HOME IMPROVEMENT SPRING 2019
ARENAC COUNTY INDEPENDENT | OGEMAW COUNTY HERALD | OSCODA COUNTY HERALD
Page 2 • 2019 Home Improvement
© 2019 Sunrise Printing and Publishing Inc. 3. Benefits of open-concept floor plans 4. Time to replace old wiring? 5. Outdoor improvements that boost home value 6. Small kitchen improvements that maximize functionality 6. Must-haves for an amazing kitchen remodel 8. Benefits of freestanding tubs 8. 6 ways to make bathrooms a safer place 10. Expand living spaces with clever ideas
11. Improve entertaining spaces
26. Rethink your kitchen layout
12. Gray is here to stay in home design
27. Establish the ideal gaming set-up
13. 12 ways to maximize vertical space 14. Quick and simple ways to make a front door pop 15. 6 options for funding your next home improvement project 16. Things to consider before building a greenhouse 17. Design a dream outdoor entertaining space 18. Basement remodeling tips 19. Make barbecues safer for pets 20. How color can affect your garden 21. Defining hardscape and how to use it 23. How to help flowers withstand heat waves 25. Emerging deck trends
28. What is the water table, and how does it affect homes? 29. Lighting is a key component of curb appeal 30. How to protect your yard from deer 31. Items to get you started on creating your smart home 33. Restore rusty tools 33. Why it’s smart to have a smart home 34. Early spring landscaping tips 35. Add a pop of purple around the house 36. Green options in home siding 37. The art of buying art for your home 38. How tree services can protect your property 39. Organize and declutter room-by-room
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2019 Home Improvement • Page 3
Benefits of open-concept floor plans The way a home is designed can say a lot of things about it. In fact, many real estate professionals and contractors can determine when a home was built based on the design of its interior. For example, homes with sunken living rooms were likely built sometime in the 1960s and 1970s. Open-concept living rooms are one trend that might one day make people nostalgic for the early 21st century. Many of today’s homebuyers want homes with open-concept floor plans, which can give homes a more spacious feel, perhaps even creating the illusion that a home is bigger than it really is. Homebuyers who have never before enjoyed open concept floor plans can consider the following benefits of these wildly popular layouts. Entertainment Many people who live in homes with open-concept floor plans cite their convenience when entertaining as one of their biggest assets. In an open-concept home, guests don’t have to be corralled into a single room in the home. Instead, hosts and their guests can roam freely from room to room because there are no walls dividing common areas. This can make gatherings feel less cramped than in homes with more traditional floor plans.
Safety The safety of open-concept floor plans may be most applicable to parents of young children. Open-concept floor plans allow parents to keep an eye on their children while cooking dinner, working from home or tending to other chores around the house. Since there are no walls to divide rooms in open-concept homes, parents don’t have to wonder what their curious kids are up to because
they can see them at all times. Flexibility Open-concept floor plans give homeowners more flexibility. For example, homes with more traditional floor plans may have designated spaces for dining areas. These spaces don’t leave much room to work with and may not be valued by homeowners who don’t often host dinners at home. As a result, such rooms may
just be wasted square footage. With an open concept floor plan, homeowners have the flexibility to make dining areas as big or small as they see fit and can even adjust the rooms on the fly on those occasions when people are coming over. Open-concept floor plans continue to be popular among homebuyers and might prove to be the most lasting home design trend of the early 21st century.
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Time to replace old wiring?
Page 4 • 2019 Home Improvement
Old homes can be charming and contain architectural elements not often seen in many modern housing developments. But what older homes may have in design appeal, they may lack in updated features. While cosmetic changes are not necessarily difficult, one area of concern in historic homes — and sometimes even in houses built 40 or 50 years ago — is archaic wiring. Wiring provides power to every room of the home. In today’s electronics-driven society, electricity that works is an essential component of daily life. Over time, wiring can be compromised through simple aging, pest infiltration, weather or other conditions. Deteriorated wiring can present a shock hazard and also a serious fire hazard. Furthermore, the home improvement site This Old House advises that the amperage of old wiring may not be able to meet the needs of the devices used in homes, overpowering the circuits. This can cause breaker blowouts and other problems, such as overheated wires that may spark and cause fires from within the wall. Wiring often falls into the “out of sight, out of mind” category. Homeowners may make allowances for inadequate electrical systems, such as running extension cords or using multiplug connectors to increase
their wiring capacity. However, they may not be diligently keeping on top of upgrades needed to stay safe. Confirming that a home’s electrical system is safe is a necessary part of home maintenance. For those who haven’t already done so, schedule an inspection with a licensed electrician to go over the home’s wiring. He or she can determine if any areas pose a safety risk and/or do not conform to local code requirements and the National Electrical Code. Failure to meet code can lead to difficulty obtaining permits to make other home renovations, or difficulty selling a home later on. The electrician can also go over improvements to safety and function. Additional outlets, including GFCI outlets in kitchens and bathrooms, may be part of the plan, as well as rewiring a fuse box or circuit panel to allow for better flow of power around the house. Frayed wiring or underinsulated wiring also may need to be replaced. Owners of old homes should recognize possible electrical system dangers that require attention. Plus, considering electrical codes change quite frequently, it is always in a homeowner’s best interest to work with a qualified electrician to keep wiring inspected and up to date.
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Outdoor improvements that boost home value
Whether home improvement projects are designed to improve the interior or exterior of a house, focusing on renovations that make the most financial sense can benefit homeowners in the long run. The right renovations can be assets if and when homeowners decide to sell their homes. So how does one get started? First and foremost, speak to a local real estate agent who is knowledgeable about trends in the community. While a swimming pool may be something coveted in one area, it may impede sales in another. It also helps to study generalized trends and data from various home improvement industry analysts to guide upcoming projects. The following outdoor projects are just a few renovations that tend to add value. • Fire pit: A fire pit is a great place to gather most months of the year. Bob Vila and CBS news report that a fire pit realizes a 78 percent return on investment, or ROI. • Outdoor kitchen: Many buyers are looking to utilize their yards as an extension of interior living areas. Cooking, dining and even watching TV outdoors is increasingly popular. Outdoor living areas can be custom designed and built. In addition, prefabricated modular units that require a much smaller commitment of time and money are available. • Patio: Homeowners who do not already have a patio will find that
adding one can increase a home’s value. Patios help a home look neat, add usable space and may help a home to sell quickly. The experts at Space Wise, a division of Extra Space Storage, say that refinishing, repairing and building a new patio offers strong ROI. • Deck: Decks can be as valuable as patios. A deck is another outdoor space that can be used for entertain-
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ing, dining and more. Remodeling magazine’s 2018 “Cost vs. Value” report indicates that an $11,000 deck can add about $9,000 in resale value to the home, recouping around 82 percent of the project’s costs. • Door update: Improve curb appeal with a new, high-end front door and garage doors. If that’s too expensive, a good cleaning and new coat of paint can make an old door look brand-
new. These easy fixes can improve a home’s look instantly. • New landscaping: The National Association of Realtors says an outdoor makeover that includes wellthought-out landscaping can net 105 percent ROI. Installing a walkway, adding stone planters, mulching and planting shrubs are ideas to consider. Many different outdoor projects can add value to a home.
Small kitchen improvements that maximize functionality
Page 6 • 2019 Home Improvement
Many homeowners wish for expansive kitchens. Modernized kitchens that include sought-after features and showcase the latest trends go a long way toward improving the overall value of a home. As desirable as such kitchens may be, some homes simply don’t have enough space for a centerfoldworthy kitchen featuring an island, wine refrigerator and walk-in pantry. However, homeowners with small kitchens can still improve the form and function of their existing spaces. Reconfigure and revamp cabinetry Homeowners whose kitchens are small often lament their lack of storage. Redesigning the layout of cabinets, and possibly adding some more cabinetry, may take care of certain storage issues. The experts at Merit Kitchens suggest utilizing corner space with LeMans units, lazy susans and other gadgets to make access to these areas easier. Going vertical with wall cabinets that extend to the ceiling also can add more storage, as can roll-in work carts. Work with the walls Small kitchens require clever
See KITCHEN, 24
Must-haves for an amazing kitchen remodel
Kitchen remodels are among the most popular home renovation projects, whether they consist of swapping out cabinet hardware or doing major demolition. Due to the sheer amount of time families spend in the kitchen, not to mention the number of tasks performed in this space, it is easy to see why Remodeling magazine consistently ranks kitchen renovations as projects that will enable homeowners to recoup a high percentage of their investments. In the magazine’s 2018 “Cost vs. Value” report, midrange major kitchen remodels costing an average of $63,829 recouped 59 percent of that investment. When investing in a kitchen project, it is important to incorporate items that are coveted. • Deep, double sinks: Having a double sink enables you to soak dishes in one side and then wash on the other. It also makes it easy to wash and prep produce for meals. • Kitchen island and bar stools: Even though many meals are enjoyed around the table, there’s something to be said for the convenience of a kitchen island and some well-placed bar stools for quick breakfasts or snacks.
