive ways to give your bathroom a new look and feel.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 25


26 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Here are some tips to winterize your lawn


very weekend of the last few months you have spent mowing, weeding, edging, and trimming your lawn so that it will look its best. In order to ensure your lawn makes a complete recovery after winter hibernation, you may want to spend the fall taking steps to help your lawn survive the winter months ahead. Winterizing a lawn varies depending on where you live and how harsh a typical winter is. There are certain key tasks to complete before you can rest for the winter season. • Remove fallen leaves and debris. Leaf cleanup is among the tasks homeowners dread the most. Raking leaves can be arduous, but it is well worth the effort. Fallen leaves can smother the grass and lead to dead spots and decay next season. Wait until the majority of the leaves have fallen from the trees before you begin to rake; otherwise, you could find yourself repeating the process

throughout the fall. Mulched leaves can be added in small amounts to garden beds to provide rich organic material for next year's crop of flowers. Be sure to pick up any twigs and other debris as well. Additional debris can become up trapped under snow and hinder grass growth when spring arrives. • Cut your lawn short. Unless the season is unseasonably wet and warm, your lawn shouldn't grow too much in October and November. Continue to cut your lawn until there is no visible growth for about two weeks. It pays to give it a short cut before frost arrives so that long piles of dead grass will not smother any new growth in the spring. Also, long grass tends to bend down upon itself, trapping moisture that can lead to fungal diseases like snow mold. • Aerate the lawn. Soil can be compacted over time, especially in yards that see heavy foot traffic. You can rent an aerator from a lawn supply store so that water and fertilizer can reach the soil. • Fertilize. Now is the time to give the lawn fresh food for over the winter and also replenish the strength of the root system. All summer long the lawn has been depleting the soil of nutrition, but autumn presents a great opportunity to strengthen those roots. Consider a slow-release formula designed for winterizing that will feed the lawn all winter long. • Edge the garden beds. Take advantage of the cooler weather and slow-growing grass to reedge around flower beds. Even though the grass above the surface of the soil will stop growing, the roots will remain viable and the lawn will still be sending out rhizomes and tillers to produce new grass blades in the spring. These can easily encroach on garden beds. Edge now so you will have less work to do in the spring. • Trim hedges and trees. If there are any overhanging tree branches or shrubbery blocking sunlight from reaching the lawn, cut back these areas once the foliage has thinned. Take advantage of your town's leaf and twig pickup services. • Seed bare patches. Scour the lawn for bare patches and put down some seed in these areas. The cooler weather will enable the seeds to germinate without having to compete with weed growth. Once you have prepared your lawn for the winter you can bring in any lawn tools that need repair and have them set and packed away for the spring.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 27


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28 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Does time of year affect roofing jobs? T

here comes a time in many homeowners' lives when they're faced with the reality that a roof replacement is necessary. A roof can last between 15 and 30 years, and a person who owns an older home may find the lease has expired on the current roof. Is there a particular time of year that is better for having a roof installed? It depends on different factors, including the availability of a roofing contractor. According to the site, The Average Cost of Things, courtesy of the Home Buying Institute, across the country one can expect to spend $18,000 on average to replace a roof with asphalt shingles. Use of other materials, like tile or metal will cost more than this. In general, those living in big cities tend to pay more than those in rural areas. Because a roof replacement is expensive, it is something that some homeowners prefer to put off until it is absolutely necessary. Others are interested in finding the best rate around and hiring reliable roofers for the job. It's important to note that there really is no season where roof replacements are off-limits. Most roofers can do the job effectively unless the temperature is below freezing or if there is significant rain in the forecast. In fact, planning a roofing job for the middle of the winter actually may work to a homeowner's advantage. This is typically a slow time of year for some roofers, and they may be anxious to get work this time of year and be willing to negotiate on price. There's also a good chance that the roofer will not be bogged down with other jobs, enabling the company to start on a home right away. Some roofers prefer working in the colder weather to sizzling up on a roof under the hot sun at another time of year. Naturally the spring is a prime time of year for roofing projects. After the rainy season, the weather is generally comfortable and homeowners are thinking about the projects they will commence. A busy time of year for home improvement all around, homeowners may find that they have to compete with others for a good date to have a roof installed. They also may be paying top dollar for the work and materials that are in high demand. Another thing to consider during the busy season is that a project may be rushed along in order to move on to the next job or one being worked on concurrently. This may lead to corners being cut or less attention to detail. A person may be limited in their choices of roof installation

