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Spring Home Improvement

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Times - Delivering Your Community

Clean it up: What’s trending for kitchens in 2018 Homeowners aim to open up counter space Pat Setter The San Diego Union-Tribune (TNS) The biggest trend in kitchen remodels is tidiness, according to Houzz’s survey of more than 1,700 homeowners who use the site nationwide and are either planning a remodel, are in the middle of one or have just completed an update. The 2018 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study found that for 75 percent of the homeowners, decluttering their counters was the No. 1 priority. That was followed by 66 percent who wanted to put things away and 49 percent who focused on recycling. For their new kitchens, homeowners wanted pullout waste bins, utensil and dish organizers, and wine bars. Even microwaves are getting put away, said Tara Ryan, president and CEO of the design firm Ryan Young Interiors. The appliances are being built into lower cabinets with a pullout drawer design. The trend in tidiness translates into making storage a priority in today’s kitchen function. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed chose storage as the No. 1 function concern, followed by space planning (38 percent), entertaining (32 percent) and cleanliness (32 percent). For additional storage and countertop space, 39 percent of homeowners are adding islands. Islands have become an essential

material as granite continues to decline in popularity. Counters are the most common major upgrade and the most common “splurged on” item, according to the survey. And when it comes to technology in the kitchen, fewer homeowners are installing televisions, while more are adding voiceactivated home assistants and smart appliances that are voicecontrolled or wirelessly activated. “Chef ’s nikki klugh kitchens are in Designer demand, and we see no end Dreamstime | TNS in sight to this trend. Buyers want choices to customize their space with appliances, gray tones for walls, tiles countertops, backsplashes, and color palette-driven lighting, and recycle stations elements. under cabinets,” said Vanessa “However, gray tones will be Linn, vice president of sales replaced with a stronger, darker and marketing, Shea Homes San gray, going towards black. You Diego. will see black stainless steel in For most homeowners taking coming months as well as black the Houzz survey, renovating the with gold-accented plumbing kitchen is a major undertaking: fixtures. On the more expressive 86 percent hired professional side, be on the lookout for help, and the cost for a painted cabinets in all colors — 200-square-foot or larger kitchen anything from a more stately averaged $42,000. (A major navy blue to a bright, modern remodel of a smaller kitchen orange.” was about $25,800.) Homeowners For countertops, engineered in San Francisco spent the most, quartz has become the favorite for an average of $70,000.

‘The kitchen trends I’m seeing in 2018 are a return to wood cabinetry.’

Tidyness is the biggest trend in kitchen remodels. part of the kitchen, which might be one reason why homeowners now prefer L-shaped kitchens to U-shaped ones. (Galley and single-wall kitchens are also gaining ground.) Oversized light fixtures above the island to create a focal point are becoming an increasingly popular design trend, Ryan said. According to the Houzz survey, homeowners prefer transitional or contemporary styles and Shaker cabinets for their kitchen, although European cabinets with sleeker finishes are trending, Ryan said.

And white continues to rule for backsplashes, countertops and wall finishes, according to the study. “The kitchen trends I’m seeing in 2018 are a return to wood cabinetry. I see them in exotic woods with intricate and interesting grain patterns to warmer deeper wood stains over muted, uniformed grain patterns,” said Nikki Klugh, principal designer of the Nikki Klugh Design Group. “You will still see white cabinetry, as it works well with stainless appliances and the current

What not to miss in a final house walk-through Pat Setter San Diego Union-Tribune (TNS)

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Spring is an ideal time to have HVAC systems inspected and repaired, if necessary.

Prepare HVAC systems for warmer days ahead Metro Creative Services The arrival of a new season can be an exciting time. Homeowners may have renewed vigor to start home renovation projects or even tackle some cleaning and organization tasks. Before the weather starts to warm up too much, homeowners may want to evaluate their home cooling needs and ensure that all equipment is in good working order. Spring air conditioning inspections and tuneups are essential steps in system performance. Homeowners should not take for granted that a system that performed optimally last year will do so this year when temperatures climb. Various factors, including weather damage, dust and grime, mechanical wear and tear, and even rodent or insect infestations, can compromise HVAC systems. Since HVAC systems have so many moving parts, a thorough inspection of such systems can save headaches and money down the road. According to Heating

Ontario, the extreme weather conditions that come along with fall and winter can be especially taxing on homes and the systems that keep them comfortable. During a spring visit, an HVAC technician will perform maintenance on the air conditioner and make sure it is ready for the heat of summertime. This maintenance may include cleaning the unit, checking controls, calibrating the thermostat, lubricating moving parts, checking refrigerant levels, tightening electrical connections, and clearing any clogs. Homeowners are urged to also change the filter at the start of the cooling season. Correcting any issues in the HVAC system well in advance of the arrival of warm weather can help ensure comfort when air conditioning is needed. As an added advantage, homeowners should install programmable thermostats if they do not already have them to keep cooling as costand energy-efficient as possible.

It’s an exciting moment, walking into your brandnew home after it’s finally completed. But don’t let the excitement distract you from the importance of this final walk-through with the builder a few days before closing on a home. This is your chance to inspect the home, learn about the mechanics and systems, and note any areas of concern or defect. The day of your walkthrough inspection, arrive on time and in comfortable shoes — and make sure your calendar is cleared so you are free of distractions and obligations during your appointment. Be sure to bring a notebook to make a checklist, and have your smartphone handy to take photos of the items that need to be repaired, as you and your builder representative create the “punch list” of items that need attention. Point out anything you find that needs to be addressed, because after you move in you won’t be able to prove that that scratch on the kitchen countertop wasn’t caused during the movein. Once you have a list of repairs, your builder representative (usually a customer service professional) will go over the list and have you approve it, making sure that all your items of concern are noted. Then he or she will go about alerting the correct trade contractor to come back in and correct the work. If that’s after you have moved in, you will be contacted with the day and time the work will be attended to. Once the repairs or corrections are completed, you will need to sign off that the work was done satisfactorily. Here are some things to look for during your walk-through: u Examine all surfaces, including cabinets, counters, fixtures, floors, windows, ceilings, and

