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Fall Home Improvement
Seven inexpensive ways to update your home now 2-The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012
Oftentimes, buying a home opens up a bottomless pit of opportunities for projects and improvements. While some homeowners engage in different repairs and ﬁx-ups out of necessity, many others like to freshen-up their spaces out of personal preference instead of need. But even the most well-intentioned projects can be waylaid if budgets are tight. What many homeowners may not realize is that there are many ways to make updates and changes to a home that do not require a major overhaul or a large price tag. The following are seven projects that won’t break the bank. 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. 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 r o o m ’s ambie n c e . 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 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, y o u 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.
The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012-3
Simple ways to give your bathroom a new Look 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. That makes a bathroom remodel one of the more expensive home improvement projects a homeowner can undertake. 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 shower head 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 ﬂat screen 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 bath-
room’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 lowﬂow, 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.
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4-The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012
Building a storage shed We’re here for Many 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 do-ityourself project that saves you money and frees up space in your home.
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The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012-5
Will that renovation increase your property taxes? If 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.
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6-The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012
How to Winterize your lawn Every 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 to overwinter 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 for-
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mula designed for winterizing that will feed the lawn all winter long. • Edge the garden beds. Take advantage of the cooler weather and slowgrowing grass to re-edge 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.
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The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012-7
How to Save on home improvement projects With 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. 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. 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 post-project 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
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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. 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-The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012
Maximize space in your small bathroom Renovating bathrooms is commonly at the top of home improvement to-do 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 halfbath 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
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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.
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• 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.
• 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.
• 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 walkin 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
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• 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 spacesaving and well-designed room homeowners desire.
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Reducing the amount of hot water you use means saving money on both the water meter and on your electric bill. A bathtub full of hot water every day will take a big bite out of your energy budget these days, whereas a quick shower will help you keep costs down. Low-flow showerheads allow you to conserve both water and energy. They reduce consumption by 60 to 70 percent and help consumers save about 15 percent on water heating costs. These showerheads deliver water with just as much force as standard showerheads while using only between 1 and 2.5 gallons per minute. Low-flow shower heads equipped with shut-off button valves allow you to turn off the water while soaping up and then turn it back on again to rinse, saving you the trouble of readjusting the water temperature. There are also shower mixers that regulate water temperatures more quickly so water doesn’t drain away uselessly while you adjust the tap to your desired temperature. Flow restrictors can be installed between the showerhead and the shower arm. These are very efficient in reducing water flow, which in turn reduces consumption. Some models come with adjustable jets and are equipped with control valves, which allow non-aerated jets to reduce heat loss. Other flow restrictors inadvertently reduce water pressure, so be sure to do your research before buying one. For taps equipped with pressure reducers, aerators can be installed so that air is mixed into the water stream for consistent shower pressure.
The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012-9
Redecorate without spending a fortune The best way to give your home a facelift without spending a fortune is to use materials that you already have on hand. With a bit of time and effort you can restore furniture and freshen up your home very inexpensively. If your old furniture is made of solid wood, for example, it can easily be refurbished and enjoyed for years to come. Just strip it down or paint it a fashionable color. You could also remove or add decorative features and change any handles or knobs for modern ones. Next, find out when and where auctions will be held in your area. These estate sales and close-outs are one of the cheapest ways to furnish a home. If you’re a real bargain hunter, choose defective items and fix them up: chairs with damaged caning, drapes with frayed edges, or repainted furniture. Antique dealers may turn up their noses be-
cause of the work involved in restoring such things, but if you’re patient and savvy, you can acquire the know-how to do this kind of repair work. If you’d like to create a warm, cozy atmosphere in your living room, a bioethanol fireplace could be an economical as well as an ecological solution. This type of fireplace is easy to install, does not require a chimney, uses renewable energy, and quickly heats a room. It is also smokeless, scentless, and there are no ashes to clean up. This sort of fireplace does require certification, however, and can only be installed in fairly large, well ventilated rooms. Last but not least, LED lights are the latest trend in penny-pinch decorating, as they consume very little energy. They are available in every possible size and shape to create a welcoming and cozy atmosphere in your home.
10-The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012
Does time of year affect rooﬁng jobs? There 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. On average, 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-ofmouth appraisals from friends and family members can help make choosing a roofer an easier decision.
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The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012-11
Insects that can harm your home Take control of mold growth Homeowners looking to prevent their homes from becoming a meal or nesting site for potentially harmful insects may know to keep watch for termites during the year. But termites aren’t the only insects that can damage a home. There are a few other pests that can bore through the wood of homes and structures, potentially causing considerable damage. People can familiarize themselves with these other wood-boring bugs and recognize the signs of infestation. • Carpenter ants: These insects get their name because they prefer to nest above ground in wooden structures. Unlike their smaller ant cousins, who make intricate colony systems underground, larger carpenter ants prefer tree stumps, lumber, subfloors, or even roofs. They don’t use the wood for food, and can establish residence in just about any solid housing material, including rigid foam insulation.