during the summer. Extreme temperatures can make working on the roof hazardous and uncomfortable for workers. For those who live in a climate where the temperatures generally cause the mercury to soar, choose a cooler time of year. Many homeowners opt to have a roof replacement in the autumn. The crisp weather and the decline in home-renovation projects overall can make this a prime time to contract with a quality roofer. If the roof is very much damaged, replacing it before the harsh, winter weather sets in can be advantageous. Some homeowners find they can get a discount on a roof installation if they bundle different renovations together. A contractor may offer a special on siding and roofing together. For those who have the funds, this may be the opportunity to get two jobs done at once. A roofing project is no small undertaking, and homeowners are wise to get several referrals and investigate a variety of companies before settling on one. Review sites, such as Angie's List, or simply word-of-mouth appraisals from friends and family members can help make choosing a roofer an easier decision.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 29

Seven inexpensive ways to update a home now


ftentimes, buying a home opens up a bottomless pit of opportunities for projects and improvements. While some homeowners engage in different repairs and fixups out of necessity, many others like to freshen-up their spaces out of personal preference instead of need. But even the most wellintentioned projects can be waylaid if budgets are tight. 1. Move around furniture. You may be able to change the look of a room without spending any money. Interior designers know how to arrange furniture for maximum appeal, but the average homeowner can do it, too. Find a focal point in the room and angle the furniture toward it. Don't make the focal point the television, however. Try changing the placement of chairs and sofas. Simply moving a curio cabinet from one corner to another may also make a difference. 2. Add lighting. Lighting at different levels in the room can create

a vibrant impact. Many homeowners mistakenly put in a couple of table lamps and think that will be adequate. However, properly illuminating a room means varying the lighting to create different moods at different times. Plus, more light can make a room feel more welcoming. 3. Add new pillows or drapes. Changing a few aspects of a room can give it an entirely new look. If you want to add a splash of color but don't know what to do, think about incorporating some new throw pillows or change the curtains. An accessory here and there in a bright color also can incorporate a new hue without it being overwhelming. 4. Change knobs or small accents. Give a room a new look by focusing on the small details. Switch out cabinet knobs for something updated and modern. Take inventory of wall outlets and light switches and think about selecting new ones that coordinate with your home decor.

Focusing On Real Estate

of hues to choose from, and new apps that enable you to take snapshots of things in nature or in your life and match them up to a paint color, you will have scores of opportunities to explore fresh new colors for your home. When you get inspired to make improvements to the home but fear how much it may take out of your wallet, consider inexpensive tricks that can induce a big "wow" factor.

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5. Use plants. Empty corners or spots you're not certain how to fill may benefit from a plant. Plants are inexpensive ways to add instant color and visual appeal to a room. Plus, having live plants can help improve indoor air by filtering out contaminants. A home with plants also feels more cozy. 6. Hang new wall art. It may be time to look at your photos and artwork and make a few adjustments. Finding new prints to hang could instantly change a room's ambience. And you needn't spend a lot of money on professional photography, either. Grab your camera and take a few close-up shots of flowers or take in a landscape scenery. Many of today's home printers can produce professional-quality prints in minutes. 7. Try a new coat of paint. After you've exhausted other avenues, choosing a new paint color may be the new look you desire. Painting is one of the least expensive yet most dramatic methods of changing a home's interior. With dozens

30 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

How to create a fresh look for your home


efore the holidays bring family celebrations and visiting friends to your home, give your home a new look and improve its comfort level. Check out the suggestions below, make your project list, and then go to Woodcraft for the tools and accessories to get the job done. "Put safety first," cautions Scott Phillips, host of The American Woodshop. "Before you begin your first project, make sure you have eye, ear and breathing protection available and then follow the manufacturer's directions for all the tools and products you use. Have a first-aid kit and a phone handy, and enlist help for the heavy-duty work." Entrance, Windows & Floors — Give your entrance an easy update with a new door or add color and new hardware to your existing one. Install new windows that are attractive, reduce heating and cooling costs, and are easy to maintain. And consider installing a hardwood floor in at least one of your rooms -- possibly the entryway and/or the living/family room.