Add Character To Your Home

walls, inside and out. Paint touchups are among the most frequently noted items. u Turn all the faucets on and off and flush the toilets to inspect for leaks. u Open and close windows and doors to make sure they lock and seal properly. u Check to see whether all appliances operate, that they are the correct model and that the appliance handbook is available. u Don’t forget to inspect the entire property. Make sure the ground slopes away from the home, so as to avoid foundation problems and flooding. If the landscaping is already in place, look for dead plants


and check for areas where water could pool. The inspection, which can last an hour or two, is also your chance to ask questions about how things work. Be sure to ask where the shut-off valves are for gas, electricity and water in case of an emergency. Although your new home comes with a

5 ways to get acquainted with a new neighborhood Whether a move is across county lines or out of state, it can take some time to acclimate to a new neighborhood. These tips can help anyone get acquainted with their new surroundings and make friends in the process. 1. Host a housewarming party. Get to know immediate neighbors by hosting a party. After some unpacking is done, host a simple get-together for people who live nearby. Ask if neighbors can help out by bringing chairs. Offer light refreshments and some type of activities for children. 2. Walk and drive around. Scout out the area by driving around and making note of shopping centers, parks and places of interest. Get out of the car and walk around on foot, which makes it easier to take everything in. 3. Check out community blotters. Community events may be posted in print and distributed through a local newspaper and also on municipal websites. Find out where the locals go on weekends or during the week. 4. Become active in the community. Find a volunteer organization or join a local house of worship. Check with the local chamber of commerce for ways to get involved or clubs to join. 5. Dine out once a week. If budget allows, try a new neighborhood eating establishment each week to get a lay of the land. You’ll identify hot spots and hidden gems and will also be able to mingle with the community. An app such as Open Table can help you find places to eat nearby. — Metro Creative Services

of instruction and warranty manuals, it’s helpful having someone demonstrate the appliances, the heating and air conditioning and the smart-home features that come with many new houses. During this time, the builder’s representative will also go over the homeowner’s maintenance responsibilities, which are often required to keep warranties in place. Often, builders will schedule a follow-up inspection soon after you’ve moved in and another toward the end of your first year in the home, which marks the end of the warranty for workmanship and material. Small problems, such as a popped nail in the drywall, often arise as the home settles. During this first walkthrough, ask lots of questions. You may choose to have a home inspector professional perform their own inspection of the property. If so, you will need to schedule it with the builder ahead of time before your walk-through. Then, bring along your inspection report to discuss anything of note. By being diligent upfront, you can ensure that you will be able to enjoy your new home for years to come.

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Social media contacts help slash costs of yard makeover Friends, groups lead to free acquisition of many plants, tools Chris Ross San Diego Union-Tribune (TNS) Anyone who wants to accomplish a waterwise yard renovation on a small budget should take a lesson from Happy Aston. When her family purchased a San Diego home in 2015, Aston knew she’d need to make the front yard makeover a priority. The yard was filled with dying grass, weeds, yellow nutsedge and an ornamental pear tree. Friends and the family’s real estate agent told her there were rebates available for removing turf and planting a lowwater-use landscape. “I am an avid gardener and wanted to replace the ugly, dead (water-thirsty) grass with water-wise plants that were edible, provided some shade options for the house, and had a mix of color and texture,” Aston said via email. And she did it all for around $2,500. What’s her secret? Social media. “We have about $4,000 worth of plants and paid about $300 for them, thanks to a little planning and a lot of generous neighbors,” Aston said. “I got 90 percent of my plants — and pots to root them in — for free through social media and online San Diego gardening groups. We are paying that forward now.” Making a plan: Aston says she didn’t want a “desert-y” look, because that isn’t her style, plus she has young children, “so sharp, pokey plants aren’t a good choice for us.” She created the new design herself, after attending a Sustainable Landscapes Program workshop on turf removal and water collection, sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority. She also drew inspiration from attractive yards in her neighborhood and at The Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College. The details: She looked for free succulent clippings on social media sites such as Nextdoor, Buy Nothing and the San Diego Gardener Group on Facebook, then created a Pinterest board to organize the infomation about the plants she wanted to use. Aston told friends about the project and they offered clippings and connected her with other people who also had succulents to share. “In all, I spent about six months casually gathering our plants and leaving them in pots in our side yard,” she said. Aston said she got stones for the landscape for free through the Nextdoor app, and

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An organized and efficient laundry room setup can make washing and drying clothes easier.

Considerations when you renovate a laundry room Metro Creative Services

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Social media helped one San Diego home buyer radically revamp her yard at a reasonable price.

To learn more Learn about landscape rebates available through the Sustainable Landscapes Incentive Program online at An overview of the WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program is at

estimates the savings on those at $1,500. She discovered she could also get mulch for free through, a service that connects homeowners who want mulch with arborists who are trying to keep green waste out of landfills. The original ornamental pear tree is part of the new landscape design, along with scores of new water-wise plants. Included are a Kadota fig tree and an Eversweet pomegranate tree, several varieties of kalanchoe (common names Napoleon’s hat, panda plant, flapjack), aeonium (pinwheel plant, kiwi aeonium, whistlepipe variegated, “Zwartkop”) euphorbia (Tiny Tim, silver spurge) and aloe (aloe barbadensis, blue elf, aloe brevifolia), Leonotis leonurus (lion’s tail), Agave attenuata and kangaroo paw.


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Costs: She estimates the cost of the makeover at slightly more than $2,500. That included $800 in labor to remove the turf, dig swales, place rocks, install drip irrigation and spread soil and mulch. The balance was spent on materials such as soil, mulch, drip irrigation emitters and tubing, as well as some plants. Through the Sustainable Landscapes Incentive Program of the San Diego County Water Authority, she received a rebate of nearly $1,700. Water saved: Aston hasn’t seen a big change in her water bill, because she wasn’t watering the front lawn before the renovation. Now, she runs

drip irrigation a few times a week in summer and not at all in winter. Lessons learned: “Social media can be very useful for learning about (and getting) water-wise plants,” said Aston. She suggests joining these groups: San Diego Gardener on Facebook ( groups/SDGardener), Pinterest ( happyaston/garden), your local Buy Nothing group (, and Nextdoor (nextdoor. com). “Our new yard is proof that xeriscaping can be beautiful, environmentally responsible AND delicious — and can be done very inexpensively,” said Aston. She is “paying it forward” now by sharing her own plant clippings with friends, neighbors and even parents at her children’s school, as well as people she meets on the various gardening social media sites.

