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2 l SPRING 2013


Gardens bring much to home’s landscape By MICHELLE THOMASINI

As temperatures rise and grass begins to peek through the snow, thoughts often turn to getting outside to enjoy spring, whether near or far from home. Now is a great time to consider adding features to your yard or outdoor space to make it more enjoyable.


Flowers are a great way to add color and beauty to a lawn or yard. Many species are available, varying in color, size, growth cycle and ease of care. They can be planted in beds, pots and larger containers, along buildings and many locations depending on the plant's light requirements. Master Gardener Lynn Adams, of Ironwood, recommended beginners start with annuals, or plants that only have one growing season that die after a frost. "Annuals are probably the easiest to grow," Adams said. "You don't have to worry about zones; but still look at the package for light requirements." New gardeners should always look at tags when choosing plants, according to Adams. Tags offer helpful information like light requirements — full sun, part shade/part sun or full shade — and growing zones. "Only buy a perennial plant where the zone is 2, 3 or 4," Adams said. "We have changed from a zone 3 to a 4." The U.S. Department of Agriculture designates zones based on average annual minimum winter temperatures to help gardeners and growers determine which

plants are most likely to thrive in a certain location. The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is available online at Perennials, which last for many growing seasons, are a good choice for budgetminded shoppers. They are "much more economical, because if planted in the right conditions, they last for many years," Adams said. One thing to keep in mind when selecting flowers is blooming times. Adams said the only problem with perennials is they all bloom at different times. "You do want a mix of blooming times," Adams said. "That's why annuals are nice — they constantly bloom." Choosing a mix of annuals and perennials with staggered blooming times takes a bit of planning, but ensures a bevy of beautiful blooms throughout the growing season. Adams said she wouldn't recommend avoiding any specific flowers or plants. The secret to growing success? "Just stick to the right zone," she said. Experienced gardeners looking for a bit of a challenge could consider an exotic plant that can be put on a deck during the summer but brought inside in the fall. Specific care requirements make growing exotic plants more labor-intensive. A favorite for Adams is angel's trumpet, a variety of Brugmansia. "The plant actually grows like a small tree," she said. "It must be cut down and stored in GARDEN

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Submitted photo

A BACKYARD pond bubbles in Master Gardener Lynn Adams' yard in Ironwood. Ponds are a good way to add extra life to a yard, with koi fish, lily pads and more.

Submitted photo Submitted photo

HARDY HIBISCUS, a perennial, grows in the yard of Master Gardener Lynn Adams in Ironwood. Adams said perennials, which last for many growing seasons, are economical because they can last for years if planted in the right conditions.

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A JAPANESE tree peony grows in Master Gardener Lynn Adams' yard in Ironwood. Tree peonies are opoular for their colors, fragrance and shape.

BRUGMANSIA, OR angel's trumpet, is an exotic plant good for experienced gardeners due to the specific care it requires. The plant grows like a small tree, according to Master Gardener Lynn Adams of Ironwood, and must be brought inside in the fall after growing on the deck during the summer.

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HOME IMPROVEMENT 3 Simple tips to save water, Small details can make money and the environment difference when selling home


(BPT) — According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American uses about 50 gallons of water per day at home. That means a family of four uses approximately 6,000 gallons a month. The following tips can help you save water, money and the environment.

1. How to be green and clean your driving machine

Keeping your car clean with regular washing is an important part of responsible maintenance, but washing at home with a garden hose can use more than 60 gallons in as little as five minutes. Furthermore, you're putting harmful chemicals and detergents down drains and directly into your city's water supply. You may be surprised to learn there is a greener way to keep your car sparkling: a professional car wash. A common misconception is that professional car washes waste water, when in fact the opposite is true. Most car washes use an average of no more than 40 gallons of fresh water per vehicle — less than the average home washing machine, which uses 41 gallons per load, according to the EPA.

2. Go green and keep your whites white

It's easy to take steps to conserve H2O and keep your wardrobe fresh. First, only run the clothes washer when you have a full load. Make this habit for both your clothes washer and dishwasher, and you could save up to 1,000 gallons of water a month, according to You get extra green points if you use cold water when wash-

ing your clothes. Approximately 86 percent of the energy used by washing machines is for heating the water.

3. Break bad bathroom habits-

Bathrooms are water hogs, accounting for about 75 percent of a home's water usage. Adopting a green mindset in the bathroom can save major water and money. Start by switching to a low-flow showerhead, which can save 15 gallons of water during a 10-minute shower. Keep the occasional bath for a special treat because the average tub takes about 70 gallons to fill, so showers are much more efficient. Toilets are another major water-waster. The current federal standard is 1.6 gallons of water per flush, so if you have an older toilet, it's time to upgrade.

4. Water down the drain

When washing dishes by hand, don't let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water. And for cold drinks, keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap. This way, every drop goes down you and not the drain. When watering your lawn or garden, it's best to do so in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation. Also be sure to adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street. Be sure to monitor your water bill for unusually high use. Your bill and water meter are tools that can help you discover leaks. These simple tips can help you green your household in just minutes. Not only are you helping Mother Earth, you'll be saving money too.

Tips for making spring cleaning a breeze (BPT) — A long winter season can leave you and your family longing for outdoor activities. Before you head for some fresh air fun, you need to get your home in order for the spring and summer months ahead. Spring cleaning can be a drawn-out chore, but that can change this year. The key to a quick and painless deep clean involves staying organized, having the right tools on hand and keeping track of time to ensure a quick and efficient job done right the first time. "Let's face it, very few people actually get excited about spring cleaning, but with a little planning and the right tools, it doesn't have to be such a chore," says Alison Gutterman, president of Jelmar, a leading seller of cleaning products. "Start your spring cleaning with a powerful, multisurface cleaner to get rid of the grime, gunk and water spots that have built up over the winter months and go room by room to tidy up. Perhaps most importantly, once the big job is over, it's important to maintain a level of cleanliness so you aren't faced with a daunting spring cleaning task next year."

Spring cleaning tips

Assign and attack: Everyone contributes to dirtying a home over the year, so having everyone also contribute to tidying it up is important. Assign a leader and have each member of your family say what area of the house they

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feel they can tackle best, ensuring everyone is comfortable and able to quickly and effectively clean their section. Assess the problem areas: Take your family cleaning crew on a quick walk-through of the home and identify areas that need the most attention. This will allow you to supply your crew with the right set of supplies and allot them the proper amount of time to get the job done. Add an extra hour to normal cleaning times for each area, since this is a deep spring clean. Arm yourself with the right tools: Nothing is worse than starting your spring cleaning and realizing you do not have the right cleaning supplies to get the job done in one take. For discarding old, unnecessary clutter, try using durable trash bags and solid cardboard boxes to ensure nothing falls apart and it makes it out the door. For cleaning, pick up a powerful multi-purpose cleaner like CLR that cleans away built-up grime, white residue and hard water spots that have collected on neglected surfaces like ceramic tiles, shower doors, toilet bowls and kitchen counter tops. And one final walk through: Once you have tackled your spring cleaning list, take a final walk-through to make sure you covered every nook and cranny. Taking the family with you on the final walk-through will show everyone all the work that goes into keeping a house tidy.