Kitchen & Dining Areas — Apply stain or color to your kitchen cabinets and replace hinges and pulls or knobs to brighten your "home cafe." If your cabinets have seen better days, install new ones -- either store-bought or ones you build. For a wood table and chairs, consider using a stain or topcoat to enhance the wood's appearance or to match the color of your cabinets. Shelving & Lighting — Adding shelving anywhere you have unused space (bedroom/bathroom closets) will help

control clutter and provide display space for your favorite photos and collectibles in living room, family room, and kitchen. Enhance cabinets and furniture with new decorative LED lighting. Living/Family Room — Arranging furniture into "areas" will allow for varied activities simultaneously, such as conversation and watching events on television or playing games. Use plants, a bookcase or a divider to separate areas. Paint walls, hang pictures or stain wood furniture to add color.

Home offices in tight spaces While some people have entire rooms available to house a home office, others have to make do with less space, and that can mean fitting an office into a tight space. The first step in establishing a small home office is figuring out the space you have and any limitations that may accompany it. For example, maybe you have an unused corner in the living room but don't want to have wires and equipment out in the open. An armoire-type desk that can be closed when not in use is a viable option in such a situation. Perhaps there is an unused closet in a bedroom. A wall-mounted desk surface, such as a piece of custom-cut countertop material, complete with foldaway mouse and keyboard tray can easily turn the space into a compact nook. Maybe there is an entryway with a small table that would be large enough for a laptop. A stool or ottoman that can be tucked under it can serve as a desk chair and extra seating.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 31

Choose the greenest builder available A s building codes enforce tightened minimum standards for eco-responsibility, the more progressive builders are illustrating their own accountability by using and producing materials that are even more efficient than mandated. So if you are currently designing, planning or simply getting ready to buy a new home, it is likely that your investment will represent and deliver greater environmental conservation, lower occupant costs, and a far improved property value. Building code revisions worldwide are ushering in a whole new generation of structures that are as much as 35 to 40 percent more environmentally responsible. At one glimpse, the improved practises in construction are showcasing advancements in wall building, windows, insulation, and air-infiltration. "Switching from wood-framing to concrete walls, for example, has so many spinoff benefits," says Todd Blyth at Nudura, the manufacturers of an advanced building method called the insulated concrete form (ICF). "Solid, airtight concrete walls would initially lower

your energy bills. You would get to live in a stronger, more comfortable home, while the investment grows in the re-sale value. As importantly, with far lower demand by your house on natural resources, you get to make an important contribution to the environment every day." Canadian technology is also blazing this trail. The Nudura system of ICFs is highly regarded internationally due to its ability to deliver both energy efficiency and occupant comfort. As a result, this advanced system for building concrete walls is in high demand, especially across the United States and Canada.

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32 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Things to consider when building an in-law suite


erhaps thanks to a struggling economy and an unpredictable stock market that has resulted in many retirement nest eggs being decimated, more and more adult children are welcoming their aging parents into their homes. Such living situations have led to a growth in in-law suites. In fact, in 2010 the National Association of Home Builders found that 62 percent of builders surveyed were working on home modifications related to aging. In-law suites are often created by converting a room in the house, such as the basement or even a garage, into a livable suite. Such suites can benefit elderly relatives who might have been dealt an unforeseen financial blow. But in-law suites can also benefit younger homeowners who want to see their parents more. In addition, when older men and women move in with their adult children, they can provide some necessary relief from the escalating cost of daycare. But before building an in-law suite in their home, homeowners might want to heed the following tips. * Be certain it is legal. Making changes to your home may require a permit, particularly if your in-law suite will be an entirely new addition to your property