To former apartment dwellers or those who have never enjoyed the benefit of a dedicated laundry area, even the smallest washer and dryer space can seem like a luxury. The benefits of dedicated laundry rooms abound. However, disorganized laundry rooms can nullify such benefits. Depending on the needs and preferences of each homeowner, laundry room designs can be customized for convenience. Employ vertical space. Floor space may be at a premium in a laundry room, especially for those who want to devote as much space as possible to bulk-size washer and dryer units. Therefore, utilizing wall space is key. Use shelving, wire racks, hooks, and other organizational tools to store items on the wall. Shelves can be tucked into just about any space, and there are different options that can fit into corners or shallow areas. These are a great option for keeping detergent or other laundry essentials nearby. Clean designs reduce clutter. Simple, clean designs can be an asset in a laundry room. If budget and space permits, cabinetry built into the design will help keep items out of sight in the laundry room. Cabinets hung directly above the appliances can store detergent, bleach and fabric softener. Use cabinets elsewhere in the room as catch-alls for cleaning supplies used in various other rooms around the house. Incorporate a sink in

the design. Some older laundry room setups have a slop sink to drain discharged water from the washing machine. However, newer homes may have plumbing installed directly through the floor or walls. It is still a worthwhile idea to have a sink in the laundry room for rinsing out stains, handwashing items and having a go-to sink for messier cleanup. Utilize a tension rod. A rod installed between two cabinets or across a narrow width of space in the laundry room is a handy spot to hang shirts or pants to prevent wrinkling. Repurposing a ladder and suspending it from the ceiling also creates a spot to hang clothes. Consider laundry room flooring. It’s important to select flooring materials that will not be damaged by contact with moisture or spills. Vinyl, tile and some composite products often make good laundry room floor materials. Resilient flooring that mimics the look of hardwood may add a classy touch, and give the appearance of wood without having to worry about damage. To alleviate fatigue while spending long moments in the laundry room, invest in a memory foam mat that can be placed underfoot. Keep lighting in mind. Lighting can be important in the laundry room. Rely on task lighting, undercabinet strip lighting and overhead lights as needed for efficiency. Laundry room design can maximize the space available and make it more convenient to launder and sort clothes.

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Tips for decorating your digs on a dime New look can re-energize your living space Lori Stacy Kansas City Star (TNS)

as faux succulents, fiddle leaf fig trees or olive trees.” Parker and LePori also When Kansas City, Mo., suggest changing out pillows resident Amy Haney walked into and lighting, as well as her newly redecorated family adding curtain panels — even room, she was awed by what inexpensive ones from places a big difference a few design like Ikea — to your rooms. “We changes could make. always say that little things like “It made me love our house putting up simple curtain panels again,” says Haney, who called can have a big impact,” says on local decorator Kristi LePori. Margiotta to transform the main LePori and Parker also room in the family’s 8-year-old understand the importance of home. Margiotta breathed new paint in enhancing a room and life into the Old World-style room suggest that “when in doubt, by adding a fresh coat of paint paint it white.” along with new furnishings, A few other tips the decorating lighting, pillows and window duo recommend: using stacks coverings. of books on coffee tables, end Although the impact was big, tables and bookshelves; adding the price tag was not: Margiotta natural elements like a jute rug stuck to an agreed-upon budget or wooden bowls; and replacing and employed some decorator builder-grade light fixtures with tricks-of-the-trade to redo the more style- and taste-specific room without wreaking havoc on lighting. the Haneys’ budget. Today, it doesn’t have to cost a Avoid costly mistakes fortune to refresh your home’s Surprisingly, employing the decor. No matter what your services of an interior decorator budget is, you can start the year or designer can also help you off right with an affordable save money by helping you home refresh whether you opt avoid costly mistakes such as for an interior decorator or go it purchasing furniture that isn’t alone utilizing these decorating- right for your home or painting a on-a-dime tips. room the wrong color. “I love to hunt for bargains for “I charge $75 for a paint my clients, and I’m not afraid to consult and that’s usually drive all over the state,” admits money well spent. I’ve worked Margiotta, “I also shop all of the with clients that have had to Home Goods within a 50-mile paint rooms twice because they radius; that is my favorite place selected the wrong color,” says to find accessories.” Margiotta.

The three Ps of home decorating

Keller-based interior designer Bryana Guy, whose firm Inside in Mind works with both retail and commercial clients, strongly In addition to adding affordable accessories, Margiotta recommends using an interior stresses what she calls the Three designer to purchase big ticket items such as sofas. Ps of home decorating: “Paint, “You get a lot more quality pillows and plants are huge purchasing through a designer,” when updating a room,” she she says, and a designer can help says. you navigate the many choices Jordin LePori and Jennifer in colors, styles and fabrics that Parker of Grapevine-based Interior Styling, who’ve put their are available. Plus, you also get a better price, since designers can touch on many homes in the offer around 15 percent off what Keller area, concur that plants a retailer might sell a product can play an important role in for. a room’s look and suggest that their clients do a plant overhaul. e-design “All that silk greenery on top of your cabinets?” says Parker. Guy suggests that homeowners “You have to tear it down and who want the services of a add more modern foliage such professional designer but are

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It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to refresh your home’s decor. No matter what your budget is, you can start the year off right with an affordable home refresh whether you opt for an interior decorator or go it alone utilizing these decorating-on-a-dime tips. concerned about costs opt for “e-design,” in which the designer does much of the work virtually, sometimes even getting a virtual tour of the space instead of meeting face to face. As an interior designer, Guy is trained not only to help with decor choices but also to help clients work with home construction projects as well, such as remodeling a kitchen or opening up a space by removing walls. She stresses that this is another area that can quickly get costly if done incorrectly. “When doing a large renovation, the best way to save money is by hiring the correct professionals to help you,” says Guy. “Remember that this is an investment not only in the value of your home but also your quality of life.”