• Powderpost beetles: Though termites might have the most name recognition, powderpost beetles are potentially more destructive to seasoned wood. Wood boring powderpost beetles spend most of their lives as larvae (woodworms) in wood, where they tunnel in search of starch and other nutrients they need. They can cause all sorts of structural issues if they damage beams and other major components to homes. • Carpenter bees: These large bees resemble bumblebees, except they have a shiny black abdomen instead of a furry one. Carpenter bees bore symmetrical holes in exposed wood, where they lay eggs and in which larvae grow. Although the bees’ holes are superficial and rarely cause much damage, birds in search of larvae for food, such as woodpeckers, may peck at wood containing the larvae and cause more significant damage.
Moisture buildup can increase the probability of mold growth. For homeowners, mold growth can lead to poor indoor air quality and worse. Using a modern insulation material, such as spray foam insulation, in crawl spaces helps reduce airborne irritants and promotes better indoor air quality. Properly insulated crawl spaces control moisture and air seal and save on energy bills while improving occupant comfort. The United States Department of Energy suggests homeowners properly insulate the crawl space within their homes to protect from two main prob-
lems. Firstly, by maintaining an acceptable temperature within the crawl space during winter, homeowners can avoid cold, uncomfortable floors above. Secondly, removing excess humidity in crawl spaces during the warmer summer months can decrease the chances of mold growth or buckling h a r d w o o d floors above. Spray foam insulation can help reduce the likelihood of moisture gathering within crawl spaces. Left uninsulated, homeowners run the risk of compromising their home’s durability and comfort not to mention possible unexpected repair costs.
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12-The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012
Storage space in short supply? Countertops, tables, islands... To optimize the storage space you have in your home, start by deciding what you want to store and where. Solutions differ, depending on whether you want to store your clothes on hangers or folded, whether you need a place to put away sports equipment or books, or whatever it may be that gets in the way of your daily movements around the house. Storage options can include drawers, extra shelves, or cabinets, walk-in closets with folding or sliding doors, and either permanent or moveable installations. Cabinets can be integrated into furniture, free-standing stairs can be incorporated under the steps, and stacked cabinets, mini-cabinets, and made-to-measure cabinets can be adapted to just about any configuration. Modular magnetic storage systems allow the placement of shelves to be modified quickly and easily, depending on your needs. Practical and aesthetic, these shelves are held in place by magnets and are interchangeable in many different ways: they can be straight or leaning, jointed or separate, staggered or tightfitting. Storage units with drawers can be used to separate rooms, create a platform for a bed or sofa, or build a series of steps. Cabinets, closets, drawers, and shelves can be installed not only in corridors, entrance halls, bedrooms, and under stairs, but also in kitchens and bathrooms. What’s more, technical innovations and decorative elements added to the doors of some models allow them to be installed in living rooms and offices. In children’s bedrooms, loft beds can provide storage with ladders that double as bookshelves and bases that can be used as closets. In the kitchen, sliding doors covered in wood, stainless steel, or glass can hide an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling storage.
Kitchens are expanding, breaking down partitions and are becoming multifunctional. Of course, they’re still used for cooking, but now people gather there to enjoy meals, have long discussions, watch television or work. Therefore, it’s a room that must be able to balance its practical and aesthetic characteristics. The layout of a kitchen begs the question: How should various surfaces be distributed? Do you need working surfaces but also a table for quick meals? You can better plan the layout of the room by first evaluating the needs that correspond to different activities. Countertops provide the basic requirements for a working surface. The area for food preparation is typically situated in the vicinity of the cooking area, usually on both
sides, but with a minimum safety clearance of 30 cm. The food preparation area could also be found opposite the cooking surface and include the sink. It’s important to have a maximum amount of countertop between the two. If you don’t have a large enough working area you could always plan to install an island. This can be used for food preparation. Integrating a sink will help clear the surrounding countertops. Why not install a dishwasher there as well? On the other hand, if you absolutely need an eating area, a table with a few chairs has the advantage of being moveable when required. Alternatively, a mobile island, accompanied by stools, can be installed for greater versatility and can serve as a work area as well as an eating area.
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The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012-13
Space heaters should be used with caution Space heaters may seem like an excellent way to provide supplemental heat on chilly days. However, research points out that these units tend to be dangerous. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, around one-third of fires in the home can be attributed to space heaters. They also account for three-quarters of fire-related deaths in U.S. homes. One of the biggest risk factors with space heaters is their tendency to get hot on the surface. When a hot space heater comes in contact with surrounding combustible materials, such as draperies or bed linens, the risk for a serious fire will only increase. Space heaters should come with instructions for proper use and placement, including several feet from walls and other combustibles. However, in crowded living situations or homes with small children and pets, it is easy for space heaters to be inadvertently moved or knocked over. If a space heater is needed in a home, select a type that will be the safest option. • Consider an electric model that
doesn’t require the replacement of fuel, such as kerosene. • Choose a radiator type that doesn’t feature any external heating coils. • Look for models with a tip-over safety shut off. There are others that will automatically shut off if the unit senses too much heat from a close-by object. • Select sturdy models that aren’t prone to tip over, meaning look for short, stout heaters, rather than tall, skinny ones. • The best type of space heaters have the heating element deep inside of the machine and only emit hot air. • For those with an old-fashioned heater that features heating coils directly behind a mesh screen, discard of this unsafe appliance promptly. • A space heater should be the only major appliance on one circuit to avoid an electrical overload and fire. • Do not use extension cords with a space heater, as the cord tends to overheat quickly. • Turn off the space heater when a room is unattended. These heaters must be used under supervision. Leaving them unmoni-
tored in a room is a recipe for trouble. • Use space heaters as a last resort.