• Smart kitchen storage: Work with a contractor to include storage solutions built into cabinetry and the
pantry. Slide-out shelving, nooks for a paper towel roll and customdesigned areas to store stand mix-
ers and other necessities can make kitchens more functional. • Outdoor access: If possible, design a kitchen so it is easy to access the backyard via sliding doors. This can make outdoor entertaining or even coffee on the deck much easier. • Under-cabinet lighting: Fixtures installed under cabinets provide both ambient lighting and task lighting. Such lighting makes it easier to see what you’re working on as well, as even well-placed overhead lighting can fail to illuminate dark corners and spots on the counters. • Convenient warming drawer: This appliance provides backup to the oven. It’s a slide-out drawer that can keep prepared foods out of the way and warm until they are ready to be served. This is particularly handy for holidays and other entertaining. • Beverage station: Designate one area of the kitchen to beverages, such as coffee and tea. Or make the area an informal bar. This can limit traffic in the kitchen to a single area. Kitchen remodels are exciting to envision, and several choices can make these high-traffic spaces even more coveted.
2019 Home Improvement • Page 7
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Benefits of freestanding tubs
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Few home design elements provide the instant wow factor of freestanding tubs. Freestanding tubs have an air of luxury that can help current homeowners relax, and impress buyers when homes go on the market. Freestanding tubs are typically made of cast iron or porcelain. The home improvement website HomeAdvisor notes that cast iron is durable and solid and retains heat well, which is great for those who want to spend more than a little time relaxing in a freestanding tub. However, because cast iron is so heavy, installing a cast iron tub may require structural reinforcement of the flooring, which will add to the overall cost of the project. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to install a tub varies widely depending on the type of tub, the materials its made of and other factors, including plumbing and piping. For example, the cost to install a freestanding tub will rise considerably if new plumbing and piping are necessary. Before purchasing a freestanding tub, homeowners should seek estimates regarding installation, making sure to get them in writing. Contractors will determine if structural reinforcement is necessary and include such costs in their estimates. In addition, make sure to ask contractors to investigate piping and plumbing so no surprises pop up after the tub has been purchased and work has begun. If estimates from contractors aren’t
budget-busting, homeowners can consider these benefits of freestanding tubs before making their final decisions. • Cleaning: Because they’re detached from other bathroom fixtures and not flush against the wall, freestanding tubs tend to be easier to clean than built-in bathtubs. Freestanding tubs are accessible from all sides, making it easy to reach all those nooks and crannies where grime
can build up. • Return on investment: In its 2018 “Cost vs. Value” report, Remodeling magazine noted that upscale bathroom remodels recouped 56.2 percent of their cost at resale. That was a better return on investment than an upscale kitchen remodel (53.5 percent) and an upscale master suite addition (48.3 percent). The thought of a sizable return on investment can make relaxing in a freestanding tub
that much more enjoyable. • Warmth: Even freestanding tubs made of materials other than cast iron offer great heat retention. Stone resin bathtubs, for example, provide excellent insulation on cold nights. That’s ideal for people who want to unwind in the tub without having to exit early because the water has become cold. Freestanding tubs can transform regular bathrooms into luxurious oases.
6 ways to make bathrooms a safer place
Homes should be safe havens. But each year injuries in and around the home contribute to millions of medical visits and many fatalities each year. Although anywhere in a home can be the scene of an accident, bathrooms tend to be the most dangerous room in the house. Slippery tile, the presence of water, stockpiled medications and many sharp and hard edges in a small space pose several different hazards in the bathroom, particularly for young children and people age 65 and up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says falls, which can result in serious injuries like hip fractures and head trauma, are the cause of 80 percent of all bathroom accidents. Many bathroom accidents are preventable with some easy modifications. 1. Reduce slippery surfaces. Wet tile is a recipe for slick conditions. Bath rugs with rubber backing can provide traction in the bathroom, as can nonslip mats placed on the floor of the bathtub or shower enclosure. Water-resistant flooring made from recycled rubber is another option. It is softer, less slippery and more forgiving than traditional tile flooring. 2. Install lever-style fixtures. Round knobs in the bathroom can be difficult to grasp, especially for the elderly or those with arthritis. Lever-style fixtures are easier to maneuver and can help alleviate scalding from not being able to adequately adjust the water
temperature. 3. Utilize transfer benches and shower seats. A transfer bench can help reduce injuries that occur when trying to climb over a tub wall. Benches are placed outside of the tub and a person sits and then swings his legs over the ledge. Transfer benches also can be used in conjunction with shower seats. This is a chair or bench that allows people to sit while they shower. 4. Discard old medications. Clean out old or expired medications from the medicine cabinet, including both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. This reduces the likelihood of medication confusion, and does not put potentially harmful pills and syrups into the hands of children. 5. Install grab bars. Properly installed grab bars around the shower and toilet area can provide leverage and stability. AARP says many injuries to seniors occur when they are attempting to sit or get up from the toilet. Grab bars or an elevated toilet seat can help. 6. Install motion-detecting lights. These lights turn on automatically upon detecting movement, making them beneficial for people who routinely visit the bathroom in the middle of the night. Adequate illumination also can help reduce fall risk. Bathroom safety should be made a priority. Various modifications can make bathrooms safer for people of all ages.
2019 Home Improvement • Page 9
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Expand living spaces with clever ideas
Homeowners looking to add more space to their homes do not necessarily need to make major renovations. They simply have to see the possibilities in outdoor living spaces. Outdoor living spaces are coveted niches in a home. More than 70 percent of American households have outdoor living spaces, and nearly 70 percent of people use these spaces at least once per week in-season. Furthermore, homeowners are increasingly interested in enhancing these spaces to make them more usable and comfortable. A recent survey found that more than 4,500 users were planning a landscape update. In addition, 56 percent of homeowners surveyed were making updates to improve their yards for entertaining. While the creation of outdoor living spaces can cost thousands of dollars depending on the renovation, homeowners have more budget-friendly options at their disposal as well. The following are some ways to create inviting spaces no matter how much square footage is present. Revamp a garage or shed Rather than turning a storage area into a catch-all for items time forgot, clean out the space and put it to better use. For instance, kids may appreciate their own clubhouse away from the main living area. These spaces also can
be handy bonus rooms for when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and backyard guests need to seek shelter. Wall art, curtains, a pendant light, and some comfortable outdoor-compatible furniture can quickly transform a space. Create a relaxing nook Whether there’s a ledge, overhang, small terrace or porch off the house, turn it into a relaxing
area for reading a book or sipping a beverage. Use a few outdoor pillows, pull up a small folding table and dress the area with hanging lights and potted plants for a quiet retreat. Add privacy to a porch If it’s privacy you covet, install curtain rods and hang lightweight mesh or another translucent material that obscures neighbors’ views
without blocking out natural light. Invest in outdoor sofas and chaises to create an outdoor living room right on the porch. If your budget allows, consider closing in the porch as a true three-season room so it can be used throughout fall, spring and summer. Outdoor living spaces are booming and highly achievable, and many such spaces need not be expensive.
Improve entertaining spaces
2019 Home Improvement • Page 11
Some homes are seemingly built for entertaining, while others may need a little help to make them more fit for hosting dinner, holiday gatherings or an evening with friends. Overall, one-quarter of people entertain guests in their home either daily or weekly across the globe. One-third entertain monthly. People who open their homes to loved ones may want to make some modifications to their spaces to improve the experience for all involved. • Tame the clutter. Look for ways to reduce clutter in rooms where entertaining takes place. Built-ins with bookshelves and cabinets can hide electronics and wayward toys or collectibles. Focus attention on the entryway, hanging hooks for collecting coats, keys and shoes so they do not overrun the foyer. Remove any knickknacks or other breakable items from shelves or on coffee tables to free up more space. • Improve conversation seating. Arrange tables and chairs to create conversation nooks for guests who want to talk and get to know one another better. Consider moving out big and bulky sofas in favor of love seats or comfortable chairs that will take up less room and improve flow in entertaining areas. • Find the pieces you like. Think about how you tend to entertain
and then cater your space to those preferences. For example, a large dining table with fold-out extensions or leaves is ideal for someone who regularly hosts formal dinner parties. Renovate a room to include a small bar and club chairs for a lounge feel if cocktail parties are typical. • Improve lighting. Work with an electrician and/or designer who can offer ideas for lighting that can set the mood for entertaining.
Rooms that are dull and dim can benefit from overhead lighting fixtures if there are none already available. Task lighting in the kitchen under cabinets can make it easy to prepare food for guests. Wall sconces or focused lighting on artwork can establish a dramatic effect. • Do major construction. Consider working with a builder to make some changes if you simply don’t have the space to entertain. Tak-
ing down a wall can open kitchens to living spaces, while adding a deck or three-season room off the kitchen or dining room can provide more space for guests to congregate. • Install a guest bath. Update or add a bathroom near the main entertaining areas. This allows guests to discreetly use the bathroom and keeps them from roaming in areas of the house you would prefer they avoid.