Create harmony Quality of life and overall

well-being are also aspects of a home’s design that feng shui practitioners focus on. Beata Kulitskaya of Frisco, Texasbased Double Happiness Studios says her business can help clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area improve their finances, careers, relationships and health through feng shui, an ancient Chinese practice that focuses on creating harmonious environments for living and work. “The new year is a good time to bring in new energy to your home,” she says, and one of the first things that she helps a client do is to declutter. “Too much clutter leads to too much stagnant energy,” she says. In addition to decluttering, Kulitskaya looks for ways to increase the positive energy in a client’s home. If, for example, a client is concerned about finances, she will look at the

area in the home where he or she works and ensure that it exudes wealth and success, such as by displaying achievements or images that support the person’s goals. “If you walk into that office, it should look like a successful person works there,” she says. While this ancient Eastern practice hasn’t won over every Westerner, it’s hard to argue with the principles that Kulitskaya stresses. Just as with the decorating and design firms, it’s all about creating a home environment that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but functional as well. Says Margiotta, “There is nothing better than walking into a room that is thoughtfully decorated with style and that reflects your personality, a place that feels cozy where you want to spend time and hang out — that’s what home is.”

Reduce injuries during Study: Cleaning this way is like smoking sprays do-it-yourself projects Household can lead to lower A little preparation and knowledge can go a long way Metro Creative Services Accomplishing a doit-yourself home repair or renovation can elicit feelings of pride. DIY projects can be costeffective and completed on homeowners’ unique time schedules. Although people can do many repairs themselves, using the wrong tools or equipment, or having insufficient knowledge of the task at hand can increase the risk of injury. The home security resource A Secure Life says that more than 18,000 Americans die every year from injuries that take place in the home. Unintentional injuries can be traced to many factors, but making repairs around the house can contribute to accident risk. Falls, electrical shocks, broken glass, carpentry tools, and carrying overly heavy loads repeatedly result in injury, says The Home Depot. Recognizing these potential hazards and always employing safe tactics can help keep DIYers stay healthy. u Ladder safety. A fall from even a few feet can cause severe injuries and even death. Ladders should always be put on a level, stable surface. Individuals should not climb higher than the second rung on a step ladder or the third rung on an extension ladder. u Tools. Every tool has the potential to cause injury. This injury risk increases when tools are not used properly. Before a tool is used, it’s important to read the instructions.

u Wear protective gloves. Gloves can help protect against burns, electrocution, slippery grip, and even deep cuts or finger amputation when using sharp tools. Gloves also are essential when handling broken glass. u Power tools. Power tools have momentum and torque behind them to make fast work of various jobs. If using power tools, DIYers should ensure they are the right tools for the job, not something that is handy or a quick fix. Power tools should only be used if a person can devote attention to the task and stay focused. That means never consuming alcohol, drugs or medications that can impair function when using power tools. u Working with electricity. An electric shock occurs when a person is exposed to a source of electricity and the charge runs through the body. It can cause burns, cardiac arrest, changes to heartbeat, and even neurological injuries, according to the Mayo Clinic. DIYers should take precautions anytime they are working with electricity, including turning off the supply of electricity to the outlet or fixture being worked on. u Heavy loads. It is important to exercise caution when moving around heavy loads. A friend or family member can help with the transfer of building materials or to relocate furniture. u Distractions. Avoiding distractions is essential when doing home renovations. Keep pets and children away from work areas to focus entirely on the job at hand. Injuries can derail home renovation projects if safety measures are ignored.

lung function

Robert Rodriguez Fresno Bee (TNS) Just in case you needed a legitimate excuse to be messy, there’s a new study that says cleaning may actually be bad for your health. Researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway found that regular use of cleaning sprays contributed to a greater decline in lung function compared to those who did not clean. The study, published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, focused on women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays. The 20-year research project that involved more than 6,000 participants,

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Researchers in Norway have published a study that suggests regular use of cleaning sprays could contribute to a decline in lung health. concluded that the women who worked as cleaners had the comparable lung function of someone who smoked for about “20 packyears.” Scientists define one pack year as being the equivalent of 20 cigarettes smoked daily for one year. “That level of lung impairment was surprising at first,” said lead study author Øistein Svanes, a doctoral

student at the Department for Clinical Science. “However, when you think

of inhaling small particles from cleaning agents that are meant for cleaning the floor and not your lungs, maybe it is not so surprising after all.” Researchers speculate the decline in lung function is attributed to the irritation most cleaning chemicals cause on the mucous membranes lining the airways. Unfortunately, Svanes doesn’t recommend we just give up cleaning to protect our health. His suggestion is to develop cleaning products that can’t be inhaled, or use simpler cleaning methods. “Microfiber cloths and water,” he said, “are more than enough for most purposes.”

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Goodbye, kitchen island Unusual update removes longtime remodeling staple Kim Palmer Minneapolis Star Tribune (TNS)

An empty bedroom can be turned into a cozy sitting room.

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How empty nesters can transform their homes Metro Creative Services

After bringing home a bubbly baby boy or girl, it can be hard for parents to imagine that a day will come when their kids are off to college and then onto their own apartment or house. After spending decades nurturing and caring for children, parents are then left with a suddenly quiet house and probably much more time to spare. If saying goodbye to the kids also means extra house, there’s the option to downsize or make that extra space more useful. Homeowners who choose to stay put can renovate vacant rooms into spaces that meet their newfound needs. u Hobby haven. If you’ve always meant to set up a crafting room, homebrewing station or an artist’s studio, now is an ideal time to do just that. Figure out which supplies you will need and begin reworking that former bedroom into a new sanctuary for leisure interests.

u Guest suite. If you’ve never had a spare bedroom to entertain guests, a child’s former bedroom can fit the bill. It may not be that difficult to transform such spaces into relaxing and inviting rooms for overnight guests. Be sure there is at least a queen-sized bed and a dresser or chest of drawers to stash belongings. Select paint colors and linens in neutral tones so the room will be inviting to guests. u Living room redo. When there’s an entire soccer team coming over to hang out, that large sectional sofa or modular seating may be ideal. Now that the kids are out of the house and their friends are no longer coming over for movie night, living rooms can be made more intimate with small-scale seating. A small sofa and two comfortable chairs may be a more fitting option. u At-home gym. Save on gym membership fees by building a mini studio right at home. Choose one of the larger bedrooms and then fill it with some

fitness equipment, such as an elliptical trainer, a bench press bench and some free weights. Store rolled-up mats in the closet for yoga or Pilates sessions. u Expanded bathroom. If space has always been at a premium in the bathroom, borrow area from an empty bedroom and turn it into a spa. Install a soaking tub separate from the shower, and fill the room with other amenities, such as a warming lamp or even a small sauna. u Home office. Working from home a few days a week may be more plausible when nearing retirement, as it will be a smoother transition from heading to the office each day to spending more time at home. Turn a bedroom or den into an office space with a new desk and bookshelves. An empty nest can be a bittersweet experience, but parents can make such situations work for them by transforming their homes to better reflect their current needs.