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IRONWOOD — When getting a home ready for the real estate market, large-scale makeovers as seen on television are not always the ticket to a quick sale. Area real estate agents agree that attention to detail can be the most important factor in marketing a house. Judy Kucera of RE/MAX Action North Realty said a bit of yard and exterior work can go a long way. “The first thing a buyer sees when they come to look at your property is the curb appeal,” she said. “Make sure the lawn is mowed, bushes trimmed, front door is sparkling and windows cleaned. Check for any peeling paint and make sure the doorbell is working.” Mark Silver of Silver Properties agreed that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. “When people drive by and look at a house, if it’s not appealing, they’re not going to stop to look at it,” he said. “Once the snow melts, do the yard work. Clean out the garage, get the yard looking good — curb appeal is important.” Janice Wyssling of The Real Estate Store also mentioned curb appeal as a top priority. “In winter, have all walkways shoveled. In summer, have the lawn cut and trimmed. No long grass next to the buildings, trees

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and shrubs trimmed,” she said. Moving on to the interior of the house, attention to detail can again pay dividends. “Go outside, walk in the front door — what does it look like?” Silver said. “Is it painted, fresh, clean — does it look inviting? You want people to walk in and say, ‘this is nice,’ not thinking about how much work they’ll have to do.” Kucera recommended going for a “spacious and just-cleaned look” in all areas of the house. “Eliminate the clutter, paint the inside so it’s nice and fresh looking, keep carpets and cabinets clean — little cosmetic things can make a big difference,” Silver said. Wyssling said neutral paint colors can help to give a house a

spacious look. Other suggestions include making sure that all areas of the house are brightly lit, possibly using 100 watt bulbs in the basement and using organizers to make closets look neater. Ellen Wyssling, also of The Real Estate Store, agreed that organization and attention to detail are key. “Homeowners tend to look past the little things,” she said. “When you plan on listing your house, it is always good to go through your house with a critical eye looking for things that a typical buyer would see.” Ellen said that things like pet nose prints on the patio door, cobwebs in the corners or flies that gather in the light fixtures can color a buyer’s impression of


a home. She also said letting in fresh air, possible use of light air fresheners and getting rid of clutter are advisable. “Homeowners all love their decorations, pictures, clothes, etc. — however, most buyers can't see past other people's stuff,” Ellen said. “They can't imagine their stuff in a space unless it is empty. Sellers can help buyers by simplifying rooms.” While the consensus is that cleanliness and a spacious look are desirable, she cautioned against simply stashing things out of sight. “While you are cleaning and organizing, make sure you aren't stuffing everything into a closet,” Ellen said. “Buyers are going to be looking for storage space.” She said buyers like to see cleared-off counter tops in the kitchen, beds that are made and toys picked up and put away. Getting a house ready to put on the market can be a lot of work, but it can make all the difference in whether the house sells. Silver said getting financed for a home purchase can be challenging, but with favorable pricing and rates, it’s a buyer-driven market. This means that with competition among sellers, pricing is very important as well. He said if sellers have their home ready and are realistic about value, they have a good chance of making a sale.

5 tips to take your home from ‘for sale’ to ‘sold’

(BPT) — If you've been thinking about selling your home, there's no time like the present. House hunters come out of the woodwork in warm weather months and "for sale" signs pop up everywhere. Your job is to set your home apart from all the others. In most areas around the country, it's a buyers' market. So how do you get a leg-up on the competition? Deborah Rossler, interior design instructor at The Art Institute of Dallas, a campus of South University, and Maryse Jospitre, Interior Design program coordinator at The Art Institute of Phoenix share the top five tips you can really use to turn that "for sale" sign into "sold."

1. Detach

You may love the outdated recliner that was passed down from grandpa. You may also think that lime green and fuchsia are the foundation for a great color scheme. But others may not. "Before you put it on the market, emotionally detach from your home," advises Rossler. Look at it from the buyer's point of view. Figure out what needs an update, a touch-up or an overhaul and then do it.

2. De-clutter

You want to open up the space to make it feel larger. While it's fine if your home has the "lived in" look, all the extra knick-knacks should be put away. Jospitre suggests renting a stor-

age unit if your place is small. If you've got a garage or an attic, store your items there in plastic bins. But do not shove all the extra stuff in your closets. People look in there, warns Rossler, and a messy closet tells potential buyers that there won't be enough room for their things either. The same goes for drawers and cabinets. Tidy them up and organize them neatly. Make sure your belongings aren't packed tightly because it will make the cabinet look smaller. Free up the space on your kitchen countertop. A coffee maker and toaster are fine. But put away the blender, stand-mixer and popcorn maker. You might as well tidy up the bathroom counter while you're at it.

3. Go neutral

Neutral colors allow house hunters to visualize what the space will look like with their belongings. "Heavily saturated colors are overwhelming and don't go over well with prospective home owners," says Jospitre. If they dislike the colors, they will be put off by the space. Rossler agrees that sellers should paint neutral colors that blend room-to-room. But she does make room for an exception: "If you're living in a trendy area where something out of the norm is expected, then a bright wall could be a welcome feature."


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4. A little rehab and some heavy lifting

Does the carpet need to be replaced? Better yet, is there hardwood under the carpet you can refinish? Go for the latter, if that's an option. Buyers love a good hardwood floor. Get the fresh coat of paint on the walls if they're chipping or peeling. Move furniture away from walls. A big couch against a wall looks frumpy and is not aesthetically pleasing. And remove extra furniture (this could also be filed under "de-clutter"). It's good to see baseboards and corners, which gives the room a more open and spacious feel.

5. Before the doorbell rings

Clean. Then clean some more. A dirty, dusty house is a huge turn-off. Don't forget to clean the light fixtures on the ceiling. And after you've done all that, do a quick 15-minute spruce-up before potential buyers walk through the door. Open the curtains and blinds. Let natural light in. It makes the home seem cheery and bright. Of course, make sure the windows are clean too. Keep fresh flowers in a vase. And don't forget the smell. A fresh smelling home is a big plus. Open windows to air the home out. Don't cook potentially pungent foods — like fish or garlic — before a showing. Instead bake some cookies or use an air freshener that smells like baked goods.

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Kitchen updates that won’t break the bank

(BPT) — Take a look around your home and think about which spaces you use most. If the kitchen made the list, you're not alone. For most homeowners, the kitchen is the heart of their home, and all the time spent there likely causes a fair amount of wear and tear. If this sounds like your kitchen, it might be time for a remodel. While the National Association of Home Builders finds that home remodeling is at its highest level since 2005, homeowners are still being understandably cautious with their investments. The good news is that no matter the size of your budget, there are cost-effective ways to update your kitchen to revitalize the center of your home.

1. Yes, you can update your cabinets

The most dramatic change you can make in your kitchen is to update the cabinetry. But for many, the thought of new cabinetry equates to a budget breaker. According to Sarah Reep, design lead for QualityCabinets,

your kitchen. Choose clean white subway tiles or add some drama with interesting patterns or colorful glass tiles," advises Reep. Home improvement stores like Lowe's or The Home Depot carry DIY tile kits in a variety of colors that are fairly simple to install yourself. Additionally, stylish, removable tile decals can help jazz up your walls quickly without the cost and commitment of tile.

3. Everything but the kitchen sink Brandpoint photo

it certainly doesn't have to be. "The key is to do your homework and find a brand that offers the trifecta of style, function and affordability," says Reep. To keep pace with consumer requests and spending, QualityCabinets recently expanded its budget-friendly Woodstar line to include additional in-demand finish options, door styles and accessible design features.

"Homeowners want to stay on budget without compromising on style or function. We designed this line so they don't have to," says Reep.

2. Set the stage with a beautiful backsplash Another affordable way to make a statement is by updating or adding a backsplash. "A backsplash is a subtle way to update

Not quite. The sink is one of the most frequently used features in a kitchen but easily ignored. Updating your kitchen sink to serve as a focal point of the room can do wonders for your space. A beautiful apron-front sink or sleek new faucet can create a dramatic update to your kitchen and provide that attention-grabbing "wow" factor. Pair it with a new coat of paint or light fixtures that complement your design vision and you'll be amazed by what you can accomplish.