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Page 12 • 2019 Home Improvement
Gray is here to stay in home design
Decorating a home in neutral tones has long been recommended as a way to sell a home quickly. But the color gray also provides a blank canvas for homeowners who have no intention of putting their homes on the market anytime soon. Beige and white have long been goto colors for neutral living spaces. But many interior decorators now look to gray as the neutral color of choice. Design experts advise that gray has a broad range. Gray can include everything from silver to charcoal to a dusty cloud. According to the trendsetters at Glidden Paints, gray coordinates well with other colors. Plus, the neutral appeal of gray boasts a timeless quality. Gray is not a clear-cut color that’s simply a 50-50 blend of white and black. Gray has subtle nuances that can lean toward blues, greens, taupes, and more depending on the lighting and surrounding furnishings. That means that homeowners who are ready to replace their furniture or accessories need not necessarily repaint if they’ve previously decorated in shades of gray. Individuals need only replace small items to produce a big effect in rooms where gray is dominant. Because gray is so neutral, it works with soft, calming colors in various pastels, but equally as well with bright reds, yellows and oranges. Gray also is a predominant color in natural stones used throughout homes in entryways, bathrooms and kitchens.
It can make design sense to maintain continuity throughout by dabbling in gray elsewhere. Designers have shown how gray
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does not have to be cold, industrial or gloomy. It can be sophisticated in just about any room of the house. More designers are now leaning toward
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2019 Home Improvement • Page 13
12 ways to maximize vertical space
Who hasn’t, at one point in their life, lamented a lack of space and organization at home? A lifetime’s worth of items have to be kept somewhere, and without the right organizational strategy, clutter can quickly take over. When square footage is limited, tapping vertical walls is the fastest way to maximize and multiply the space available. Hooks, rods, shelving, built-ins — the sky is the limit when it comes to finding additional storage and adding a bit of personality to tight quarters. Even homes that may have adequate space can benefit from vertical solutions. Here are some ideas to put vertical and other less-utilized areas to work for you. 1. Hang wire or plastic file organizers on the inside of kitchen cabinets to easily store cookie sheets, trays and cutting boards. 2. Save on counter or cabinet space with hanging spice racks. These can be hung directly on walls or on the inside of cabinet doors. 3. Stack all the stuff you can, including washers and dryers, beds (with storage drawers underneath) and even stacking nesting tables. 4. Choose furniture that is tall rather than wide. This can mean swapping out a dresser in a bedroom for an armoire or vertical chest of drawers. 5. Canvas bags hung on a towel bar on a wall can keep dirty clothes wrangled until it’s time to wash
them. This also eliminates clothes hampers on the floor. 6. Add a second rod or shelving to the inside of closets to create more space for clothing and other items. 7. Take kitchen cabinets all the way to the ceiling. Store lesser used items on the uppermost shelves and the items you use each day on the most accessible shelves. 8. Install a shelf over the entryway to a room to utilize this seldom-used
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lel to one another on the wall of a bathroom. These can hold extra toilet tissue or rolled hand towels. 12. Use rope plant hangers to store potatoes or onions near prep areas. The same plant hangers can wrangle stuffed animals and small toys in kids’ rooms. Utilizing vertical areas in a home is a great way to increase storage capacity and keep rooms more organized.
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space. Shelves also can be custom cut and placed in oddly shaped areas, such as in attic rooms under the eaves or on slanted walls. 9. Dowels or curtain rods and some fabric can be used to fabricate slings to hold books or magazines. 10. Invest in some magnetic boards that can hold keys or notes by the front door or store knives on a kitchen wall. 11. Install two towel bars paral-
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Quick and simple ways to make a front door pop
Page 14 • 2019 Home Improvement
Visitors’ impressions of a home are often dictated by the home’s entryway. Just as one may judge a book by its cover, the same can be said about the impression that a front door and entryway can create, regardless of how accurate that impression is. Making certain changes to an entryway can go a long way toward improving curb appeal. Entryways also can set the scene for a home’s interior. Whether one chooses to be classic or bold, modern or traditional, there are various ways to quickly transform a home’s entryway. • Bold front door color: Color can dramatically enhance an entryway. Painting an existing door or replacing it with a more vivid option can do the trick. The DIY Network says certain colors stand out as favorites. These include turquoise, yellow, red, indigo, orange and black. The door color should complement the other shades of the home, such as those on siding and trim. • Custom walkway: Guide guests right to the front door with an attractive (and safe) walkway. Stamped concrete or decorative paver blocks may fit the bill. This walkway can extend to the street or to the driveway.
• Contain plants. Landscaping around the entryway should be neat and well-tended. Overgrown plants or shrubbery may give off an air of neglect. Container plants and carefully curated shrubs can create a neat and inviting aura. • Highlight the address. Make sure the home can be found easily with bold and decorative house numbers. Consider two different address signs: one illuminated and easily viewed from the curb, and another closer to the front door. • Utilize high-end materials. The relatively small area of real estate by the front door enables homeowners to splurge on more opulent materials that can really add a feeling of luxury. These can include colorful tiles, ornate planters, decorative wooden doors, or elaborate knobs and lighting fixtures. • Add architectural details. Find out which architectural elements will meld with the style of the home and then incorporate them. Moldings, columns, shutters and trim are areas to consider. The entryway to a home garners a lot of attention. Homeowners can enhance their spaces with entryways that really make a statement.
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2019 Home Improvement • Page 15
Before starting a home improvement project, either on one’s own or with the assistance of a professional contractor, homeowners must first consider the costs involved. According to the home improvement resource HomeAdvisor, more than one-third of homeowners do not understand what hiring a professional will cost, and then cannot successfully budget and secure financing once they have set their sights on a renovation project. HomeAdvisor says that some of the more popular projects, such as remodeling a kitchen or bathroom or building a deck, can cost, on average, $19,920, $9,274 and $6,919, respectively. Homeowners may find that the more expensive renovations require them to secure some type of financing. Those who have never before sought such financing may want to consider these options. 1. Cash-out refinancing: With cashout refinancing, a person will begin the mortgage process anew with the intention of paying off the current mortgage balance, and then taking out additional funds for other purposes. Cash-out refinancing is a way to tap into a home’s existing equity for use on improvements or other expenses,
such as college tuition. 2. Home equity line of credit: A HELOC works like a credit card, with the house as collateral. There is a credit limit, and borrowers can spend up to that limit. The interest rate may or may not be fixed. However, the interest may be tax-deductible if the financing is used to improve, buy or
build a home. 3. Home equity loan: Individuals also can borrow against equity in their homes with a fixed interest rate through a home equity loan. Most lenders will calculate 80 percent of the home value and subtract a homeowner’s mortgage balance to figure out how much can be borrowed.
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4. Personal loan: Homeowners can shop around at various financial institutions for competitive personal loans to be used for home improvement purposes. Funds may be approved within one business day, which can be ideal for those who want to begin their improvements soon. 5. Personal line of credit: A personal line of credit allows borrowers to borrow only the money needed at the time, and offers a variable interest rate that is generally lower than fixed loan rates. Again, like a credit card, PLOC gives a person a maximum borrowing amount and is ideal for ongoing purchases. 6. Credit cards: In a pinch, credit cards can be used to finance improvements, but they do come with the cost of very high interest rates if the balance is not paid in full by the time the bill comes due. However, for funding smaller projects and maximizing rewards points through home improvement retailers or specific credit card company promotions, credit cards can be a way to earn various perks in addition to the benefit of improving a home. Homeowners looking to finance their next improvements should speak to a financial advisor and shop around for the best types of funding for them.