and not just a strict room remodel. Contact your local zoning board to ensure the project is within your rights as a homeowner. * Consider the health of your in-laws when making plans. Many in-law suites are occupied by aging relatives who might not be able to get up and down stairs as easily as they used to. That makes accessibility of the suite a top priority. Typically, it's best to locate in-law suites on the first floor, so relatives won't find it difficult to get in and out of the suite. * Don't overlook privacy. Just because your parents or in-laws will be moving in doesn't mean they don't still value their privacy. Chances are your relatives will initially feel as though they are invading your space and your privacy, so be sure the suite affords adequate privacy to all members of the household. It might be best to build the suite so it has its own separate entrance from the rest of the home. The suite should also have its own full bathroom and, if possible, its own kitchen area so your in-laws can cook for themselves and entertain their own guests without feeling like a burden. A second kitchen is also something to discuss with a zoning board, as some locales prohibit having two complete kitchens in a single residence.

* Tailor certain amenities to the elderly. If your in-laws are older, install certain amenities, such as grab bars in the shower and bathroom, during the initial construction so you won't have to make changes down the road. Install easy-open drawers and make sure the suite has ample lighting. * Remember to install safety features. Safety features like fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a necessity. Make sure the alarms on each of these detectors are loud enough so elderly men and women who have hearing loss can hear them without issue. Make sure all walkways leading to the in-law suite have motion detecting lamps at night to reduce risk of falling. Also, if the suite will be a separate building from your house, such as a converted pool house or detached garage, install an intercom system that connects with the main house so your relatives can easily reach you in case of emergency. In-law suites are becoming more popular as a greater number of older adults are moving in with their adult children. Such suites can bring families closer together and prove beneficial for all parties involved.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 33

Air-tight insulation delivers big returns


ousehold energy-efficiency is now more important than ever when selling a home. Purchasers are able to rate one residence against another, so if you want top dollar for your house some day, it's worth investing along these lines with upgrades and renovations. "If adding rooms or finishing the basement, for example, take a look at the most energy efficient materials and methods," says Todd Blyth at Nudura, a company that has spearheaded an advanced version of the insulated concrete form (ICF), as well as do-it-yourself materials. "The newest renovation method, called Nudura Insulation Technology, is ideal to insulate foundation walls, inner and outer walls, plus flat, or cathedral ceilings. "For both interior and exterior walls, you use a shiplap system of expanded polystyrene (EPS), which allows large 4 X 8 foot sheets of this foam to be installed without any gaps for air leakage. It's easy to cut, easy to install, and the performance value is up to R-14. Drywall can then be attached directly to the embedded fastening strip allowing the electrical wiring to be easily run."

Occupant comfort Residential enjoyment is also top-ofmind in our choice of renovation fixtures, features and materials. Superior insulation will reduce home heating costs and it will also prevent excessive noise, drafts, and unexpected cold spots from room to room. In response to energy conservation,

environmental responsibility and consumer demand, construction practices have advanced significantly in North America over the past few years. Today, for example, people are building their homes with insulated concrete forms, not wood, and very recently, similar eco-efficiency is possible ( for home renovations.






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34 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Improve indoor lighting and mood W