Heavy blankets and clothing can chase away the chill.
When the weather gets cold, many homeowners turn to supplemental heating sources, such as space heaters. While these units can be effective, they often contribute to house fires and other dangers.
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14-The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012
Vinyl siding still a consumer favorite
Vinyl siding is trusted by homeowners looking to add aesthetic appeal to their home’s exterior. Though vinyl siding may seem to be a cut-and-dry type of product, the vast array of vinyl siding colors and styles has created certain trends among consumers. Made chiefly from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, vinyl siding is the most commonly installed exterior cladding for residential construction in the United States and Canada, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute. The history of vinyl siding can be traced to Ohio, where it was introduced to the exterior cladding market in the late 1950s by a private company. The process of mixing colors was done by hand, and the product was very inconsistent. New innovations in siding manufacture during the next few decades helped solidify vinyl siding’s place among cladding materials like shake, wood and aluminum. Vinyl siding comes in several different types. Here are the key variations. • Seamless vinyl siding: In the past, siding was created in specific lengths, requiring siding panels to overlap at points, often creating an unpleasant pattern. These points provided spots for insects, wind and moisture to infiltrate, leading to a weaker product. Today there are vinyl siding products that have removed the seams, creating a more visually appealing and durable product. • Solid core vinyl siding: Even the best-made vinyl siding had a flaw: it was not rigid and generally didn’t lie flat against the surface of a home. Solid core vinyl siding alleviates that problem by having a solid backing on which the vinyl panels are attached. The core is then attached to the home. These products also boast a higher-than-average insulation rating because the foam core interlocks during insulation. This makes a solid barrier around the home. • Vinyl shake siding: Vinyl shake siding has been designed and colored to look just like real cedar shakes, but without the maintenance, such as powerwashing or staining, associated with a wood product. Vinyl shake siding offers the same benefits of other types of vinyl siding, but tends to look like it is an expensive cladding material. • Vinyl log siding: Log cabins may seem like an adventure. However, being surrounded by wood can have its disadvantages, most notably maintenance issues surrounding wood. Vinyl siding manufacturers have created vinyl log products molded directly from real lumber, providing a look that mimics real wood, like that used for a log cabin. As vinyl siding continues to be a favorite among homeowners, certain trends emerge each year. While rich-colored siding was a popular trend just last year, homeowners engaging in siding renovation products are now turning more to warm, earthy colors. Expect to see more gold, clay, and warm red shades with trim colors only one or two shades off, for a monochromatic effect. Another trend involves a continued interest in renewable materials or siding comprised of some post-recycled consumer content. Energy conservation is also on the minds of consumers, and some areas of the country have modified building codes to require continuous insulation of home exteriors to prevent heat and cooling losses more effectively. As a result, more customers may opt for solid core vinyl siding to meet demands for home insulation. For homeowners who prefer a one-of-a-kind look to their homes, mix-and-match siding trends have developed. Mixing and matching siding styles can create instant curb appeal and an interesting backdrop for outdoor gardens and patios. Stone entryways mixed with vinyl siding as well as a mixing of traditional horizontal siding with vinyl shake or board-and-batten are also considerations.
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The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012-15
Choose the best
Today’s homeowners are more concerned about their living environments than ever before. They also have more resources to create the living conditions that they desire. Using healthy construction materials is one way to improve a home’s air quality. A good example of this is the use of spruce for building walls. This type of wood grows quickly, making it an excellent sustainable resource. It also has the lowest chemical composition of all the softwoods. Drywall reinforced with fibers produces very little dust and releases a minimum of volatile chemical substances during installation. The use of low density PVC foam tape and low emission draught-proofing will ensure air tightness between sheets of plasterboard. These two products will eliminate draughts and are the most suc-
cessful in keeping pollutants and humidity out of the home. They also reduce heat loss by up to 75 percent. For maximum adaptability and accessibility, choose floor coverings made of wood or tiles. Use rugs rather than fitted carpets. Hardwood parquetry and nowax vinyl tiles are floor coverings that have a permanent finish and require very little care. High efficiency forced air furnaces, heat pumps, and integrated combination heat and hot water systems ensure the precise and economical control of air and water temperatures in modern homes. Heat recovery ventilators help recuperate 70 percent of heat from stale air, improve the quality of room temperature air, lower heating costs, and ensure a continuous influx of fresh air into the home.
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16-The Harrison Press, October 17, 2012; The Dearborn County Register, Rising Sun Recorder & Ohio County News, October 18, 2012
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