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Things to consider before building a greenhouse
Page 16 • 2019 Home Improvement
Avid gardeners may be enticed by the idea of a greenhouse that allows them to explore their passion for plants year-round. While it’s true that greenhouses afford this luxury, there are important things to consider before erecting a greenhouse in your yard. Greenhouses require ample time to maintain. Greenhouses are not self-managing; they require heat, water, venting, electricity and maintenance on the part of gardeners. Individuals need to determine how much time they have to devote to a greenhouse and then consider their options. Start by choosing the size of the greenhouse. Many experts suggest getting the largest one you can afford and fit into the yard. It is much easier to fill a large greenhouse than try to expand on a small one later on. Next, consider whether you want to build the greenhouse from scratch or utilize a prefabricated kit that can make easier work of the job. Kits typically contain all of the materials needed, and are easiest for someone who is a construction novice. Look for “grower greenhouses,” which are all-purpose options with adjustable shelving and space for growing plants full-term. The next step is deciding where
the greenhouse will be located. The goal is to have a consistent amount of sunlight year-round. A south-facing locale is ideal, and structures should remain north of the greenhouse so they do not cast a shadow on it. The building, cars and technology resource Popular Mechanics advises gardening enthusiasts to take into
consideration the angle of the sun during all seasons before choosing a location. Doing so ensures that the sun is not obscured in the winter or fall. Select a spot that also has ample drainage, as you will not want water pooling up along the sides of or underneath the greenhouse. Raise the
greenhouse on footings to alleviate flooding concerns. Consult with a gardening or agriculture expert about the best way to heat the greenhouse. Options abound with electric-, gas- and propane-powered heating sources. Some systems See GREENHOUSE, 24
Design a dream outdoor entertaining space
2019 Home Improvement • Page 17
Upon the arrival of warm weather, many individuals prefer to spend their free time outside, relishing the fresh air and sunshine and evenings spent under the stars. But cracked patios and makeshift chairs and tables may not establish the desired ambiance. An outdoor entertaining area that offers the same amenities found inside a home can make outdoor retreats both comfortable and functional. Creative planning can help homeowners design dream areas perfect for hosting friends or family. Establish goals As with any project, the first step when coordinating outdoor living areas is to determine what you hope to achieve with the space. Will it be a location for lounging? Will people be cooking meals outside? Is the pool the central focus of the yard? Answering these questions and more can help homeowners decide how to design their entertaining spaces. Remember, however, that goals may evolve as landscape designers and even architects make their own suggestions for the space or present limitations. Evaluate the space Look at the lot and decide what
outdoor kitchens be built close to the house to make it easier to run electricity and plumbing to the outdoor kitchen. Outdoor kitchens should include a sink, small refrigerator, built-in grill, and bar area.
will go where, such as where to place the party space, where to create a quiet hideaway and where to locate a poolhouse or outdoor shower. A large, flat yard can be divided into a series of patios that serve different purposes. Yards that are built on a hill or a slope can still be utilized with creative design elements, such as multi-tiered decking. By working with qualified designers, homeowners can bring their
Creature comforts Homeowners should think about the things that make the inside of their homes so comfortable and then replicate that outside. Sofas and loveseats covered in fabric suited for outdoors and plenty of pillows can make for great lounging. Lighting that can be adjusted for day or night, or even to set the mood, is another consideration. Shade structures, like a trellis or retractable awning, will keep the area comfortable and can also define outdoor “rooms” and establish privacy.
ideas to life. Easy food and drink access Traipsing in and out of the house for refreshments can become tiresome when entertaining outside. In such situations, people also can track dirt inside of the home or leave a trail of pool water in their wake. Outdoor kitchens allow easy access to food and drink that makes outdoor entertaining much easier. Experts suggest
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Basement remodeling tips
Page 18 • 2019 Home Improvement
A basement remodeling project can add valuable and usable space to a home. For many years, homeowners overlooked the potential of a basement remodel, perhaps thinking it would not be a smart return on investment. But that’s no longer the case. The latest “Cost vs. Value” report from Remodeling magazine says the average basement remodel can cost around $61,000 with a 70.3 percent recoup rate. In addition, HGTV says architects and contractors indicate the cost of redoing a basement is roughly one-third to one-half less than the price of putting an addition on a home. Before remodeling a basement, homeowners should think about how they want to use the space. Homeowners also must focus on some potential obstacles in a basement that will need to be addressed so that the area can be as functional as possible. Basements can be chilly and damp. That means moisture issues and heating and cooling needs must be addressed prior to any construction. Homeowners may have to consider the installation of a dehumidifier and run venting through the basement to allow for proper climate control. If a basement takes on water, either through the walls or a concrete slab, a professional waterproofing company can come in and fix these issues so they will not damage drywall and flooring afterwards. The presence of insects and pests also must be addressed. Exterminators
can help homeowners figure out which insects are in their basements and how to make the space less hospitable to these unwelcome guests so that the room will become comfortable for human occupants. Space is often at a premium in basements, which may contain HVAC units, water heaters, filtration devices, ductwork, pipes, and the other
appliances. Qualified contractors can suggest solutions for cordoning off appliances and camouflaging pipes and wires so they won’t detract from the finished product. However, building access panels into the design will make it easier to service or repair features as necessary. Homeowners also may want to wrap pipes before drywall is installed to quiet noisy
drainage pipes. Uneven basement flooring will need to be smoothed out and flattened before carpeting or tile can be laid down. A self-leveling underlayment can be applied to fill in gullies, while larger crack and holes will need to be patched. See BASEMENT, 24
Make barbecues safer for pets
2019 Home Improvement • Page 19
When the season for outdoor entertaining arrives, time spent in the yard entertaining friends and family tends to increase. Barbecuing lends itself well to informal warm weather gatherings. While spending time outside, many pet owners like to have their furry companions nearby so they can enjoy the fresh air and fun as well. However, allowing pets outdoors when grilling or entertaining friends requires some forethought to ensure pets stay safe.
Grilling The act of grilling can be hazardous to pets that can’t resist the aromas of food cooking. Dogs or cats may be drawn to the succulent smells without realizing that there are hot coals or gas nearby. It may be safer to keep animals leashed or contained until the grill has been extinguished to prevent burns and other injuries. Watch the leftovers As diners finish their meals, they may leave scraps strewn around on plates. The occasional nibble here and there may not be overly problematic, but if a dog or cat gets into a food he or she shouldn’t eat, the consequences can be anything from gastrointestinal distress to severe allergic reaction. Any raw meat or seafood can pose a danger to pets. Other foods that can be toxic for a
dog include avocado (and guacamole), garlic, onions, grapes, peaches, and chocolate. No bones about it It may be tempting to toss a dog a bone from the grill, but the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention warns pet owners against feeding their dogs or cats chicken on the bone due to the risk of the bone splintering and causing intestinal obstruction. Even large bones can splinter. Owners who want to offer bones to their dogs should consult with a vet about which types of bones are safe, or look for a manufactured bone from the pet store.
Alcoholic beverages Both dogs and cats are sensitive to alcoholic beverages. In addition, the APOP warns that even a few ounces of beer or wine can be poisonous to a dog or cat. Discard half-drained wine glasses and beer bottles promptly. Fireworks If fireworks are part of the festivities, make sure to keep skittish pets away. The loud sounds and brilliant sights can frighten pets, and an animal may dart out of the yard to escape, getting lost or injured in the process. Pet owners must emphasize safety when grilling and entertaining outdoors with their pets in tow.
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Page 20 • 2019 Home Improvement
How color can affect your garden
Flower gardens can add color and awe-inspiring appeal to a property. The National Gardening Association notes that gardeners can find nearly every color of the spectrum in flowering perennials. So whether you prefer soft pink, are partial to bright red or want to relax in a garden and gaze at something deep blue, chances are you’ll find a perennial to tickle your fancy. The NGA offers the following breakdown of colors to help gardeners learn how their gardens can set the mood they’re looking for. Bright colors A garden full of bright colors like red, orange, magenta and yellow can provide a landscape with vigor and energy. The NGA notes that brightly colored flowers can withstand especially bright sunshine, meaning gardeners can marvel at their appearance even when the sun might be adversely affecting other plants and flowers. Pastel colors Pastels, which include soft pink, powder blue, lavender and peach, create a tranquil feeling in a garden. This makes pastels perfect for those who want their gardens to be a relaxing, peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The NGA notes that pastels may look washed out in the midday
sun, so they might be best enjoyed early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Complementary colors Complementary colors are those that are opposite one another on the color wheel. Orange and blue are examples of complementary colors. According to the NGA, complementary colors can add creative energy and vitality to a garden.
Harmonious colors These colors are those that ar e next to each other on the color wheel, such as orange and red. The NGA recommends harmonious colors for gardeners looking to create a unifying feel in their gardens without resorting to a monochromatic color scheme. Harmonious colors give off a gentle feeling that can make for a relaxing garden atmosphere.
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Monochromatic colors Monochromatic gardens can be awe-inspiring even though they stick to a single color and don’t provide an array of awe-inspiring colors. The NGA notes that gardeners with monochromatic gardens make them interesting by using plants of various sizes and shapes. When planting a garden, gardeners can choose whichever color scheme they prefer.
Defining hardscape and how to use it
2019 Home Improvement • Page 21
Curb appeal is beneficial in various ways. Curb appeal can make a home more attractive to prospective buyers and give existing homeowners a place they want to come home to. In its study of the worth of outdoor remodeling projects, the National Association of Realtors found standard lawn care and overall landscape upgrades were most appealing to buyers, as well as the most likely to add value to a home. Although plants, grass and other items can improve curb appeal, homeowners should not overlook hardscaping. Hardscaping is an industry term that refers to the non-living features of a landscape. These features can include everything from decks to walkways to ornamental boulders. Introducing paths or paver walls to a property helps develop that home’s hardscape. Hardscape and soft elements often work in concert to create inspiring landscape designs. DIY landscape designers can heed certain tips to make the most of hardscape features on their properties.
Choose materials As with many landscaping projects, homeowners must first determine what types of additions they would like on their properties. Common hardscape features include patios, decks, walkways of pavers or bricks, and retaining walls. Hardscape elements can be functional or simply decorative features that add whimsy to the yard.