ant to improve your mood, productivity and general well-being? Consider turning on a light. The psychological effects of lighting have long been a subject of study. It has been documented that the intensity and quality of light can impact the psychological and physiological well-being of a person, affecting daily mood. The Mayo Clinic says that a lack of adequate lighting can make people feel depressed. That's because light deprivation can affect the production of the hormone melatonin, leading to physiological imbalances. An abundance of light can get bodily systems back in check and also may be an alternative therapy for common emotional issues. Lighting is such an important factor in mood that even stores and businesses study the impact certain lighting can have on people and their impression of a space. In fact, lighting design is an art and a science. Lighting designers must have an understanding of the visual quality users of a space need for their health, safety and enjoyment. The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America lists the basic body of knowledge on lighting in the IESNA Handbook. It includes summaries of recommended practices based on research and consensus of successful lighting for specific applications. But individuals don't need an extensive knowledge of lighting principles to improve their own interior lighting situations. Instead, a cursory understanding of what works can do the trick. Here are some things to consider. * People are attracted to light. If lighting is necessary for safety, brighter illumination will guide the way. * Brightness focuses personal attention on a particular object or area. * To create a more pleasant atmosphere, use wall lighting instead of overhead lighting in a space. * In public spaces or areas where individuals need to be alert, overhead lighting is the best option. * Dim lighting is best for rooms in which relaxation is desired. That is why table lamps are often used with a shade to diffuse the light. * Homes typically need a combination of lighting sources. An overhead light paired with ambient light and task lighting can help most people get things done. * According to light bulb manufacturer Sylvania, think in terms of layering light. Light sources should be placed at different heights throughout a room to supply adequate illumination as well as visual interest. * For those who want to boost mood, consider full-spectrum light bulbs that mimic the spectrum of outdoor light. * Another easy remedy (during the day) is to simply let more outdoor light in. Keep blinds open wide, especially those that face west and south. Bedrooms with windows facing the east may help people rise with the sun. Skylights can help light shine indoors when the sun is directly overhead. There are also sun tubes that help direct sunlight into rooms under an attic where traditional skylights cannot be installed. Remember, bright light can energize a person, so it is important to wind down from a long day by dimming the lights and preparing for sleep in the evening. Individuals often take light for granted and only realize something is off kilter when their homes are not adequately lit. There are different ways to remedy inadequate lighting situations. Speaking with a lighting designer may help.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 35

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36 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Dress up a home with an interior door remodel


ith minimum remodeling savvy and a modest budget, it's possible to change some items in the home to be more in tune with personal style. Although many homeowners gravitate toward new paint colors or furnishings to revamp the look of different rooms in the home, replacing tired-looking doors is another affordable option. The switching out of doors can be a high-impact project for little cost. Think about the room in the house where the door(s) add little appeal. Perhaps a bathroom door has been marred with holes from a former towel rack. A bedroom with simple, flat doors may lack panache. Some doors have been warped by moisture or have been damaged. These eyesores can be replaced. A trip to the hardware or home improvement store can yield a number of options in new doors. Hollow core doors are typically more affordable than solid wood doors. If cost is a factor, select among the various styles in hollow designs. Switching out a door can be a challenging endeavor and is often easiest as a twoperson job. Some people simply use the old door as a template for the new door. Remember, not all doors are the same size (width and height) as the existing door opening. Therefore, some cutting and fitting will be necessary. Here are some steps to follow. 1. Measure the width and height of the old door. Many doors are a standard width of 13/8 inches, though older doors may be different in width. 2. Doors are sold as pre-hung doors or door blanks. Pre-hung ones are surrounded by a jamb. When using these doors, measure accordingly taking the jamb under consideration. Blanks are simply the door with no holes for hinges or locksets already included. 3. Remove the old door by taking out the hinge pins, starting from the bottom and working up. You may need a screwdriver and a hammer to tap out stubborn pins. Keep the pins in a safe spot. 4. Lay the old door on top of the new door and trace the dimensions for cutting. Be sure to line up the lockset edge so things will line up. There should be 1/8 inch clearance on the sides of the door and 5/8 inch clearance on the bottom. 5. Use a circular saw to cut the door accurately. If only a little needs to be removed from the door, consider using a hand plane instead. If you need to remove more than 1 inch, take half off the bottom and top of the door so it will be even.