Bathroom projects that increase livability, home value (BPT) — Baby boomers are a smart group when it comes to home updates. While embracing life today, they fully recognize that in the future, their homes may need upgrades to help them live well and stay safe. The bathroom naturally gets the most attention and for good reason — it's one of the most frequently used rooms in a home and also one with many hazards. Baby boomers are turning towards safer bathing options to support their changing lifestyle including walk-in baths, handicap accessible showers and other supportive furnishings. "Baby boomers value being able to live out their golden years to the fullest, and aging in place is a key component of that," says Jim Quinn, installation manager for Premier Care in Bathing. "They are being proactive about making bathroom upgrades now so they can enjoy the benefits for many years to come." Quinn has helped countless people update their bathrooms to add modern style and comfort so they can age in their current home safely. Here are his top recommendations when upgrading your bathroom while keeping health, comfort and safety in mind.

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knobs are often small and can be difficult to grab with limited dexterity. Add modern style to your bathroom by replacing your existing hardware and accessories with stylish new options that are also easy to grip. Explore hardware options that are large and simple to grab. New hardware is a quick, affordable upgrade that makes a bathroom easy to use for people of all ages while enhancing interior design. While you're upgrading the hardware elements, consider installing grab bars in key locations in the room, such as around the toilet or shower.

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Any interior designer will tell you that lighting is a key element of a home's style as well as func-

tionality. In the bathroom, lighting is particularly important because it also adds an element of safety. Aging eyes need quality light to see well — so be sure to incorporate task and ambient lighting into your bathroom renovations. Baby boomers often add a dimmer that adjusts bathroom lighting so it can be fully on when showering or getting ready for the day, and then dimmed softly for easy access at night or during long soaks in the walk-in tub. "These types of updates are wise investments for baby boomers. They often increase the overall value of a home while also giving the homeowners the peace of mind that they'll be able to enjoy the space well into the future," concludes Quinn.


condensation. More often than not, mold is found in homes that do not have adequate insulation. As moisture builds up within walls, the interior of the walls can start to slowly rot. This rot can emit a foul smell and eventually reduce the stability and quality of the home. Homeowners who want to address moisture and mold growth should consider a complete solution that halts future opportunities for mold growth and prevents potential costly repairs in the future. Using a modern insulation material such as spray foam insulation, like that available from Icynene, is one solution that can assist. As a vapor-permeable material, spray foam insulation allows moisture to travel through it, enabling it to dry completely. Additionally, spray foam insulation is not considered a food source for mold, thereby quashing the probability of further mold growth. Properly insulated wall cavities and crawl spaces control moisture, minimize air leakage, save on energy bills as well as improve occupant comfort. Getting to the root of mold issues is critical for any homeowner looking to add investment value to their home. A material like spray foam insulation can be applied within seconds to the walls, ceiling and floors of a basement to plug any cracks or gaps to deliver immediate results. More information on how spray foam insulation can help control moisture and mold growth can be found online at


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Water and heat therapy can be ideal for arthritis and other aches associated with aging, making a bathtub an asset in a home. But as people age, it can be physically difficult to use a traditional bathtub. That's why a walk-in tub is a wise investment. Receiving the Ease-Of-Use Commendation from the Arthritis Foundation, walk-in-tubs from Premier Care in Bathing provide baby boomers and seniors with an easy-to-use alternative. The most popular model fits in a traditional bathtub space and has a wide, low-level entry, slip-resistant seat and backrest and temperature-controlled hot water. Other walk-in tub options may be ideal based on individual needs.

(BPT) — Damp, dark areas of the home, such as an unfinished basement, can often be trouble spots for homeowners hoping to increase their living space. Left unfinished, these areas of the home can potentially suffer significant damage, be prone to flooding or develop mold. When it comes to home improvement, homeowners are wise to consider the affects of moisture and mold buildup and how they can be combated. Mold growth, usually a result of excess moisture, also can be detrimental to one's health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that mold can survive in almost any conditions, and can cause visual, respiratory and even skin problems. Mold growth can also contribute to poor indoor air quality. Homeowners looking to turn an unfinished basement into a liveable space or take control of mold growth can help protect their home from unexpected expenses later on, and also add value to their home. There are several techniques to control moisture penetrating their home. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests homeowners consider techniques that manage water outside the foundation walls, ensure that the home is properly ventilated with exhaust fans in at least each bathroom and the kitchen, and size the home's air conditioning unit correctly. Homeowners are also recommended to use construction techniques that can help control water, air movement, vapor diffusion as well as


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Much to consider when planning exterior projects By CORTNEY OFSTAD

When the snowbanks are finally cleared and spring has arrived, many residents start renovations on their home to update the exterior in time for spring and summer events. While the task may seem daunting, local businesses have tips on how to update the exterior of a home this spring.


New siding can bring a whole new look to a home and spring is a good time to get started, according to Bob Zell, of Bob Zell Construction in Hurley. "What most people want out of their siding is for it to be maintenance free," Zell said. "Some require very little maintenance, like washing in high traffic areas."

There are many colors, styles and types of siding to choose from. "The different types of siding vary in price, but vinyl is the most economical," Zell said. "There is a wide variety of colors to choose from, from pastels to earth tones. There are also types that simulate cedar shakes to scallops, and also kinds that simulate brick and stone." After deciding on the particular siding for the job, Zell said its also important to make sure the product is installed correctly. "We have professional certified siding applicators from the manufacturers, and we were nationally recognized as a siding contractor," Zell said.


A simple way to update the look of a home is by painting. Paint is an economical alternative to changing the exterior of the a home and features varieties of colors. According to Mel Luoma, an employee in the paint department at Giovanoni True Value of Hurley, it's best to wait until the outside temperature is over 50 degrees before painting, with a few minor steps to complete before picking up a brush. "You have to clean the house, and if the old paint is peeling, you have to scrap it," Luoma said. Luoma recommends using a "good paint and primer" for the project, because of the lasting effects. "We have Weather All, which is True Value's brand, and that is really good," Luoma said. "Benjamin Moore is also a good paint." Paint comes in an assortment of styles, and Luoma said to use flat paint for the exterior, while using satin or semi gloss for the trim on the house. "Just make sure you have nice weather before you start," Luoma said.

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Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe

TIM HAGELIN, yard supervisor at Forslund's Building Supply in Ironwood, poses in front of the supply storage area. Forslund's has a large supply of products that can be used to build a deck in preparation for spring and summer activities.

Minor fixes can drastically change the outside of a home, including putting in new windows or a new door. According to Gary Baron, contractor salesman for Steiger's Ace Hardware and Home Center in Bessemer, the best place to start a window or door project is to consult with someone who has experience. "Talk to someone with knowledge first," Baron said. "They'll be able to answer all of your questions about trimming, prepping and finishing a project." With windows, the tasks are very project specific, depending on what size window and location of installation. "It all depends on if you are going to put a window in a new location, or replace an existing window, using the same opening," Baron said. "Windows can be built to specific sizes, so that isn't really an issue." Installing doors is a very similar process, however a little easier because door sizes are more standard. Besides the benefits of a new look to the house, new windows and doors can be energy efficient, saving money on

Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe

MEL LUOMA, an employee in the paint department at Giovanoni True Value in Hurley, uses a computer to match a specific shade of paint April 5. Painting the exterior of a home can be a economical update to get the home ready for spring. heating and cooling the home. "My first advice is just talk to someone with experience," Baron said. "They'll lead you in the right direction."