Choose a theme The right style allows hardscaping and softscaping materials to work together. For example, homeowners may want to give their yards an eastern feel, complete with a koi pond and decorative bridge or trellis. A formal English garden, however, may include manicured paths with stepping stones and ornate topiaries. Mixing too many styles together can take away from the overall appeal. The pros suggest looking at the overall plan of the design, even if all of the work can’t be completed at
once. This way the eventual finished project will be cohesive. Think about the purpose Hardscaping can look good but also serve key purposes. Pebbles or gravel can mitigate trouble areas that don’t grow grass or plant life well. Retaining walls hold back soil in yards with sharply inclined hills. Mulch can set perimeters around trees and shrubs, as well as planting beds. Fencing, another form of hardscaping, is essential for establishing property boundaries and adding privacy.
Consult a professional While many hardscaping additions can be handled by novices, large-scale projects, such as patios and decking, can change the grading of the yard. Professionals can map out how to handle drainage issues and meet building codes. In addition, professional installation can ensure hardscaping features last for years to come. Hardscaping should blend with the nature around it and take its cues from the surrounding environment. This can help softscaping and hardscaping work as one.
Page 22 • 2019 Home Improvement
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How to help flowers withstand heat waves
2019 Home Improvement • Page 23
Heat waves are an inevitable part of summer in many places across the globe. While humans can escape indoors to air conditioned rooms when heat waves hit full swing, flowers planted around a property have no such luxury, putting their survival in jeopardy whenever the mercury rises to especially steamy heights. Wilted flowers that have succumbed to the summer sun are a sight many gardening enthusiasts can recognize. But there are ways to keep flowers safe and vibrant during periods of extreme heat. • Water at the appropriate times of day. The National Gardening Association notes that it’s best to water in the early morning and evening because less water will be lost to evaporation during these times of day than during the afternoon, when temperatures tend to be at their hottest. • Choose the right watering method. It’s not just when but also how you water that can affect flowers during summer heat waves. Aboveground sprinklers might be great for lawns, but the NGA notes that such sprinklers can encourage the spread of disease on certain plants, including roses. Many gardening professionals recommend soaker hoses when watering flowers because they promote deep watering that can help the plants withstand the summer heat. If you
must use an overheard watering system, set the timer so plants are watered in early in the morning or evening. • Routinely check the soil moisture. Soil moisture can help gardeners determine if their flowers have enough water to withstand the heat. The NGA advises gardeners to dig a 12-inch deep wedge of soil from their gardens to determine its moisture levels. If the top 6 inches of the soil is dry, water. If that area is still wet or moist, the plants have enough moisture to withstand the heat. Check these moisture levels more frequently during heat waves than other times of year. • Avoid overwatering. Novice gardeners may be tempted to water more frequently when they see wilted leaves on their flowers. But wilted leaves are not necessarily indicative of suffering plants. Plants release moisture to protect themselves from excessive heat, and that release of moisture can cause leaves to wilt as the plants try to protect themselves by providing less surface area that can be exposed to the sun. So long as soil moisture levels are healthy, the flowers should be fine, even if their leaves have wilted. No gardener wants to see their flowers succumb to the summer heat. Fortunately, there are many ways to help flowers survive heat waves.
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Page 24 • 2019 Home Improvement
FROM PAGE 6
FROM PAGE 18
usage of vertical space. Vertical storage units, hooks, shelving and more can move items out of drawers and off of counters. Consider an under-the-cabinet toaster oven and microwave to create more counter space. Use scaled-down appliances Shop with size in mind when looking at new appliances if you have a small kitchen. Compact versions won’t take up as much space as larger alternatives. Homeowners should consider the ultimate function of the kitchen and then think about which appliances will serve them well. Homeowners with small kitchens may not need a large stand mixer or an oversized commercial stove.
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Add some glass The DIY Network recommends incorporating glass to improve the perception of space in small kitchens. Glass lets you see through the objects, thereby enhancing the feeling of spaciousness or what designers call “negative space.” Glass also can be reflective, visually expanding the space. Embrace high-end materials It costs less to renovate small spaces than bigger areas, so homeowners may be able to afford highend materials that really add personality to a kitchen. Flooring, counter materials and quality fixtures can really set small kitchens apart. Small kitchens can be culinary havens with the right improvements to maximize the space.
The National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Landscape Professionals agree that certain projects offer significant returns when selling a home. The NAR says these are the
Once the structure of the basement is addressed, then the design work can begin. Many professionals advise against drop ceilings, which can take away from ceiling height and look cheap. Basements can be dark, so the addition of plenty of lighting can help brighten the room. Small basement windows can be replaced with larger ones to add more light as well. Homeowners can mimic built-ins
and architectural details from elsewhere in the home so the basement is aesthetically cohesive and doesn’t seem like an addition. Bookcases and shelving can add valuable storage space as well. Decorate the basement with bright, neutral colors so they make the space feel more inviting. With some effort and financial investment, basements can be as beautiful and functional as other rooms in a home.
Greenhouse FROM PAGE 16
will require venting. You also will need to know what is available and legal in your area. Check to see if you need a building permit for the greenhouse and any accompanying heating elements. Once the greenhouse is situated,
10 most appealing outdoor features to buyers. • Standard lawn care • Overall landscape upgrade • New patio • New wood deck • Softscaping
• • • • •
you can begin to add other items, like benches, additional shelving, hooks for tools and even an automated watering or misting system. Greenhouses take commitment, but the reward is the chance to enjoy gardening all year long.
Sod lawn Seed lawn Outdoor firepit Outdoor fireplace New pool
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Emerging deck trends
2019 Home Improvement • Page 25
Custom-built decks can expand usable outdoor entertaining spaces. Decks can surround pools and create outdoor patio areas that make it easy to establish multitiered living spaces, improving the functionality of outdoor areas. Certain deck trends have emerged as industry experts’ top picks for the upcoming remodeling and renovation season. For those thinking of revamping an existing deck or building an entirely new one, these trends are on point. • Established perimeters: “Picture framing” is not a new trend, but one that has taken greater hold in recent years. The term refers to aesthetically appealing designs that conceal the ends of deck boards for a clean finish. Some designs feature contrasting material colors on the ends for even more impact. This helps create refined perimeters for a polished look. • Rooftop decking: Urban areas also can benefit from decking to create usable outdoor spaces. In fact, many new condominium and townhouse communities are incorporating rooftop decks into their designs, particularly in communities with water views or other impressive vistas. HGTV experts suggest rooftop decks feature light-colored materials and fixtures to help keep the area cool even in direct sunlight. • Distressed hardwood: Builder and Developer, a management resource for professional homebuilders, says that the trend for using distressed hard-
woods at home has migrated outside. Some decking manufacturers have recently introduced low-maintenance composite deck boards that mimic the look and feel of distressed, rustic hardwood flooring. This weathered appearance gives the look of age without the upkeep of real aged wood. • Wooden walkways: Decking can be the more traditional design people envision with a patio table or outdoor furniture. But it also can consist of wooden walkways or a low-laying patio to accentuate the yard. • Mixed materials: Homeowners may be inspired by commercial eateries, breweries and urban markets in their exterior design choices. Decks featuring composite materials and aluminum railings blend sophistication, urban appeal and comfort. • Personal touches: Homeowners can customize their decks with personal touches. It’s not unheard of to wrap columns in stone or glass tiles for more impact. And a vast array of decking colors now enables fun interpretations for outdoor areas. • Fire pit conversation area: Many decks can incorporate water or fire elements for visual appeal. Gas-fueled fire elements can expand the functionality of decks beyond the warm seasons, or make enjoying them practical on nights when the temperature plummets. Decks are reimagined in many different ways with continually evolving trends.
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Rethink your kitchen layout
Page 26 • 2019 Home Improvement
Kitchens are the most popular rooms in many homes. Even though The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states the average person spends just 68 minutes each weekday consuming food, and around 37 minutes preparing meals, the kitchen is not just a spot for food. It also is a gathering place for conversation, homework and family time. In recognition that so much time is spent in this heart of the home, many people are embracing some of the more popular trends concerning kitchen layouts to maximize the comfort and efficiency of these rooms. Communal zones Unlike the days of yore when the kitchen was utilitarian, today’s home floor plans make kitchens a focal point of a home. Food preparation also is no longer a solitary task. Thanks to larger kitchen footprints and multiple zones set up for meal creation, a greater number of people can hang out in the kitchen and help with meals. You’ll find multiple sinks, large islands and more counter space are key components of modern kitchen layouts. Dining nooks Kitchen designs are bringing back banquette seating in a cozy nook. This design is a practical use of space, and can fit in large and small kitchens alike. It also can give a kitchen a high-end look, as built-in banquettes
can highlight a bay window or seem custom-made for the space. Banquette seating can fit a number of people comfortably and provides a sensible and casual dining spot solution. Family table The trend experts at Southern Living magazine indicate that formal dining and living rooms are now used infrequently. As a result, kitchens have evolved to accommodate meal prep and dining. A large family table in the center of the room brings people into the kitchen to get more
involved with food, according to San Francisco designer David Kensington. Counter culture Taking a page out of a favorite corner diner or bar, kitchens are increasingly outfitted with a large island flanked by chic counter stools. Family members can pull up a stool and grab a quick snack. It’s also a great place for friends to engage in conversation while a host or hostess prepares cocktails and appetizers for an evening soirée.