Steps to make your home child-safe Metro Creative Services All family members should be considered when home improvements are being planned, especially the youngest household residents who may not be responsible enough to avoid accidents and injuries. According to a recent Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental injuries are a leading cause of death among the country’s youth — with one fatality occurring every hour from something entirely preventable. The CDC notes that the leading causes of child injury include suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires, and falls. More can be done to keep children safe, and many strategies start at home. Install security systems. A security system can be just as effective at keeping little ones inside as it is at keeping unwanted guests outside. Alarms can be set to sound anytime a window or door is breached, which can deter curious children from trying to leave the house without permission. Pair the alarm system with secure locks and high latches that can also stop children in their tracks. Remove fall hazards. Safety devices installed on windows that are above ground level can keep children safe. Stair rails should be secure and in good working order. Temporary gates can block kids from getting

on stairways. Improve lighting around staircases to help children and adults avoid falls, and remove any obstacles. Anchor heavy furniture. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that unanchored televisions and top-heavy furniture can tip over onto children and cause severe injuries and even death. Everyday furniture can be tempting to climb; therefore, using anchors to secure furniture to walls for security is a must. Install locking cabinets. Locking cabinets can keep medications, household chemicals, home improvement paints and solvents, and other potential poisons

The starting point: When architect Bryan Anderson bought his 1924 bungalow in Minneapolis’ Bryn Mawr neighborhood, he knew he wanted to make some changes. He’d bought the house from longtime friends, so he’d already spent a lot of time in the kitchen. “They had an annual Super Bowl party, and we’d stand around the island,” he said. “For that it worked.” But for everyday use, he wanted to create a semi­formal dining space within the 12- by 15-foot kitchen. And that would require getting rid of the island — the opposite of most kitchen upgrades today. He and his partner also wanted to create a space that was more contemporary in style and more reflective of their taste. Maximizing space: Without the island, the cooktop would have to be moved to the perimeter of the kitchen. “I had to figure out how to squeeze in all the things and still make it an elegant place to sit,” Anderson said. “We went with really small appliances. When the oven went in, we joked that it was an Easy Bake oven — it was so small. But it works perfectly well for us.” They also chose a singlebasin sink about half the size of the one they replaced. “We tested it first, and it fit every pot.” A new look: To give the kitchen the sleek contemporary aesthetic they were seeking, Anderson turned to

Puustelli USA and its Scandinavian-style kitchen systems, featuring large-format ceramic countertops. “The only seams are where the pieces come together,” he said. “And they’re superdurable.” After falling in love with the countertops, he opted to use Puustelli cabinets, as well. “I know a lot of really good custom cabinet makers, so it was a tough decision,” he said. But he chose Puustelli because if offered “a modular system with a lot of flexibility.” The base cabinets are oak veneer, stained to an ebony color, with a horizontal grain, while the upper cabinets have a whitewashed finish. “They bounce light, and the base recedes,” said Anderson of the highcontrast color palette. (The old cabinets, in Craftsmanstyle maple, were still in good shape and were donated to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore.) A new floor: The trim in the kitchen had been painted black by the previous owners. “We liked that,” said Anderson. “Some of our furniture is black, and we wanted to work with that.” The flooring, too, was black, a prefinished wood in a shiny finish that showed everything, including their dogs’ paw prints. Anderson had hoped to salvage the floor, but it started breaking into pieces during construction. So he replaced it with prefinished engineered oak in a lighter color with a matte finish. “It gives it a Nordic feel — soft, warm and natural,” he said. “In the end, I’m so happy with it. It adds an element of richness.” Biggest challenge: Figuring out where to put electrical outlets. “I do this all the time,” Anderson said. “But (outlets) get hidden, and

Since 1954

I don’t always know how much work was involved.” He wanted the countertops to fold up into the backsplash, and because they were being fabricated in Finland, holes for outlets would have to be cut there. Anderson knew he couldn’t anticipate all his outlet needs, so he ended up hiding some light switches in the frame of a double door. The black switches and cover plate “disappear into the trim,” he said. Room within a room: The kitchen had a dropped soffit on part of the perimeter, and Anderson expanded it to clean up some awkward ceiling angles and help to create a defined space for dining, with a higher ceiling above the table. New lighting adds to that effect. LED lights under cabinets provide task lighting, but they can be turned off to downplay the working part of the kitchen when it’s being used for dining. “A pendant light above the table has a nice warm look,” he said. “That was the idea — at the flip of a switch, you can change the tone.” DIY element: Anderson and his partner saved considerably by doing some of the work themselves, such as demolition, laying the floor and painting, in addition to his design contributions. The project cost about $40,000, while market rate for a similar project would have been $60,000 to $65,000, he estimated. Finishing touch: Wallpaper on the ceiling, metallic in a large exaggerated floral pattern — “like Japanese animé,” he said. “It fits the era but it’s new and adds texture and surprise.” The result: “We entertain a little more,” he said. “And I’m a little more excited about it, to have people in the space.”


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out of reach. Erect fencing around pools and yards. Install fencing around pools to keep children from wandering close to the water’s edge. Towns and cities may require certain fence heights or selflatching gates to keep little ones safe. Young children should never be left to their own devices around any source of water, whether it’s a pool, tub or toilet. Test and replace smoke alarms. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are only useful if they are functional. Homeowners should inspect such devices regularly to ensure proper operation and promptly replace old or faulty detectors to improve safety.