Adding a deck to a home can also get it ready for spring. According to Paul Forslund, owner and operator of Forslund's Building Supply in Ironwood, a deck is a "great way to enjoy three seasons in our area." There are several ways to build a deck, and according to Forslund, the easiest way is to build a floating deck. A floating deck is built on blocks off the ground and is not attached to the home. "The size is determined by how much you want to spend and how you are going to use the deck," Forslund said. "If you plan to have a picnic table on the deck the deck must be made larger." Another deck option is to attach the deck to the home. "This option requires concrete footings that go below the frost line, which is normally 48 inches or more," Forslund said. "Attached decks are normally larger and often follow the shape of the home. It also allows the home owner easy access to the deck normally through a door or patio door." Treated lumber is used to frame the deck, and can last for many years. It's also easy to maintain, Forslund said. When building a deck, homeowners

must also be aware of state building codes. "One word of caution for Michigan residents is that the Michigan building codes require a third-party inspection tag for all treated wood," Forslund said. "Just because treated lumber is green and has a tag on it, it doesn't mean it's third-party inspected. Some companies inspect their own treated lumber, and put on their own tags. That doesn’t meet code in Michigan and shouldn’t be used." Other requirements to be aware of include: Decks over 30 inches off the ground require a railing, residential decks require a 36 inches high railing and a 40 pound live load. If deck requires stairs, four risers require a railing. "Commercial decks and things like hot tubs require additional engineering to meet code," Forslund said. "Decks built high off the ground also require additional engineering. Small decks can normally use 4x4 posts. Larger decks use 6x6 and some times larger posts. There are numerous metal hangers and post anchors available to make your decking building job easier and the deck stronger." The top of the deck can be finished using treated decking, cedar decking, redwood decking or one of the newer composite deckings. Some of the composite deckings require an expansion joint to allow for movement. "The composite deckings can be S4S

or tongue-and-groove," Forslund said. "Railings can be built from lumber to match the top decking, or there are also many railing kits available to match the composite deckings. The cost of a deck can run from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars depending on the size, the design and the types of materials used. The main thing to remember is to build the deck properly so it will be safe for your family. A simple deck is a great do-it-yourself project and can be done in one day."

Colorful changes

Simple changes can also be done to improve the look of the home. Things like potted plants on the porch, steps or walkway can help frame a home and add color. Adding touches like patio furniture or hot tub can also inspire minor changes. Add colorful pillows or outside rugs to patio furniture, or splurge on accessories like garden flags, door mats, metal wall art, decorative wreaths and door knockers. Update the color of lighting sconces or overhead lighting on and around a home's exterior, and replace old house numbers with a new font and color. Not every update has to be expensive. People can find what works for them, from challenging a big project like siding or a deck, to small projects like painting and decorating.

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Greenest of the green:

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ENERGY EFFICIENT replacement windows and doors are included in the most recent version of the federal tax credit, helping homeowners save energy and infuse new life into a dull home exterior.

Take advantage of home improvement tax rebates before time runs out (BPT) — When U.S. lawmakers made a deal to keep the country from going off the "fiscal cliff" at the end of 2012, they reinstated a tax break of up to $500 to help homeowners earn money back for energy efficient home improvements. The tax credit included in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 is the first home improvement incentive since 2011, making this remodeling season an opportune time to upgrade your home's energy efficiency and curb appeal before time runs out on Dec. 31, 2013. While many of the products eligible for the new tax credit are the unsung heroes of home energy savings — heaters, water pumps, air conditioners — energy efficient replacement windows and doors are included, helping to save energy while also infusing new life into a dull home exterior. Pairing the latest energy efficient technology with stylish design, many window and door manufacturers are geared up with qualifying products that can fulfill any homeowner's unique style needs. "For anyone who regrets missing their chance to receive a tax credit for energy efficient home improvements, this is an incredible opportunity," says Chris Pickering, vice president of marketing for Ply Gem Windows. "Old and outdated windows and doors are not only an eyesore, they can cost homeowners energy through leaks, cracks and poorly insulated glass every month." Since 2006, there have been a number of versions of the energy efficient tax credit for homeowners. The current extension covers all purchases made in 2013 and retroactively gives credit for

2012 purchases. The credit is 10 percent of the cost of building materials and select energy efficient heating and cooling devices, insulation and roofing for primary residence, up to $500. Installation fees do not apply. Some categories like windows are capped at $200, but can be combined with other purchases to make up the full amount. For example, if you buy qualifying windows for $2,000, roofing for $2,000 and a water heater for $1,000, you will receive the entire $500 credit. However, there are a few rules. The total amount of savings allowed per household is cumulative since the program began in 2006. So, if you've already received $500 or more in total credits since 2006, you are not eligible to earn more credit. But, if you've received less than $500, you can still add new credits, up to the full amount. Windows and doors that are eligible for the tax credit must be ENERGY STAR qualified in the region where they are being installed. According to ENERGY STAR's website, all of the windows, doors and skylights in your home do not need to be replaced to qualify. Also, new windows and doors that were not there previously, like ones in an addition, qualify for the tax credit. The tax credit will be given, dollar-for-dollar, in the following year's tax returns, so be sure to keep your receipts. To find ENERGY STAR rated window and door products for your climate zone, consult with your local dealer or contractor to ensure the products you are purchasing qualify for the tax credit.

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(BPT) — Forget wondering who's the fairest; when it comes to choosing home improvements that make your home look good — from the curb and to potential buyers — it may make more sense to ask "Who's the greenest of them all." Sustainable home improvements not only help reduce utility costs and boost owner satisfaction with their homes, they also make a house more appealing to potential buyers. In fact, buyers are willing to shell out up to 10 percent more for new homes certified green, according to a January real estate report by Harvard University. Return on investment for certain types of green improvements — such as replacing older, less efficient doors and windows — also tends to be high, meaning sellers recoup much of the initial cost of the improvement when they sell the home. If you're looking for eco-friendly home improvements, these five are among the greenest you can make:

1. Switch to a solar water heater

Switching to solar power for heating water can be a huge energy and money-saver. Solar hot water systems rely on free energy from the sun to heat a home's hot water. A typical system can use 50 to 80 percent less energy than traditional heating systems, according to Velux America, marketers of solar-powered hot water systems. That reduction can help a typical household trim its annual energy costs by 10 to 15 percent. "While the initial cost of installing a solar-powered system is often higher than installing a traditional water heater, most homeowners find the energy savings allows them to recoup that cost in just a few

superimpose skylights and blinds on the image of your ceiling. Sunlight entering the home through a skylight can help reduce winter heating bills. says installing an EnergyStar-qualified skylight, windows and doors can trim a home energy bill by 7 to 15 percent over non-qualified products. Visit to learn more.

4. Replace an old HVAC system

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NO LEAK solar powered fresh air skylights and blinds provide natural light and passive ventilation, plus privacy, and are eligible for a 30 percent tax credit. years," says Jim Cika of solar system manufacturer Heliodyne. "What's more, homeowners may qualify for a federal tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost to buy and install a residential solar water heating system." Visit to learn more about solar water heating.

2. Eliminate incandescents

You'll have to do it soon anyway, so it may pay to start the process now and phase incandescent light bulbs from your home. Federal law banning incandescent light bulbs means that by the end of 2014, you probably won't be able to find one of the old-fashioned power-guzzlers on store shelves anymore. Instead, more energy-efficient bulbs such as LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) will dominate the marketplace.