Work zone Many families like to have an area of the kitchen set up as a tech zone where kids can do their homework and even parents can do some work, such as paying bills. Setting aside an area of counter space as a small desk area can be a great idea. Such areas also help parents keep a watchful eye on children while they’re surfing the internet. Kitchens are the hub of the household, and modern design trends cater to a growing need for a multipurpose space.
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2019 Home Improvement • Page 27
Establish the ideal home gaming set-up
The majority of modern households are now home to at least one gamer. The Entertainment Software Association, in a survey of 4,000 American households, discovered that 64 percent of households own a device they use to play video games, with an average of two gamers in each game-playing home. Gaming is so popular that The NPD Group says total consumer spending on the video game industry in 2017 equaled $36 billion. Avid gamers understand that having a dedicated and well-equipped setup can really improve the gaming experience. Here are some items worth considering for the ultimate gaming area. • Large-sized screen: A dedicated television screen will be needed for console gaming. Something at least 60 inches with Ultra High Definition and 4K capabilities is ideal. The high resolution enables crystal clear graphics and vividness. Most televisions now come with several HDMI ports, enabling people to easily connect gaming consoles and other peripherals to them. • Gaming headphones: The right headphones enable clear surround sound and include a retractable directional microphone to participate in social, multiplayer games. Wireless headphones are essential so that wires will not impede the action. • The right keyboard: PC gamers largely rely on keyboards and a mouse to control the action. A keyboard with backlighting and textured rubber feet
to keep the keyboard securely planted will enable gamers to play in a darkened room. • Ergonomic chair: Gaming chairs come in different varieties. Some are like office chairs that can serve double duty at a desk, whether one is working on a school project or blasting through a first-person shooter’s tactical field. Other gaming chairs run the gamut of wired rockers that build sound and motion within, and top it
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off with comfortable arm rests. Above all, gamers should seek chairs with ergonomic features for comfort and to avoid fatigue during long hours of play. • Speakers or soundbar: If a gaming room is doubling as a home theater, investing in a quality set of speakers or a soundbar can make sensory immersion even more intense. Soundbars or surround sound speaker systems will give ears a rest from headphones.
Soundbars are a compact and often wireless way to improve television sound and are usually less expensive and easier to install than surround sound systems. • Console: Gamers must decide if they prefer a PC-based system or freestanding consoles such as those sold by Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. Gaming is as popular as ever, and a well-curated gaming setup can enhance the action.
What is the water table, and how does it affect homes?
Page 28 • 2019 Home Improvement
The groundwater table plays a role in home construction, foundation stability and home comfort. Because the groundwater table is so significant, it behooves homeowners to understand how it works. National Geographic defines a water table as the boundary between water-saturated ground and unsaturated ground. Well beneath the ground, at various depths depending on geography, topography and weather conditions, pockets of water, called aquifers, exist. The water table marks the boundary between that available water and the dry surface. Ground water is impacted by precipitation, irrigation and ground cover. It also may be affected by land use and tides. The water table can fluctuate with the seasons and from year to year because it is affected by climatic variations as well as how much water may be drawn from underground, advises Encyclopedia Britannica. The water table where one person lives may be several inches or feet below the surface of the ground and follow the topography of the land. For others, it may be much higher, even coming above the surface of the soil. The water table as well as local soil conditions and drainage can impact homes and their foundations. If soil drains efficiently and there is a relatively low water table, it may not be problematic. However, if soil is dense and absorbent and the water table is high, the ground around a home may swell and become saturated. This can
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exert significant pressure against the foundation walls, states Rytech, a water damage and mold rehabilitation company. In areas where a local water table rises near the surface, water can push against the underside of the foundation in a condition known as “hydrostatic pressure.” This may cause water to infiltrate through the bottom of the foundation — even permeating solid concrete over time. If hydrostatic pressure is severe, it could lift certain portions of the foundation out
of the ground, but this is very unlikely. But it could cause shifting of foundation walls and structures like fencing and decks. Even if ground water does not cause foundation cracking or shifting, it could lead to humidity issues, resulting in rust, bacteria and mold. Wood structures in a home may be compromised by a high level of humidity. Certain steps may need to be taken to protect against damage from a water table and abundant ground
water. Basement and foundation waterproofing professionals can help homeowners develop a plan to mitigate water damage. This can include grading changes and the installation of drains and pumps to move water away from the house. Special paints and sealants also can protect the foundation. Ground water can be a hindrance when it affects the home, but homeowners who learn about it can be in a position to confront any ground water issues.
Investing in a home renovation project not only requires money, but also time and patience. While contractors, architects and designers can estimate how long a project may take, it is impossible to anticipate all of the scenarios that can affect that estimated timeline. An average kitchen remodel involving installation of new countertops, cabinets, appliances, and floors can take three to six months. But if ductwork, plumbing or wiring must be addressed, the job may take longer. A midline bathroom remodel may take two to three months. Adding a room to a house can take a month or two. Homeowners need to consider time when planning their home projects.
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Lighting is a key component of curb appeal
2019 Home Improvement • Page 29
Curb appeal can affect prospective buyers’ perception of a home. When addressing curb appeal, homeowners may be inclined to focus on features that are easily seen from the street during the day. But what can a homeowner do to improve on his or her home’s nighttime aesthetic? Outdoor lighting is one aspect of curb appeal that is often overlooked. Homeowners may fail to recognize the importance of how proper illumination can provide their homes with a warm glow and make it look beautiful after the sun has set. For example, think of how cozy and inviting neighborhoods appear during the holiday season when homes are strung with twinkling lights. Homeowners can replicate that look all year long with lighting elements. Lighting for evening hours also helps maintain a safe environment for people who are visiting the property. Illuminating walkways and doorways provides a clearly visible and safe path to and from the home. The following are a few ways to improve outdoor lighting. • Focus on architectural features. Outdoor lighting can focus on the external features of the home’s architectural style. Use light to draw attention to interesting gables, dramatic roof lines, dormers, or curved entryways. • Play up landscaping. Stylish lighting can highlight trees, shrubs, pathways, gardens, and all of the elements of softscapes and hardscapes on a property. The lighting experts at Vernon Daniel Associates say that soft lighting can make homes feel warm and cozy. Uplighting trees or other elements can add a dramatic effect. • Light up all doors. Make sure that doors, both entry and garage, are properly lit for ease of entry and egress from the home. Safety. com, a home and personal security
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resource, says a home burglary occurs every 15 seconds in the United States. Installing motion-activated lights or lights on timers can deter break-ins. Consider using home automation to control porch lights and other outdoor lights remotely, if necessary. • Create entertaining areas. Outdoor lighting can be used to extend the hours residents can spend outside. This is great for entertaining and can be an excellent selling point. Homeowners are urged not to overlook outdoor lighting as a vital part of their plan to improve curb appeal.
Page 30 • 2019 Home Improvement
How to protect your yard from deer
With more than 60 different species of deer worldwide, there’s a good chance individuals will have some sort of interaction with these majestic animals at one point during their lifetimes. Deer, which live on all continents except Antarctica, can survive in everything from mountainous areas to wet rainforests to suburban neighborhoods. These herbivores are voracious eaters that will search far and wide for their meals. Home landscapes tend to be easy pickings for foraging deer. Many people are excited to see deer in their neighborhoods and yards because they can be such graceful creatures to behold. However, once deer start to munch on ornamental trees, annuals and flowering shrubs, the novelty of these animals may wear off. Furthermore, deer also can be covered in ticks that spread illnesses like Lyme disease. Here are some tips to keep deer at bay. • Avoid tasty morsels. Deer like English ivy, lettuces, impatiens, pansies, and hostas. Fruit trees also are targets. Choose other plants to grow, and wait until after early spring, when deer aren’t as concerned with regaining weight lost during the winter, to get them in the ground. • Use fishing line to deter deer. Put a few stakes in the ground and then run fishing line at a height of about three feet. Deer can sense movement but do not have keen vision. As the deer approach your garden, they’ll
brush against the “invisible” fishing line and then get spooked off. • Plant plants that produce strong aromas. The experts at Good Housekeeping suggest planting lavender and marigolds, which emit strong aromas. Deer will be reluctant to walk through because the smell can interfere with their ability to find food and assess their environment via their sense of smell.
• Stock up on soap. The tallow in soap helps keep deer away, according to the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science. Scented soaps like Irish Spring may be especially good at warding off deer. • Plant in levels. Raised beds and sunken gardens can discourage deer from coming into the yard because they aren’t avid climbers, offers the
home and garden resource This Old House. • Employ harmless scare tactics. Deer are skittish, and any unfamiliar movement or sound may scare them away. Cans hung from strings, sundials and lights can keep them at bay. Deer will seek out an easy meal, but homeowners can take steps to safeguard their trees, flowers and shrubs.