6. Place the old door back on top of the new. Mark the location of the hinge mortices (the recessed area and holes where the hinges will fit) with a utility knife and straight edge. 7. Lightly chisel out the hinge mortices so that they are the right thickness to house the hinge hardware. Test the hinge in the mortice. 8. Test the door's fit within the opening to ensure all cuts are accurate. Plane areas

if there is anything that is off or if the door rubs. 9. Mark and drill the space for the lockset and doorknob. Test the fit. 10. Attach the new door and interlace the hinges. Have a helper put in the hinge pins. 11. Put in the knob and be sure the entire set up works correctly. 12. Enjoy the new door.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 37

Insulation upgrades deliver more bang for your buck


pray foam insulation is one of the best solutions for homeowners who are serious about optimizing home performance; but, insulating the whole house may not be feasible or within the homeowner's budget. Don't rule out the spray foam option just yet. By concentrating on certain areas of the home that are most susceptible to energy loss or inconsistent temperatures, homeowners can maximize their budget and minimize energy costs. Spray foam insulation manufacturer, Icynene (, guides home improvers to immediate energy savings -- and comfort - with these rewarding insulation upgrades: Attics: If your energy costs are "through the roof," consider insulating your attic with a two-in-one spray foam insulation and air barrier. Insulating and air-sealing the attic floor is likely your best option for increasing energy efficiency

and getting the best return on your insulation investment. To improve home performance and comfort without having to spend money all at once, some Icynene contractors recommend insulating with Icynene in steps, but homeowners will notice results from the very first installation. And the very first recommendation the contractor usually makes is to insulate the attic floor because the energy savings can be considerable. Additions and/or rooms over garage/porch: Bonus rooms offer desirable additional space, but they are often uncomfortable -- either too hot or too cold. In summer temperatures, an extra cooling zone can be required just to cool the space and remove the humidity. In cold weather, it is common to find floors that are 10 0 cooler than the room. The cause -- Air is leaking through the floor to or from the unconditioned garage below. Unfortunately, the con-

ventional way of insulating the garage ceiling is often inadequate. It is almost impossible to install conventional insulation so that it stays in contact with the floor above. The other challenge is installing it accurately around bracing and bridging between joists. Air gaps usually exist between the floor and the insulation, compromising its R-value and performance. The cure -- Making the bonus room a comfortable space can be easily achieved

using spray foam insulation. Spray foam adheres to the construction material for a continuous air-seal and complete protective barrier. A product like Icynene fills and seals all gaps to minimize air leakage, potential condensation problems, and air quality issues. Homeowners can get comfortable in this room without cranking the A/C this summer. More rewarding solutions are available online at

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38 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

Pros and cons to acrylic tub systems I

ncreasing the value of their home is a goal for many homeowners. Bathroom renovations are among the more popular home renovations, and they're often beneficial to homeowners thanks to their impact on a home's resale value. But bathroom renovations can be costly and messy and can disrupt the use of the bathroom for a week or more, depending on the scope of the renovation. The popularity of acrylic tub systems has risen due in part to their cost and convenience, but some homeowners wonder if an acrylic tub system is worth it in the long run? Acrylic bath liners are custom-fit molds that are installed directly over an existing tub or shower and is glued into place. There is minimal work done in the bathroom, and the shower can typically be used quickly after installation. There are a wide variety of companies that offer acrylic tub liners and systems, and many popular nationwide home improvement centers sell their own incarnations while also installing the product. But there are pros and cons of acrylic tub systems. In certain instances, they can meet a homeowner's needs quite well, while they may not provide the same assurance as a traditional shower and tub replacement for other homeowners. Here are some of the pros and cons of acrylic tub liners and systems.

Pros One of the primary reasons people look to these products is because no demolition is necessary. Demolition of a bathroom often means taking the room down to the studs. Cemented tile will have to be broken and removed, and this usually ruins underflooring as well. Removing a tub that has been in place for years can also be a hassle, one that means heavy lifting, hiring a plumber to turn off water supply and/or cut pipes, and all of the mess that is left in its wake. Those who are anxious to have their bathrooms up and running quickly like the convenience acrylic liners offer. Acrylic liners also take some of the work out of planning the new bathroom look. They're all-in-one sets that can include the tub liner and the wall surround. For those who tend to pour over details of tile designs and grout colors, these systems may be advantageous. Another plus to acrylic liners is that they offer immediate gratification. On one hand, from start to finish, acrylic liner installation can take as little as six hours. On the other hand, a bathroom remodel can take many days, and if products are out of stock or changes are made, the renovation can stretch out indefinitely. Acrylic bath liners are touted for their durability and longevity. They may be more durable than similar fiberglass tubs. And without grout lines and caulking around the tub, they may also be less likely to foster mold and mildew growth that often plagues even the tidiest bathrooms.