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Create a teen-friendly space at home Metro Creative Services Teenagers are busier than ever before. But even the busiest teens need places to unwind and relax with friends. Many parents aspire to create that type of environment in their homes but don’t know where to begin. Having teens close by and interacting with them on a regular basis can benefit families. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics notes that parental involvement correlates to higher grade point averages. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says certain parenting styles, including those that set rules and monitor teens in supportive ways, develop kids who are more likely to wear seat belts while driving, while such support also lowers crash risk. Involved parents also may reduce the chances of teen drug use and promiscuous behavior. Parents who want to keep teens nearby can create hangout spaces at home that make it easy for teens to feel comfortable with their friends. These “teen caves” can be private but permit supervision when necessary. With a few modifications, it’s possible to transform a room in a home into a teen-friendly hangout space. u Talk to your children. Involve teens in the process of renovating a home to create a spot in which they would like to congregate. Talk about elements they would like to see in the space, whether it be

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If time is of the essence, weekend or one-day projects may satisfy homeowners’ desires to fix up their houses.


Parents who want to keep teens nearby can create hangout spaces at home that make it easy for teens to feel comfortable with their friends. These “teen caves” can be private but permit supervision when necessary. a particular design style, technology or activity. u Establish a shared budget. Paint is inexpensive and can transform just about any room in a single afternoon. If the room being renovated is the teen’s own bedroom, allow him or her to choose the color palette and other accents. Even if it isn’t to your taste, he or she will be proud of the results and may want to share it with friends. u Have a snack station. Some teenagers always seem to be hungry, and hanging out with friends while enjoying food is a popular pastime. When renovating a room into a teen cave, find a way to

make food a focus. Install a mini-refrigerator and non-alcoholic bar where kids can serve snacks to friends. Think about a space you would like as an adult and modify it to be more accommodating to teenagers. u Add more seating. Having friends over means having enough seating to handle a small crowd. Beanbags, cushioned benches, a daybed, modular seating, and more can ensure everyone has a place to sit. u Make a private outdoor spot. Teen spaces do not need to be restricted to the indoors. Design advice site Houzz says an outdoor escape zone that includes

comfortable seating in a private area — particularly a spot that can also be enjoyed into the evening — will be a coveted spot. u Invest in “indestructible” materials. Teenagers are bound to make messes, and having other people over means contending with a certain measure of damage. Design the space with indoor-outdoor carpeting, water-resistant fabrics, distressed wood, and other durable materials. Adolescents are always looking for spaces to gather without overbearing adult interference. Homeowners can create such spaces for their children in their own homes.

Tips and tricks to minimize dust while renovating Metro Creative Services Even though dust is ever-present both inside and outside of a home, when renovations are in full swing, dusty conditions are often exacerbated. Whether a home is new or old, numerous substances can be stirred up when removing walls, refinishing floors, removing tile, or expanding living spaces. These include silica from drywall, lead, asbestos, paint particles, and even waste from bugs or rodents. Homeowners who want to remodel with minimal construction debris floating through the air — both for health purposes and general cleanliness — may find these proactive steps helpful. u Prepare dust-containment plans. If a contractor is involved, it is often his or her responsibility to minimize dust. Do-it-yourselfers must make dust containment a priority.

Protecting the floor and keeping the dust confined only to work areas can be achieved with plastic sheeting and other barriers. u Designate an entrance and exit. The experts at This Old House say it is best to choose one doorway as the only means in and out of a work area. Ideally, this doorway should lead to the outdoors. All other doorways should be sealed on both sides. u Remove extraneous items. It’s best to remove clutter from the room, including any furniture that can be taken out of the space. This helps items from becoming dirty and hazardous particles from settling into nooks and crannies. u Close vents and registers. If forced air systems are part of the home, it’s best to divert air away from the work area. Block vents and intake registers so that dust does not clog the system or transfer to other rooms. u Cut items outside. Design

advice site Houzz says that some power tools have vacuum extractors to suck up dust at the point of contact, removing 90 percent of dust where it is generated. For those who do not have access to these tools, cutting and sanding can be done outdoors to keep dust outside. u Open a window. If weather permits, an open window can provide ventilation. Another idea is to create an air vacuum in the work area. Picking a window at the far end of the work area and mounting a window fan blowing outward can suck dust out and away from other areas of the house. u Clean up daily. By keeping on top of dust, including sweeping and vacuuming the work area frequently, dust will not accumulate and migrate elsewhere. Dust is a common side effect of home renovation projects, but it can be minimized.

Complete these home improvements over one long weekend Metro Creative Services Home improvement projects ramp up when the weather warms up, as homeowners channel the rejuvenating feelings of spring and tackle their home to-do lists. Largescale renovations can greatly affect a home, but smaller projects can yield impressive results and be completed over the course of a single weekend. If time is of the essence, these weekend or one-day projects may satisfy homeowners’ desires to fix up their houses. u Create an accent wall. Painting a focal wall in a home can create a serious impact. The bonus is it will not take as long or require as many materials as painting an entire room. Accent walls frequently feature a bold color, so decide on placement and tackle this project in less than a day. u Install stair runners. Dress up hardwood stairs with decorative carpet runners. Runners come in elongated pieces of carpeting or individual pieces that can be placed on each step. If carpeting doesn’t fit with the home’s design, painting individual stair treads also can create visual appeal. u Dress up the entryway. An entryway is a guest’s first impression of a home. Many entryways can use a minor overhaul, both inside and outside. Paint the front door a different color so it pops from the curb. Install a new mailbox or decorative house numbers. A new welcome mat can change the look as well. Inside, consider laying a new floor. Resilient vinyl

tiles come in many different patterns and can mimic the look of wood, travertine or marble. Installing a floor can take a day or two. u Install a new faucet. Instantly improve a kitchen or a bathroom with new fixtures. New faucets can provide aesthetic appeal and low-flow faucets can help conserve water. u Create a gallery on the staircase. Gather and arrange framed photos, artwork or wall accents so that they ascend the wall of a staircase. This creates a designer touch and can dress up an often barren area of wall space. u Install a fresh light fixture. Improve drab spaces with a little illumination. Better Homes & Gardens suggests replacing an existing fixture with something new and vibrant. If hanging a new fixture is not within one’s skill set, free-standing table or floor lamps also can cast a new glow on a space. u Add molding. Molding can add instant aesthetic appeal to a room. Molding is appropriate near the floor, at the top of walls where they meet the ceiling, or even midwall as a chair rail. Some homeowners like to create framed molding on walls in formal living spaces. u Update kitchen or bathroom hardware. Replacing hardware is a fast and easy project, but one that can have immediate impact. Swap out tired or outdated hardware for newer brushed metals and more impactful shapes and designs. Home renovations do not need to take weeks or months. Many projects can be completed over the course of a weekend.