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Items to get you started on creating your smart home
2019 Home Improvement • Page 31
Technology has changed the way people live in the 21st century. Once ubiquitous, land lines anchored to kitchen walls have now given way to smartphones that can be taken anywhere. Bulky television sets that required at least two people to move have been replaced with high-definition offerings so light and thin they can be mounted on living room walls. It’s no great surprise that technology also is changing the physical places we call home. Smart homes are a rapidly growing trend. In a typical smart home, devices such as the thermostat, television and even the refrigerator can be controlled remotely through the internet. Converting an existing home into a smart home can seem intimidating, especially for people who don’t consider themselves tech savvy. But today’s user-friendly technology makes it relatively easy for anyone to turn his or her home into a smarter one. Before you get started, recognize that there are certain must-have items to turn a home into a smart home. Hub The hub refers to software or hardware that connects all of your
of routers that are compatible with your Wi-Fi from your service provider, as not all routers will necessarily work with your internet connection. If possible, upgrade to the fastest WiFi your internet provider offers, as that will make your smart home that much more enjoyable and frustration-free.
devices and gets them to work together. Think of the various devices you have and then think of their manufacturers. Chances are strong you have devices manufactured by various companies, and enabling those to work together might seem impossible. A hub does that work for you. And because they can be connected to your smartphone, hubs also make it possible to control devices while you’re away from home.
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Wi-Fi router Some people rent their routers from their internet/cable providers, while others buy their own routers. Regardless of which category you fall into, you’re going to need a good Wi-Fi router to get your smart home up and running. Determine which type of Wi-Fi your home currently has and then find a router that’s compatible with that Wi-Fi. Request a list
Devices You won’t necessarily need to upgrade your devices to get a smart home. In fact, if you control or can control any device in your home with a smartphone, you are already on your way to having a smart home. Upgrading to a programmable thermostat that’s compatible with your smartphone might be a great idea if your current thermostat is old and not internet-compatible. With a programmable thermostat, you can control the temperature in your home remotely. That ensures the home is a comfortable temperature when you arrive home and allows you to turn off costly heating and cooling units when no one is home. Smart homes may seem futuristic. But chances are strong your home only needs some simple, inexpensive upgrades to join the smart home revolution.
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u o y Did w? o n k
Spring cleaning is a ritual in many homes, though some might be forgetting to address an area of their homes that can be especially vulnerable to insect infestations. According to PestWorld. org, kitchen cabinets and pantries used to store spices and baking items, such as flour, can make for inviting hideouts for various types of pests. These unwelcome guests include beetles, Indian meal moths and ants. To remedy this issue or prevent insects from becoming an issue, discard stale spices or dated baking items. Once such items have been removed from the cabinets and pantry and discarded, wipe down the interior of the spaces before installing fresh shelf paper. If the critters didn’t make their presence known in the cabinets, that doesn’t mean they haven’t made your kitchen home over the winter. Some might have opted to spend their winters behind appliances, including the stove and the refrigerator. As a result, it’s best to pull these appliances off the wall each spring, sweeping or vacuuming the dust and crumbs you find before mopping the floors.
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Restore rusty tools
2019 Home Improvement • Page 33
Many people may be tempted to discard rusty tools that have gone unused and sat in a garage or shed for a significant period of time. But tools encrusted with rust do not need to be relegated to the trash bin, nor do gardeners have to toil for hours scraping and sanding off the rust. There’s a
much easier way to restore rusty tools that relies on a common household ingredient: vinegar. Pour vinegar into a deep enough vessel to submerge the metal part of the tool. Soak the tool overnight. The next day, use a scouring pad to rub off the rust. If the tool is too big to fit into a can or
bucket, simply wrap it with a vinegar-soaked rag and cover the whole tool with a tightly secured plastic bag. Follow the same procedure the next day. After all the rust is gone, rinse the tool in cool water and dry thoroughly. Then return it to regular usage.
Why it’s smart to have a smart home
Devices are everywhere. According to a recent visual networking index forecast from Cisco, by 2021, there will be four networked devices and connections per person across the globe. Those figures are even greater in North America, where Cisco estimates each person will have 13 networked devices and connections by 2021. With all those devices, it’s no surprise that a greater number of people are embracing the smart home movement. Those who have yet to jump on the bandwagon can benefit from learning more about smart homes and why it’s intelligent to have a smart home.
What is a smart home? The term “smart home” is commonly used to define residences in which appliances, lighting, heating and cooling units, televisions, computers, entertainment systems, and security systems are capable of communicating with one another. Each of these components can be controlled remotely, typically via a smartphone. Why is it smart to have a smart home? The benefits of a smart home are numerous, and will likely only multiply as people utilize more devices. • Time: A recent joint survey from CNET and Coldwell Banker found that 57 percent of Americans say that smart home technology saves them
an average of 30 minutes per day. That’s an especially beneficial advantage for busy parents and/or professionals who find it difficult to juggle all of their daily responsibilities. • Money: Another benefit to smart homes is their cost savings. Because devices can be controlled remotely, smart home owners can adjust the temperatures on their heating and cooling units while away from home. That means they can arrive home each night to a comfortable home without having to run their HVAC systems all day while no one was home. In fact, the CNET/Coldwell Banker survey found 45 percent of Americans say that smart home products save them an average of $98.30 each month.
• Investment: Whether you’re a developer or a single-family homeowner, real estate is an investment. Making a home as appealing to prospective buyers as possible is a great way to get a better return on your real estate investment. The CNET/ Coldwell Banker survey found that 81 percent of buyers would be more likely to buy a home if smart home products were already installed. That can make the market for your home more competitive, ultimately earning you more money at resale. Smart homes are both the present and the future. Homeowners who want to make their homes more livable today and more marketable tomorrow should consider investing in smart home products.
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Page 34 • 2019 Home Improvement
Get ready: Early spring landscaping tips During the cold months of winter, many people stare longingly out of the window dreaming of spring and time spent outdoors. For those with green thumbs, images of tending to the garden and other aspects of their landscapes no doubt dominate such daydreams. Draw inspiration from those budding crocuses and daffodils pushing through the last remnants of snow and employ these tips to prepare for the upcoming gardening season. • One of the first steps is to apply a pre-emergent weed killer to get a head start knocking out weeds that can plague the lawn during the growing season. Killing weeds at the roots early on can mean far fewer hassles in spring and summer, and may prevent new generations of weeds from cropping up each year. • While it may be tempting to take a prematurely warm day as a sign that spring is in full force and purchase a bunch of annuals, it’s better to know the last of the possible frost dates (check The Farmer’s Almanac); otherwise, you may waste time and money planting flowers or vegetables only to have them zapped by another frosty day. • Amend the soil so that it is the right consistency — just crumbling when lifting it. Soil that is too muddy after spring thaw can harden, making it difficult for plants to flourish later on. Speak with
representatives at a local lawn and garden center about which types of amendments you can add to the soil in your particular area to enrich it. • Filling in bare patches of lawn now by mixing a few shovelfuls of soil with grass seed. Then apply this patch to the bare areas, water, and continue to care for the area until the spot fills in. • Spend a day in the garage or shed tending to the lawn mower and other gardening equipment. Clean all tools and ensure that everything works, repairing parts as needed. • Give outdoor entertaining spaces a good scrubbing, clearing away dirt and grime that may have accumulated over the winter. Use a leaf blower to blow away any leftover leaves. • Check if the front porch, railings or decking need painting and/ or staining. Tackle these projects when the weather is cooler so everything will be ready for those peak spring days. • Think about any annuals you might want to plant in the landscape this year that will complement any existing shrubbery or perennials. Come up with a theme so that the entire yard is cohesive. Before homeowners know it, winter is gone and it is time to once again enjoy long days spent outdoors. Get a jump start on spring lawn prep as soon as you can.
2019 Home Improvement • Page 35
Add a pop of purple around the house Pantone named “Ultra Violet” its color of the year in 2018, helping to create a resurgence in popularity of all things purple. As a result, homeowners who pride themselves on staying on top of the latest trends have increasingly turned to purple when designing their home interiors. Purple influences can range from the dramatic to the subtle. Here are some ways to embrace purple in your home. Transition bedroom color Purple has long been a favorite shade for adolescents who are growing up and moving away from
u o y Did w? kno
pinks and peaches into more mature room colors. Purple looks well when accented by white, magenta and yellow. Even though it is embraced by young girls, purple also can be used by adults who want to create soothing retreats in their bedrooms. Create an accent wall A purple room may intimidate people who prefer mild, more neutral design schemes. But a purple accent wall can add a pop of color. When it comes time to list a home, it’s easier for the next homeowner to embrace a purple accent wall than an entire
room decorated in this jeweled tone. Use accent items It’s easy to add a splash of plum or other variations of purple without making a permanent commitment. Dress up neutral decor with throw pillows, rugs, table linens, or draperies in all shades of purple. As trends change, it’s easy to exchange accent items. Modern kitchen Homeowners can offset efficient, modern design in kitchens characterized by white cabinetry and stainless appliances with some well-placed
grape focal points. A purple backsplash, purple-clad island or lavender bar stools can lend vibrancy to a space. Purple powder room A purple guest bathroom is the ideal place to help overnight guests feel regal. Violet and deeper shades of purple can feel warm and luxurious. Beige or cream bathrooms can be enhanced with a deep purple bath mat, shower curtain and hand towels. Purple is hot right now and turning up in unexpected places in many homes.