3. Add or upgrade a skylight

Installing a skylight, or replacing an older model skylight with a new Energy Star-qualified

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one, can help reduce utility costs. The natural light from a skylight can help reduce the need for artificial light sources, thereby paring down electricity costs. When you pair no leak solar-powered fresh air skylights equipped with automatic rain sensors and efficiency-enhancing, energy saving accessories like designer solar powered blinds, you gain a new source of fresh air while improving energy efficiency by up to 37 percent, according to skylight manufacturer Velux. And, in addition to long-term savings, the cost of solar powered skylights and blinds, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit as a green home improvement. For a tax calculator that will show you the tax benefits of new or replacement skylights for your home visit And, if you would like to see exactly how skylights would look in your home, there's an app there that allows you to take pictures inside your home and

In the typical American home, up to half of total energy consumption goes to heat and cool the house, EnergyStar says. Replacing old, inefficient heating, ventilation and cooling systems with newer, more efficient models can dramatically reduce a home's heating and cooling costs.

5. Upgrade old windows and doors

A home can lose a tremendous amount of air — hot in the winter, cool in the summer — through poorly sealed doors and windows. Older units, obviously, tend to be less energy efficient than newer ones. Upgrading from drafty windows and doors to more air-tight models can result in significant savings on your heating and cooling costs. What's more, replacing windows and doors are among the home improvements that deliver significant ROI at the time of resale. Replacing old windows with new vinyl ones can recoup more than 71 percent of the cost when you sell; 73 percent for wooden replacement windows, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report. And installing a new front door earns you back nearly 66 percent for a fiberglass door and a whopping 85.6 percent for a steel door.

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Deck do-it-yourself:

5 tips to upgrade your outdoor living space for summer

the proper tools and resources, you'll not only save money on labor costs — but you'll also take pride in knowing you successfully completed a home improvement project with your own two hands. As you create a list of essential materials for your project, think about incorporating a hidden fastener system — rather than traditional nails or screws. Hidden fasteners can make the installation of decking boards easier and faster and create a more professional look. Your deck's surface will be smooth, seamless and more comfortable underfoot.

(BPT) — From grilling and dining to simply relaxing, your home's deck is frequently the center of family life during warm weather months. That's why there's no better time to give your outdoor living space the upgrade it deserves. Whether you're building a dream deck from scratch — or sprucing up an existing space — here are five tips for do-it-yourselfers who want to start turning their outdoor living aspirations into reality this weekend.

1. Discover your inspiration

Your deck is a natural extension of your home and your style. Think about the type of design elements that will best fit your family's activities and complement both outdoor views and the layout of your yard. Flip through favorite magazines to find photos that jumpstart your inner designer, go online to experiment with virtual planners that allow you to try out different colors and configurations or use mobile apps to create outdoor living space designs anywhere at any time.

Prep, prime and primp

4. Consider a deck makeover

Misusing color can be a surefire way to turn people off from your home. For a more inviting look that nearly everyone can enjoy, opt for neutral paint colors. A subtle beige, slight grey or even white can do the trick. First, move furniture out of the room and place drop cloths to protect the floor. Remove any picture frames, outlet covers and wall decor. Then, gently scrub the walls with a mild detergent and water mixture using a soft sponge to remove any dirt, grime or lint. Don't forget to prime your walls before applying color to ensure the best end-results.

If your budget doesn't allow for a complete deck rebuild this year, you can resurface an old wooden deck that's starting to wear, warp and rot with new higher-performance materials. Simply remove the existing boards and check that the substructure remains sturdy before installing wood-alternative decking like Trex Enhance. Giving your wood deck a facelift with durable, beautiful composite materials will increase curb appeal, lengthen its lifespan and cut down on maintenance requirements for years to come.

2. Choose materials manufactured to last

If you're investing in a brand new deck, select materials that will stand up to years of wear and tear from kids, pets, dropped grilling tools, heavy outdoor furniture — and even the harshest of weather. New high-performance wood-alternative decking like Trex Enhance combines superior durability and long-lasting good looks. With Trex's protective shell technology, it's also resistant to fading, staining, scratching and mold — while offering hassle-free maintenance. "Food and drink spills wash off easily with just soap and water, which is ideal if you're planning a summer of backyard barbecues and deck parties," says Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing for Trex.

(BPT) — Did you know spring is the best time to sell your home? And now that the housing market is bouncing back, there's never been a better time to do it. But even if you're planning to stay put for the long haul, chances are there are some much-needed touch-ups you could be doing to keep your home in tip-top shape. And you don't have to break your back, or the bank, to do it. In fact, adding a new coat of paint is a quick, affordable, and possibly the most impactful, way to get your project done.

Paint like a pro

5. Add finishing touches

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"Unlike the upkeep required of wood decking, you'll never need to sand, stain or paint — and you won't have to worry about rotting, warping, cracking or splintering." Combining enduring beauty and performance — but priced at a value that appeals to do-ityourselfers — Trex Enhance decking offers the additional

peace of mind of a 25-year limited fade and stain warranty. It's also available in stock at The Home Depot stores, making it even easier to begin building your outdoor oasis this weekend.

3. Look for easy-to-install solutions

Installing a new deck may seem daunting at first, but with

For an ultra-smooth finish, try Purdy's line of Ultra Finish roller covers. These premium microfiber roller covers, available in 9-inch lengths and varying nap thickness, provide an even release of paint and deliver a consistent application from start to finish. Plus, they work great with any kind of paint and finish, including satin, semigloss and gloss, taking the guesswork out of the DIY equation. When applying paint, start at the top and work your way down. For superior results, you'll want to fill the well of your roller tray with paint, dip the roller in halfway and then roll it back onto the tray's angled platform to eas-

Even if you're already the proud owner of a gorgeous outdoor living space, take style and comfort to the next level with weekend warrior-worthy projects. Add new modular railing in contrasting or complementary colors to create a perfect frame for your deck, or establish cozy conversation nooks with weather-resistant furniture. Construct an elegant pergola to lend shade from the harsh summer sun and install energy-efficient deck lighting to create ambience for twilight cocktail parties. For more outdoor living do-ityourself inspiration and advice, visit

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ily remove excess paint. This will reduce dripping and improve overall paint cover. The best approach for applying paint? Use your roller cover to make an overlapping "W" pattern in a 2foot by 2-foot area; then fill in and repeat. For smaller interior paint projects or tight spaces, Purdy also has a variety of innovative mini roller choices that are versatile, lightweight and can quickly and easily deliver a perfect finish with smooth rolling action. These combined features make them the ideal applicator for a variety of projects like painting doors and cabinets, to freshening up tables, chairs and even bedroom furniture.

Keeping your color conviction

If you're still feeling deprived of color after your painting project is complete, never fret. There are several ways to add a pop of color throughout your home without slathering the walls with offensive paint colors. Try incorporating fun accent pieces in your favorite colors — think lamps, frames, pillows and rugs. You can even include larger focal pieces like royal blue armchairs or a patterned couch to make a bolder statement. By keeping the overall aesthetics of your home neutral and inviting, and enhancing them with a few sight-provoking embellishments, house guests will be asking you for home decorating tips. And if your end goal is to get your home sold, consider these minor improvements a step in the right direction.

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LED light bulbs: Future here today (BPT) — What could you do in 23 years? A lot, apparently — you could trip your way to an Oscar win like Jennifer Lawrence. Better yet, what about banking billions by 23 like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg? You could have a baby, send them to college and buy them their first (legal) libation; all before having to change a light bulb. With the U.S. incandescent phaseout wrapping up in January 2014, there are a lot of confusing messages in the lighting aisle using unfamiliar words like "lumens" and "kelvins." You've got things to do (and 23 years to do them); don't get bogged down in technical lighting jargon. The solution is simple, instead of getting lost in the maze of bulb options, go for the one that will make your life easier and save you money. Most LED light bulbs use approximately 85 percent less energy than their incandescent counterparts, can last for up to 23 years and brighten your home beautifully (based on Cree LED bulb 60W replacements at 9.5 watt, $0.11 per kilowatt-hour, 25,000 hour lifetime and average usage of 6 hours per day).