Charlie Hall, millionaire inventor of the waterbed, marketing improved model Erik Lacitis Seattle Times (TNS) Millennials, the inventor of the waterbed has a message for you. Especially those of you living in the Pacific Northwest, like he does. You need a waterbed. Charlie Hall is 71 and a millionaire because of waterbeds and some of the other 40 patents he holds. (You know the Sun Shower, with the solar-heated bags that let you bathe when camping? That’s his.) He’s planning on the waterbed making a comeback this spring. “I don’t think a millennial has ever seen one,” says Charlie, as everyone calls him, about the invention he debuted 50 years ago at a “Happy Happening” art show in San Francisco. “But I have this theory that it’s a Northwest kind of thing. I feel like a lot of us spawned in a waterbed.” That first waterbed was called “The Pleasure Pit” because, as the oft-repeated sales pitch went in that groovy era, “Two things are better on a waterbed, and one of them is sleeping.” Working with a good friend of his from the waterbed days — Keith Koening, president of City Furniture, with 16 stores in South Florida — he is about to test-market Waterbed 2018. No more rigid frame that made them hard to get out of. Now there’s foam around the edges. New

materials suppress the wave action that some customers didn’t like. Dual bladders allow each side of the bed to have its own temperature control. He’s an inveterate tinkerer. He can’t help it. But are we ready for Waterbeds 2.0? If history is to repeat, once again it’ll be that male customer who’ll plunk down the cash. The ads back then sometimes featured women in slinky outfits, or no outfits at all. Subtlety was not part of the waterbed ethos back then. Some came in gargantu-

an, four-poster wood frames such as a “Jungle Bed” advertised in June 1976 in The Seattle Times for a special sale price of $450, which is $1,953 in today’s dollars. “I always liked furniture and I wanted to address human comfort. I talked to doctors, physical therapists, even some psychiatrists, trying to put together elements of comfort that work,” he says. “We had a little shop in Sausalito, and we would deliver them on top of a Rambler station wagon,” says Charlie. One of his customers liked the beds so much he helped raise $100,000 in

funding. Celebrities began to notice the new fad. “One of the Smothers Brothers bought one, and somebody in Jefferson Airplane bought one. I remember we delivered that one to a big Victorian house that was painted all black. Getting the bed in there was hell,” says Charlie. On June 15, 1971, he was granted U.S. Patent No. 3,585,356 A for a “Liquid Support for Human Bodies,” the waterbed. The waterbed craze lasted for nearly 20 years. A 1986 New York Times story quoted the Waterbed Manufacturers Association as saying they accounted

for 12 percent to 15 percent of the American bedding market, and that back then they had $1.9 billion ($4.3 billion in today’s dollars) in annual sales. Then waterbeds practically disappeared. “Probably bad marketing,” says Charlie. “It got to be price wars. Retailers were presenting $99 specials and selling a very crappy product. It spiraled down from there.” Charlie says that there also were a lot of myths associated with waterbeds. Like they were so heavy that they crashed through the floor. No, he explains. “Forty pounds per square

foot is a normal building load on a residential floor. Waterbeds don’t even come close. It’d be a third or less.” Or, they’d leak all over the place. No, says Charlie. “They have safety liners that take care of any leak issues.” He does say that it was because of waterbeds that the mattress industry changed. It showed you didn’t have to settle for some rigid spring coil bed. “Memory foam, pillowtop mattresses, all that stuff began to appear,” he says. “Look at the ads for the memory foams — they read like all waterbed ads.” Now it’s a new day.

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Unfinished Minnesota dream castle seeking new owner Sharyn Jackson Minneapolis Star Tribune (TNS) SOGN VALLEY, Minn. — Gary and Beth Arntson have had a lot of big ideas for their home. First, they wanted to build an earthsheltered house. Then, a geodesic dome. But after Gary scouted rural Goodhue County and came across a hill with scenic, sweeping views of the Sogn Valley, he knew what he needed to build atop the crest: a European-style castle, Jerry Holt | Minneapolis Star Tribune | TNS four-sided with towers on Beth Arntson stands outside of a dream castle she and her every corner, that would husband Gary Arntson started to build themselves 20 years stand for 300 years. ago in Dennison, Minn. In 1995, the Arntsons laid the first stone toward 16. She visited Germany their dream castle, which EVERYTHING and became enamored they hoped would become of the fortified homes of BUT THE MOAT a 6,000-square-foot bed European nobility. One and breakfast and wedThe property would be Christmas years later, ding venue, as well as a easy to miss if not for she bought Gary a book grand living space for the “For Sale” sign in the on castles, and the idea themselves. driveway. It’s shrouded began to sprout. More than 20 years by trees, high on a limeIn 1991, the Arntsons later, the castle is parstone cliff above a sleepy bought the land and let their tially completed, with county road near Canimaginations run wild. one octagonal tower non Falls. But once past Gary drafted the plans connected to 1 1/2 sides. a bend in the driveway, with the help of an The courtyard that should there’s no missing what architect. He sourced lie in the center is just a looks like a Bavarian snow-covered field used country house that’s been 12-inch stone blocks from quarries in Minnesota, for parking. under construction since Now in their 60s and the Middle Ages. The only strengthened everything hindered by illness, the thing missing is the moat. with steel, laid geothermal piping and sanded Arntsons are walking A crenellated parapet down the actual bedrock away. The six-acre propalong the one completed into a floor for the B&B’s erty has been listed for side could easily be used for rooms. sale since last spring. It’s aiming arrows or cannons. now under contract with Inside, copper piping The one completed tower is prospective buyers, who is exposed — at least the topped with a peaked black have told the Arntsons stuff that hasn’t been roof that the Arntsons call they want to finish the vandalized over the years. the “witch’s peak.” castle. Wooden beams outline fuThis is Raven’s Hill, so “The project is not for the ture walls to separate bednamed because the Arnfaint of heart,” said Bradd rooms. Staircases start Strelow, listing agent at Re/ tsons are fans of Ravenand end, and doors seal swood wine. Max Cannon Realty. “It’s off underground tunnels The idea for the castle big, and it’s complex. It’s to nowhere. With angles was sown when Beth was not for just anybody.” everywhere, not one room