Cons What they have in convenience and ease of installation, acrylic bath systems lack in other areas. Depending on the model, they can be quite costly. You generally pay more for the convenience of an acrylic liner and fast installation, sometimes four times as much as a traditional bathtub and labor. But some feel the life expectancy of an acrylic tub make them a worthy investment. Although acrylic is durable and requires basic care, the material can also be easily scratched, which can contribute to the accumulation of dirt in the scratches. Over time you may find the tub no longer has that pristine shine it once did. They're also susceptible to staining from hair dyes and other dark-colored products,

like bath-safe crayons and markers geared toward children. Harsh abrasives should be avoided with many acrylic tubs, which can make cleaning difficult. A poorly handled acrylic liner may crack during installation. There is uncertainty as to whether or not they can crack over time from routine use. Because the acrylic bath is installed directly over an existing bath, the result may be a more narrow bath and higher tub walls, which can make the tub less comfortable. The new tub also may take up a few additional inches of space. Some people have concerns of mold accumulation between the liner and the old bath. A professional bathroom remodel, complete with tile and a new tub, may have more aesthetic appeal than an acrylic surround. Homeowners aiming for aesthetic appeal over all else may be better off to avoid an acrylic tub. Homeowners considering the installation of an acrylic tub system should weigh the pros and cons of the such systems before making a final decision.

Home Improvement Fall 2012 - 39

Easy and Economical Solutions for Those Postponed Remodeling Plans


f you cannot wait any longer to make some much needed changes in your home, you are not alone. Americans are once again getting ready to begin the home improvement process. This pent-up energy often begins in the kitchen, a room that gets a lot of wear and tear but also seems to go out of fashion more quickly these days. This time around, you will be more cautious like many consumers are with their choices and costs ... and yet you want to make observable changes. The most obvious change is installing a new countertop. Remember that countertops represent 30 percent of the color in any kitchen. Create new excitement by simply replacing your tired, scratched or stained counter surface with one made from the latest generation of premium laminate. The latest additions to the popular Wilsonart(R)HD(R) High Definition(R) design series reflect new interest in natural, classic and tumbled marble, limestone and travertine. The good news is this fashionable look is available without the high cost of stone or the constant maintenance those stones

require. These lighter, less patterned laminate designs are perfect for today's hectic lifestyle. In fact, the new cost-efficient countertop can be installed within a few hours and without disrupting family life. They also give an existing kitchen the promise of a whole new look that's universally appealing. That equals a big change for small change. All of these new designs are available in a new surface effect of a lower matte-gloss sheen that seems almost glazed. The "Glaze" texture is actually a layering of matte features over a glaze of semi-gloss. This creates a timeworn result that is less reflective and more restrained. It's a perfect balance for the sophisticated dramatic materials that are part of today's kitchen: stainless steel, chrome, copper, and even glass. Wilsonart patterns benefit from AEON Enhanced Performance technology. AEON brings four times the scuff and scratchresistance of conventional laminate, as well as five times the wear resistance to the surface. Unlike granite, the surfaces of these new laminates are non-porous and never need to be sealed.

Here are some other remodeling ideas that will have high impact without high expense: * Replace your old refrigerator with an energy-efficient model. Look in the big box stores for floor models or even those with a little dent on the side, which will never be seen. * Refresh your cabinets with a coat of paint, and change all the cabinet hardware in the process. This makes everything look new. * Swap out your old ceiling light fixture and install under cabinet lighting as well. A little light can make a dramatic difference. * Change your sink or sinks. Consider a new Wilsonart(R)HD(R) sink when adding a laminate countertop. These sinks were designed to be mounted to a laminate surface. Still puzzled by the process or need more help choosing the right color or pattern for your countertop? Visit for many good answers. Gale Steves is a frequent contributor to home design publications.

40 - Home Improvement Fall 2012

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