Go green, save green

Using less energy means spending less money, and after replacing your top five most-used light sources with LED options, you can see an average annual savings of $61. Now that's a bright idea. When LED light bulbs first hit the marketplace, they were ringing up at as much

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as $50 a bulb. For many consumers, it was too high a price to pay for light bulbs. As technology advanced in recent years, LEDs have become more affordable. New technology has the price of the LEDs coming down, so they can pay for itself in less time. "It's easier now than ever before to go green and save money while doing it," says Jeff Epstein, merchandising vice president at The Home Depot.

Matching the right bulb to the right room

Your blood, sweat and tears went into creating your home sweet home, and you want to show it off. The final touches on home decor mean finding the right color light to showcase a room. Color temperature is how you measure the color of the light. Incandescent light bulbs give off a warm light with a rating of 2,700 kelvins, a hue everyone has grown familiar with. However, you can achieve a similar color temperature with LED warm light bulbs that are a fraction of the cost to operate. Also an option in energy saving

LEDs are bulbs with bright or daylight color temperatures for various rooms. First, think about what you use the room for. Kitchens may be best in brighter, clean daylight light. Living rooms and bedrooms are beautiful in warm lighting with a rating of 2,700 kelvins, similar to a traditional incandescent light bulb. Track lighting is ideal for LED bulbs because you don't have to climb back up a ladder to change it for a couple decades. LEDs also come with dimmable options so you can change the light based on function or your mood and unlike other energy-efficient options, come on instantly to full brightness. Lighting label fact sheets are on most bulbs today, so if you want to read color temperature, also known as "kelvins" you will find it on this label. Remember the lower the kelvins the warmer hue the bulb is. The higher the kelvins the more bright and blue hued the bulb is, best for outside places or somewhere you want bright light.

Don't reinvent the bulb

If you're comfortable with a traditionallooking bulb, keep it simple and buy a traditional-looking light bulb. Traditional looking bulbs look great in all fixtures and fit in seamlessly with a variety of decor styles. After all, you want guests looking at your house, not a uniquely-designed light bulb.

Chef-inspired tips for a cleaner, more efficient kitchen (BPT) — If cleanliness is next to godliness — as the old adage goes — than a clean kitchen is simply a divine place to be. It's the room in your home that gets the most intense use, so keeping your kitchen clean can be a challenge. You can make kitchen cleanup a bit easier if you take your cleanliness cues from professional chefs. In a professional kitchen, cleanliness is not only a vital health issue, it directly impacts the efficient operation of the kitchen and everyone who works in it. Here are five tricks professional chefs use to maximize cleanliness and efficiency in their kitchens:

1. Don't touch

From the culinary student who chops the onions for the French onion soup to the chef that cooks the food and puts it on the plate, every team member in a professional kitchen knows that touch spreads germs. Home chefs can reduce the spread of germs in their own kitchens by minimizing the need to touch key tools, like the faucet. Touch-free faucets allow you to control the flow of water in your kitchen sink without ever having to touch a potentially germy surface. A state-of-the-art sensor allows the faucet to respond in 20 milliseconds, and eliminates the need for bare-skin taps or awkward waving to acti-

vate the sensor.

2. Always be prepared

In professional kitchens, staff use separate cutting boards - and often utensils — for preparing meats, vegetables and fruits. Storing utensils, pots and pans according to their tasks facilitates quick and easy access when preparing food. Mis-en-place (pronounced meez-ahn-place), a French adage and popular chef's practice, involves gathering all ingredients and implements needed before cooking begins. With everything in its place, you'll be able to move smoothly and efficiently through a recipe without halting food prep to dig through the refrigerator or

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3. Countertop savvy

Countertop savvy goes beyond just keeping them clean. Just as you use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables, consider the value of task-specific countertop surfaces. Avid bakers, for example, can benefit from marble countertops because the material helps keep the dough cool. If such an installation falls outside your budget, consider a marble pastry board instead. Place it on the kitchen table to transform your eating area into an impromptu bake station. Bonus: rolling dough on a surface slightly shorter than standard 36-inch countertops provides a more comfortable, ergonomic experience.

4. Work the triangle

You may be familiar with the concept of the work triangle: arranging the refrigerator (food storage), sink (food prep area) and range (cooking space) in a triangle configuration makes the kitchen more efficient. But improving efficiency in your kitchen encompasses more than just the arrangement of these three key areas. Expand the concept to include other items that fall into each of these categories. For example, positioning the pantry beside the refrigerator ensures food is stored in the same general location — and increases the efficiency of your triangle flow. In short, the fewer steps taken to navigate the triangle, the more efficient it is.



Tips for optimizing small spaces (BPT) — The trend toward smaller, more efficient homes is still in full swing, with new home builders offering floor plans that lower square footage while amping up usability. If your home is older, however, or you live in an apartment, your smaller space may just feel ... well, small. Being short on space doesn't mean you have to be short on style or efficiency. Even older small spaces can get an open, useful feel with the right design and decorating tactics. Here are a few ways you can optimize your small space:

Be size wise

Nothing makes a small room look more cramped than filling it with furnishings that are too big for the space. For example, if your living room is 10 by 12, a 9foot-long sofa is going to dominate the room and leave little space for anything else. Conversely, placing a smaller bed (such as a twin or single) in a modestly sized bedroom is a classic trick designers and home stagers use to make a bedroom look larger. When buying furniture for your small space, keep scale in mind. Furnishings should fit the space well, leaving plenty of area for you to move around them. Mohawk Homescapes blogger Cecilia Staniec advises homeowners take room measurements. "You should never shop for furniture without a complete set of measurements," she writes.

Open up floor space

Smart use of wall space can open up floor space, which is often at a premium in small rooms. Some items must occupy floor space, such as sofas, tables and chairs. Others — like lighting, TVs and electronic components — don't. Wall-mounting TVs, especially flat screens, can be a great way to conserve floor space and create an appealing focal point for a petite room. Low-profile wall mounts are perfect for small to medium screens of 26 to 47 inches. The mounts keep the screen close to the wall while providing a full range of motion for optimum viewing from multiple seating areas. Similarly, you can wall-mount your computer monitor — even an iPad.

Work with your walls

Your walls can work for you in other ways, too. Even in small rooms, the walls are one of the largest design elements. Choosing a bright or light wall color can help a smaller room feel more open and airy. Adding mirrors is another way to make a room appear larger. You don't need to install a full-length mirror on one wall; a series of smaller mirrors attractively positioned in a cluster can do the job just as well without being overwhelming. Carefully consider accessories you place on the wall, and don't overdo it. Too much on the walls will make them look cluttered and even smaller. Sometimes, one or two thoughtful graphic elements are all you need to make a design statement.

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A lack of lighting can make a small room look positively cramped. Whenever possible, enhance the size and appeal of your rooms with plenty of light. Natural light is optimum and adding a skylight or solar tube is a great way to bring sunshine into your home. If that kind of renovation isn't in your budget, however, maximize natural light by keeping window treatments light and open. Avoid dark colors around windows, as darker hues absorb more natural light. Recessed lighting overhead can help a room feel loftier, and wall sconces provide illumination without occupying valuable floor space. When it comes to home decorating, bigger isn't always better and smaller doesn't have to mean cramped. With the right blend of furnishings, colors and accessories, it's possible to live large in any small space.