Jerry Holt | Minneapolis Star Tribune | TNS

The castle that Beth Arntson and her husband Gary Arntson started to build themselves 20 years ago in Dennison, Minn. Because of illness, they are selling their castle. is symmetrical. “Yes, we are kind of insane,” Gary said. But Beth views their endeavor differently. “My husband has a unique perspective and unique ability to see things,” she said. For 10 straight years, the pair “chipped away at it,” Gary said. They fit in construction on nights and weekends, while working full time (Beth in human resources, Gary in trucking). Gary worked with masons on the castle tower walls’ 45-degree angles, while Beth mined limestone from the hill and used it to make clay paths for a future formal garden. In winter, they’d burn a fire in a barrel to keep warm.

FINDING REGAL ANTIQUES Other times, they’d scour estate sales, collecting decorative antiques like swords and an ornate wooden coffer that would adorn the castle’s lobby. Those items stock their South St. Paul home. “We had a very long-term plan for this initially, not expecting that it was going to take us 20 years to even get moved in there,” Beth said. But over the past 10 years, their contributions to the project diminished while Gary dealt with physical ailments. Now retired, the idea of finishing the project and entering the hospitality field sounds too daunting, Beth said.

“It feels OK,” said Beth about putting the Arntsons’ dream to rest. Still, the goodbye is tinged with disappointment. For years, they encountered people’s “funny looks” when they told them about the project. Then, they’d frustratingly have to update those people on the glacial pace. “You move in your career from one job to another, or you run into somebody you haven’t seen in a while who asks, ‘Oh, are you living in the castle?’ ” Beth said. “No, it’s not done yet,” was always their answer. Now they have to tell those people the dream castle project, at least for them, is over.

Best ways to control Use renovations to create healthier homes common spring pests Metro Creative Services

Metro Creative Services Just when winter thaws out and people are anxious to enjoy the blooming flowers and luscious lawns of spring, pesky pests can appear and impact comfort levels and safety. Many pests resume their levels of activity as spring draws closer and temperatures warm up. The presence of these insects and rodents may cause problems in and around a home, which makes it essential to recognize them and avoid issues. The following are some of the more common spring pests and how to remedy infestations. Pavement ants Pavement ants are some of the most common pests residents encounter inside and outside of their homes. These ants are light brown to black with appendages that are lighter than the rest of their bodies. Small in stature, pavement ants have parallel lines on their heads and thorax, according to pest extermination company Orkin. Although pavement ants nest outdoors, they can enter homes through small crevices in search of food scraps. Their large colonies may not disappear until treatment is introduced. Keep foods in tightly sealed containers, clear counters and floors of crumbs, and

address water sources, such as leaks. Pesticides may be needed in extreme conditions. Fleas Fleas are tiny, jumping, biting pests that must find a host upon which to live. As ectoparasites, they feed on blood while living on the body of living hosts. Pets can bring fleas inside the yard and home in warm weather. According to the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, flea larvae develop more quickly at higher temperatures. At normal room temperatures, the entire life cycle of a flea is about 18 days. Several flea control products are available for cats and dogs. There also may be powders and sprays to alleviate flea infestations in the home. Vacuuming is also very effective in killing larvae in the carpet and at picking up adults. Wasps An errant wasp, hornet or yellow jacket may have survived winter and ridden out the colder temperatures within a home. Once the weather warms, queens will begin to look for places to lay eggs and establish colonies. Treating areas where wasps are seen entering and leaving the home is key. Seal holes as soon as possible. If a nest is found, hire a professional to remove it.

More than ever before, homeowners are choosing improvement projects geared toward making their homes healthier. To an environmentalist, a healthy home may incorporate eco-friendly or green products. To those with young children or mobility-impaired seniors, a healthy home may be one free from potential hazards. Others may view a healthy home as one that alleviates allergies. The World Health Organizations says inadequate housing conditions, such as poor ventilation, radon, urban pollution, and moisture issues, can contribute to many preventable diseases and injuries — especially respiratory problems, nervous system disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air quality as a top five environmental risk to public health. People interested in making their homes healthier can embrace these renovations and lifestyle changes. u Be aware of furniture materials. Toxic PBDEs, which are chemicals used as flame retardants on furniture fabrics produced prior to 2006, can send toxins into the air. Before purchasing furniture, ask if a product is treated, and select naturally fire-resistant materials like wool and cotton. u Lighten up. Lighting

often is underappreciated healthier and can help resibut can have a dramatic dents to rest and recharge. impact on whether a home feels inviting, warm and/or uplifting. Experiment with different types of bulbs and lighting fixtures to turn drab and dreary environments into brighter places. Lighting may improve mood and productivity. u Let the sun shine in. Modify window treatments to let more sunlight into the house. There is evidence that the sun, particularly UV light, is a potent bactericide. The Sunlight In• CCTV Security Cameras stitute advises that there’s no harm in letting natural • IP Security Cameras sunlight do its work, as bac• 24 Hour Recording teria within eight feet of low-intensity UV light can • Residential - Commercial - Industrial be killed in 10 minutes. u Inspect and service • View Cameras on I-Pad, I-Phone or wood-burning appliances. Androids, Anywhere in the World Studies have found regular inhalation of wood smoke limits immune activity and function, and anyone who burns wood indoors should be aware of these Home Security Systems with no potential health risks. Enmonthly fee. suring proper ventilation and routinely cleaning the chimney can help cut down on particulate matter. Visa & Mastercard Accepted u Turn to nontoxic cleaning products, pesticides and insecticides. Always opt for nontoxic, natural products when cleaning in and around the house. u Declutter the home. A cluttered, hectic space can affect emotions and mental state, never mind attracting dust and making a home harder to clean. Spending Offering the very best time in spaces that do not lawn & tree care in the elicit stressful feelings is area since 1973.


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