Boosting productivity in your home office (BPT) — Let's face it — not everyone has a home office that inspires productivity. But if you work from home at all — and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says 24 percent of people employed outside the home do at least some of their work at home — having a comfortable, organized and appealing home office can make your job easier. Home Business Magazine says there are around 38 million home-based businesses in the U.S., and 34.3 million to 36.6 million households with active home offices. That's a lot of home offices — and a lot of ugly desks, dim lighting and clutter, too. Many home offices are less the product of careful planning than something that evolves from a spare bedroom, bonus room or an extra corner in the basement. Even if your home office is more of an after-thought, it's possible to make some simple improvements that will enhance its appeal — and your productivity. Here are four improvement and design choices that can help make your home office a hub of good business:

Begin with the basics

Renovating any room should start with the simplest investment that also provides a big payoff: paint. Repainting is one of the cheapest, easiest ways to completely change the look of a room. A fresh coat of paint, no matter what color, imparts a

sense of freshness and energy to a room — just the kind of effect that can enhance your productivity. When choosing a color for your home office, keep in mind that the hue should serve as a backdrop, not a distraction. Red may be your favorite color, and one you love in your bedroom, but home workers often spend eight hours a day or more in their home offices. Will the color you choose hold up to that kind of intense togetherness?

your home office. If you opt for a fresh air skylight, it can also help enhance the air quality in your work space." Even if your office is on the ground floor, you may be able to add a skylight. A tubular skylights allow you to bring natural light to virtually anywhere in your home. Still not sure of the benefit in a home office setting? Add the latest solar powered fresh air skylight and an energy-efficient solar powered blind to your home office and the products, as well as the installation, will be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit as a green home improvement. That's good business! Visit to learn more about energy-efficient skylights.

Invest in storage

Clutter in your home can range from simply annoying to downright depressing. In your home office, it can spell disaster — in the form of lost paperwork, missing projects and even lost business. Plenty of storage and an organizational system that makes the most of it are essential for your home office. Whether you opt for open shelving, locking file cabinets, a desk with ample drawers or a combination of storage types, it's important to find solutions that work for you and fit your home office space.

Emphasize natural light

Of course you're aware of the importance of good lighting in an office setting, but did you know that ample natural lighting can boost your productivity? The mood-boosting effects of natural light are well documented, with

Sound it out

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many studies showing that office workers exposed to daylight throughout their work day are happier, healthier and more productive than those who function only under artificial light. In your home office, ample natural light from sources such

as a skylight can help reduce Seasonal Affective Disorder, eyestrain and stress — all ailments that stand in the way of productivity. "Adding a skylight to your home office can be a cost-effective way to ensure you get plenty of

natural light during office hours," says Ross Vandermark of VELUX America, makers of Energy Star-qualified skylights. "What's more, a properly installed, energy-efficient skylight can help you control heating, cooling and lighting costs in

Noise can be a huge distraction, whether you're on deadline for a major project or on a conference call with a new client. Simple soundproofing steps can help you reduce noise in your home office — without costing you a mint. Start with a good quality, thick carpet, which will help dampen sound. Next, add thick drapes and fabric surfaces such as an upholstered chair — fabrics help reduce the movement of sound waves. With more Americans working from home, creating an inviting, inspiring office space is more important than ever.

5 questions to ask your contractor before replacing windows (BPT) — With spring quickly approaching, it's a good time to begin thinking of home improvement projects that will look great, but also save energy. Window replacement is one project that will help increase the energy efficiency of your home and improve curb appeal. There are often telltale signs a home may be in need of new windows, including air leakage, difficulty operating, condensation between glass panes, or exterior paint peeling. Homeowners can check for signs of disrepair by visiting each window and testing operation, checking for air leaks and water collection. For homeowners planning to update their home with energy efficient windows, here are five important questions to ask their contractor before beginning a project. "Today's window options go beyond color and style. When meeting with a contractor, homeowners should plan key questions to ask," says Chris Pickering, vice president of marketing for Ply Gem Windows. "Installation methods, energy efficiency

and issues such as lead paint should be discussed with a contractor to make the most out of your investment for seasons to come."

What do I need to know about lead paint?

Due to the risk lead paint poses, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Program to help protect homeowners. This program requires contractors and personnel be trained to use lead-safe work practices. When meeting with a contractor, homeowners should ask for an EPA certificate. At least one certified contractor needs to be on the job site, with a valid certificate, if a home was built before 1978 and contains lead-based paint.

Can I expect energy savings with my new windows? The window industry measures the energy efficiency of windows using two methods, Ufactor or Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). U-factor, or ther-

mal transmission, measures how well a window prevents heat from escaping. SHGC, or "shading" factor, measures how well a window prevents sun glare and heat from entering the home. The lower the U-factor, the better the window prevents energy loss, and the lower the SHGC, the better shading properties it has. Look for windows that meet ENERGY STAR requirements in your climate region, available on Replacement windows with double or triple glazing are another consideration. Doubleor triple-glazed windows reduce the amount of energy escaping from the home, and help keep the home cool in summer months and warm in winter months.

Can I match the design of my windows to my house style? There are numerous window style options that complement the design of any home. Key elements to consider are operating style and grille pattern. Single or double hung operating styles are ideal for most homes, but case-

ment, awning or architectural shapes can provide visual interest, depending on the house style. Consider grille patterns to give plain glass character.

I don't want white or beige windows. What are some other color options? Today's options have grown to include a range of light and dark hues for window exteriors, as well as a variety of solid colors and wood grains to match the interior design. Homeowners now can choose from a variety of options to enhance curb appeal and existing architecture.

What installation method will you be using? Poor installation techniques can reduce the advantages of window replacement and may result in air or water leakage. Ask your contractor if they will be doing a "pocket replacement" or a "full-frame" installation. Using pocket replacement, the contractor will remove the operating sash, but leave the outer frame intact. Full-frame installation removes the entire window

Brandpoint photo

down to the rough opening. For both techniques, proper flashing, sealing and insulation help ensure the best performance. To close any gap between the window and frame, low-expanding window and door foam should be used.

Proactively developing a checklist of questions to ask your contractor before starting window replacement projects will help reduce stress and ensure you get the correct windows for your home that will last for seasons to come.

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College continues tradition of home building

GOISD students also take part as part of building trades class By RALPH ANSAMI

IRONWOOD TOWNSHIP — Every year Gogebic Community College students construct a specification home as part of the building and trades program. This year, it has been a little different set-up than for past homes, as designs for the spec home were submitted by the future occupants of the house, Blayne and Amanda Sprague, according to Dan Finco, an assistant to GCC building and trades instructor Ray Niemi Jr. The Spragues' home on Hannu Road in Ironwood Township is scheduled for completion by the second week in May. Not only are 15 college students working on the home, but 13 high school students are also participating through a program with the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District. In past years, the college has constructed a home and then sought bids on the completed structure, but this year the Spragues submitted their design

plans and a price was worked out. As of Monday, much of the inside work had been completed on the Spragues' new home and outside siding was a priority. Cabinets arrived on Monday. “It's good-sized house with an open concept and a high cathedral ceiling,” Finco said. The four bedroom, three bathroom ranch style house will have 3,000 square feet of finished space, according to Niemi. Niemi's father, a lifelong educator on the Gogebic Range, built numerous houses with students through the GCC program before retiring. The program started in 1974. This is the younger Niemi's 14th house. GCC offers a two-year degree in construction technology and a one-year building trades certificate. COLLEGE

page 11

Larry Holcombe/Daily Globe

GOGEBIC COMMUNITY College construction technology students Aaron Gurchinoff, of Iron River, left, and Alex Dietrich, of Bayfield, Wis., measure the floor of a hall way to prepare for the installation of tile at the college’s home building project in Ironwood Township Monday.


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GOGEBIC COMMUNITY College students, from left, Kyle Barnes, Alan Grant and Gary Sachman prepare to cut a piece of trim for a window in a bedroom of the college’s home building project in Ironwood Township Monday.

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Larry Holcombe/Daily Globe

A GOGEBIC Community Colllege Construction Technology Program trailer sits outside the college’s building project home off Hannu Road in Ironwood Township Monday. The students in the program usually build a specification home each year as part of their education, but this year they are building a made-to-order home for Blayne and Amanda Sprague. Larry Holcombe/ Daily Globe


GOGEBIC COMMUNITY College students, from left, Kyle Barnes and Gary Sachman (hidden) cut a piece of interior trim at the college’s home building project in Ironwood Township Monday.

From page 10

The construction technology program includes coursework and training designed to provide a wide variety of experience in the construction fields. Students participate in building of the foundation of the house, framing the stick built structure, electrical and mechanical work, and finishing the interior and exterior of the structure. Coursework includes methods of estimating, specifications and codes for residential construction, principles and guides for design and layout, and other knowledge related to building construction and the allied trades. Masonry, rough and finish carpentry, plumbing and electrical, sheet-rock and sheet-rock finishing, and mill-working the interior of the structure are some of the specific tasks. Students who finish the program are preapproved by the state to take the residential builders exam. Some students prepare to transfer to other institutions offering baccalaureate degrees in building construction or related fields at places like Northern Michigan University, Ferris State University and the University of Wisconsin-Stout. "Some of them switch their focus to construction management, vocational education or engineering," said Niemi. As in other years, Finco noted there will be a public open house when the Spragues' home is completed.

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Tips for knowing when it’s time to replace something

(BPT) — Owning a home means giving constant attention to the building products that go into protecting the structure of your house. While we'd like to believe items like our roof, siding and windows will last forever, that's not the case. Mark Clement, co-host of the national home improvement radio show MyFixitUpLife, offers a variety of tips for knowing when it's time to replace products on your home. "The first thing homeowners need to understand is that every element of a home's exterior, from the top of the roof down to the front entry door, will eventually need to be replaced," says Clement. "The key is to know when the time is right to invest in new products. This means an ongoing evaluation of your home's current products, researching new product options

and contacting professionals for support." Clement points out that replacing older products with newer, more energy efficient and longer-lasting products is a sound investment for homeowners. "We have a 100-year-old home and just replaced the original decaying wood door with a Therma-Tru fiberglass door and trimmed it out with long-lasting PVC millwork from Fypon," says Clement. "We also replaced older windows with ENERGY STAR qualified vinyl windows from Simonton Windows and added a new polymer slate roof from DaVinci Roofscapes. These are all man-made products that add more life to our house. Plus, we're saving more on our daily energy bills because of the incredible features of these products. "Another important aspect to

consider when it does become time to replace key products on the home's exterior is to look at upgrading and taking advantage of newer, more aesthetically pleasing products that are on the market. That's what we did with the high-performance, low-maintenance products we selected. Our product choices not only make our home more livable right now, but also more add value to the home and make it more 'sellable' when it comes time for us to put the house on the market."

Tips for evaluating your roof

1. Using either a ladder or binoculars from across the street, look for problem areas, such as missing or broken shingles, along with roofing tiles that may be "flapping" in the wind. 2. Check the sides of your roof. The southern exposure weathers significantly faster than the other sides of the roof, so make sure to carefully examine this area. Also, shallower pitches weather faster than steeper pitches. So again, if your roof has a shallow pitch — like a shed dormer — make certain you can clearly see it to get a true indication of the condition of your roof.

Tips for assessing your windows

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1. Evaluate the functionality of your current windows. If you have condensation between glass panes, the windows are hard to open or close, your energy bills are soaring, or if there are drafts coming in around the window units, then it's time to seriously consider replacement windows. 2. Look at the frames of your windows. If you spend too much

Brandpoint photo

time scraping paint and repainting wood frames, consider an investment in vinyl-framed, lowmaintenance windows.

Tips for knowing when to replace a front door

1. If you can see light around your main entry door from the inside, the door is hard to close or lock, or the door itself is warped, it's time to consider a new door. 2. Think about the weather conditions your home's door faces along with your energy bills. If either run to the extreme, consider replacing your entry door with


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Tips for evaluating trim features of the home

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From page 2 a cool, dark basement and watered once a month." The plant's blooms are large, trumpet-shaped flowers that hang open side down.


Adding a garden can offer many health benefits, including having fresh produce more readily available, offering an opportunity for more physical activity and promoting mental health through relaxation, satisfaction and better nutrition. Many vegetables and fruits flourish locally, including various tomato and pepper plants. Adams recommends new gardeners start small. "Don't take on too much at a time and get overwhelmed," she said. Before putting in a vegetable garden, make sure the area gets full sun and do a soil test. "A new gardener told me he added

lime to his soil," Adams said. "I asked why, and he said 'Oh, there are pine trees around.' A soil test will show if you really need that lime and how much to add to your garden. Otherwise you are just guessing and wasting money." The University of WisconsinExtension has a fact sheet on soil testing available for download at For gardeners without a lot of space, vegetables can be grown in pots or containers, or even two stacked five-gallon buckets. These plants need a bit more attention than garden plants, however. "Plants in pots need more water and fertilizer than plants in the ground," Adams said. While inorganic fertilizer brands all offer similar performance, Adams prefers organic fertilizers. "Plants are healthier with organic fertilizers and mulches," she said. "Organic fertilizers, like manures, feed your

plants and the soil." Herb gardens are also a useful yard addition, offering aesthetic and cooking benefits. They flourish with good soil and lots of sunshine. Gardening and growing around the home can be especially rewarding, according to Adams. "It is rewarding to grow such great vegetables and be able to preserve them for future use and to share them with others," she said. "I marvel at all the life in our gardens: the koi in our pond, the butterflies, moths, birds, hummingbirds and dragonflies, flitting around from flower to flower." Being a Master Gardener has its perks, too: "I enjoy being able to share my knowledge with others and to be gardening with my MG friends at the Ironwood Pocket Park."


Trees are a good way to add shaded areas and privacy to a yard. Some trees bear fruit, another way to have more fresh produce available at home. Many




species native to the area flourish locally, according to the Ottawa National Forest's J.W. Tuomey Nursery website. The nursery, located near Watersmeet, grows many native trees and plants from seeds for clients. Tree species that grow well locally include conifers, white pine, red pine, jack pine, hemlock, black and white spruce and tamarack; and hardwoods, northern red oak, butternut, mountain ash, yellow birch, staghorn sumac, American plum, crabapple, yellow poplar and more.

‘Start small’

Growing flowers, vegetables and other plants can add beauty to outdoor spaces at home and benefit many aspects of life. With the wide variety of growing options available, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, but focusing your efforts and taking projects one at a time can help. "Remember, start small," Adams said. "Gardening is supposed to be fun and have a calming effect."

Submitted photo

PERENNIAL HERBS grow in a small, bricked-in garden in Master Gardener Lynn Adams' yard in Ironwood.

Submitted photo

A GARDEN full of perennials grows in Master Gardener Lynn Adams' yard in Ironwood. Perennials all bloom at different times, so Adams recommends a mix of blooming times to ensure frequent flowers all season long.

Add rich imagery to your environment with...

Submitted photo

CATMINT AND irises, both perennial flowers, grow in Master Gardener Lynn Adams' yard in Ironwood. The plants, which return for many growing seasons, add beautiful blooms and a touch of color to yards. Seed s Packet Are In!!

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2013 Spring Home Improvement  
2013 Spring Home Improvement  

Home Improvement tips for this spring.