Many an amateur landscaper has encountered grubs while tending to their lawns, but even the most attentive green thumber may have a lawn infested with grubs and not know it. Grubs often go unnoticed until late summer, when they’ve already done substantial damage to a lawn. Oddly enough, one of the telltales signs of a grub infestation is not the grubs themselves but the animals looking to dine on them. Fully grown grubs make for hearty meals, so homeowners who notice raccoons, skunks, armadillos, and/or birds digging up their lawns may have a grub infestation. That’s because these unwanted guests like to dine on mature grubs who have spent summer feasting on organic matter in the soil. Another sign of a possible grub infestation is a lawn that feels spongy when stepped on. Patches of dead grass that peel back easily are a sign that grubs have eaten the roots that keep healthy grass in place.
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Green options in home siding
Page 36 • 2019 Home Improvement
If new siding is on the list of mustdo home projects this year, there are many factors to consider. Though it’s a transformative renovation, replacement siding is a significant and potentially expensive undertaking. Therefore, careful consideration must be given to the materials used and their maintenance, longevity, insulation factor, and cost. Many homeowners also want siding that is eco-friendly. Sustainability is an important consideration for many homeowners. Data from the National Association of Home Builders’ “Green Multifamily and Single Family Homes 2017 SmartMarket Brief” indicates that at least one-third of single-family and multifamily home builders who were surveyed said that green building is a significant portion of their overall activity (more than 60 percent of their portfolio). By 2022, this number should increase to nearly one-half in both the single-family and multifamily sectors. Green building has become an important and established part of the residential construction sector. Where siding is sourced, the materials that go into its fabrication and how well that siding insulates a home are key aspects of its “green factor.” The following are some of the more sustainable options in home siding. Reclaimed timber A house sided with clapboard, or a log cabin-inspired look, is iconic. These types of siding are typically
Stucco HouseLogic says traditional stucco is made from sand and Portland cement mixed with water to make a usable plaster. It’s tough and durable — often lasting the life of the house. Eco-friendly variants include stucco made with an earth-and-lime mixture, offsetting the CO2 emissions associated with cement production. Stucco can reduce air infiltration that causes drafts in a home. Fiber-cement Fiber-cement is similar to stucco in that it is made from sand, Portland cement, clay, and wood pulp fibers. It can be fire-resistant and insect-proof and will not rot. It’s a stable material that can recover almost 80 percent of the initial cost, according to the National Association of Realtors.
made from insect-repellant pine, cedar, cypress, or redwood. While lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council is environmentally friendly, homeowners may want to seek out reclaimed lumber. This wood has history and causes very little environmental impact. Plus, timber salvaged from old buildings or fallen trees may be superior to new wood because it likely came from slow-growing, old trees with
dense grain. Brick Avoid any negative environmental impact by choosing locally produced or reclaimed bricks — or those made from post-consumer content. The longevity of bricks can often offset the energy expenditure in their manufacture. Plus, many bricks are made from natural clay, which can be an excellent insulator.
Stone This nonrenewable resource can be beautiful on a home and durable, but mining it can impact the environment. If homeowners can use reclaimed or displaced stone, those are more sustainable options. Manufactured stone, which is cement and other materials molded to look like stone, is also aesthetically appealing and more eco-friendly. Replacing siding is a significant undertaking. Homeowners can consider sustainability when selecting replacement siding materials.
2019 Home Improvement • Page 37
The art of buying art for your home
Designing a home’s interior can be fun. Whether furnishing a first apartment or a newly purchased family home, many people feel that the art they put on the walls of their homes is an expression of their individuality, and that a home isn’t truly a home until its interior reflects their personalities. Furnishing a home with art can be intimidating, especially for people doing so for the first time. But a few tricks of the trade can help men and women turn the interiors of their homes into spaces that reflect who they are. • Embrace your personal taste. Don’t hesitate to decorate your walls with art you like. When buying furniture for a home, it can make sense to follow certain rules. For example, parents of young children might want to purchase dark-colored furnishings that can hide stains. But no such rules should govern your choices of artwork. Art reflects the person who made it, but it also reflects the person who buys it, so buyers should embrace their personal taste when furnishing their homes with art. • Shop around. Thanks to the internet, billions of pieces of art, from tapestries to photographs to
paintings, are at your fingertips. Comparison shopping can be fun and help novices discover their personal tastes. It also can be a great way to support artists. That can give people a greater sense of pride in their home’s decor. • Seek inspiration. If you’re unfamiliar with art, don’t hesitate to seek inspiration. Art is everywhere, from the hotels you stay in while traveling to the billboards you pass while driving to work to the local art museum near your home. If you’re uncertain of what you like, make a concerted effort to recognize the art you see but may not stop to notice each day. As you expose yourself to more and more art, you will gain a greater knowledge of what you like and dislike. Use that knowledge to inform your decisions when buying art for your home. • Switch things up. Your entire home does not need to follow a theme. If your taste in art is eclectic, embrace that and have different rooms throughout your home reflect your different tastes. This can give each room its own unique feel and make for a colorful home. The art people hang in their homes is a personal choice, and the process of finding that art can be fun and eye-opening.
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Page 38 • 2019 Home Improvement
Cold weather can take its toll on a property, especially in regions of the world where winters are harsh. Most parts of the landscape are vulnerable to damage from winter storms, but trees may be especially susceptible. By the end of winter, many homeowners wonder if their trees would benefit from some professional TLC. Tree services provide a host of services. While fall is a popular time to remove trees from a property, doing so in spring is not unheard of, especially if trees were affected by winter storms and now pose a threat to a home and the people who live inside it. Homeowners considering tree services can explore the following ways that some professional arbor attention can protect them and their homes. • Tree services can help protect a home’s foundation. Old trees that stretch well into the sky can be captivating, but they also can pose a threat to a home’s foundation. Such trees may have especially large root zones that may extend beneath walkways and even a home. In the latter instance, foundations may crack as roots try to stake their claim to the ground beneath a home. According to the home improvement resource HomeAdvisor, homeowners pay an average of just over $4,000 to re-
pair foundation issues, though major problems can cost considerably more than that. A professional tree service can remove aging trees that might be beautiful and awe-inspiring but still pose a threat to a home and the areas surrounding it. • Tree services can improve visibility. Trees that have aged a bit
since their last trimming might affect the view of a property from inside a home. Overgrown branches can compromise residents’ ability to see and experience the natural beauty just outside their windows. The average homeowner may be able to trim short trees on his or her own, but if views from the second floor of a home or
higher have been compromised, it’s much safer to call a professional tree service. Such services have the right tools and experienced personnel necessary to safely trim high branches on tall trees. • Tree services can help prevent future damage. Even if trees made it through a recent winter unscathed, that’s no guarantee next winter or even the coming seasons of spring, summer and fall won’t ultimately prove their undoing. Travelers Insurance notes that weather-related roof damage, including damage resulting from falling limbs and branches weighed down by snow during the winter months, accounted for more than half of all Travelers property loss claims between 2009 and 2016. According to BNC Insurance and Risk Advisors, homeowners may be liable if a tree they knew posed a threat falls onto a passerby or a neighbor’s property and causes damage or injury. Having all trees properly trimmed each year, but especially those that can fall on your home and your neighbors’ homes, may prevent future damage and legal issues. Tree services can ensure trees maintain their awe-inspiring beauty and help homeowners protect their homes and their belongings.
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2019 Home Improvement • Page 39
Organize and declutter room-by-room
Getting organized is a popular New Year’s resolution. Clutter can be a major source of stress that affects how individuals feel about their spaces. Psychology Today indicates messy homes and work spaces can contribute to feelings of helplessness, anxiety and overwhelming stress. Clutter bombards the mind with excessive stimuli, makes it more difficult to relax and can constantly signal to the brain that work is never done. Tackling messes no matter where they are lurking is not a one-time project. Much like losing weight and getting healthy, clearing a home of clutter requires dedication and lifestyle changes. With these organizational tips and tricks, anyone can work through their home room-byroom and conquer clutter.
Find a place for everything Clutter creeps up as people accumulate possessions over the years. Over time, failure to regularly go through belongings and thin the herd can lead to the accumulation of clutter. But clutter also can accumulate if people fail to find a place to put items. Racks for garages, organizational systems for closets and furniture with storage capacity, such as storage ottomans, are some storage solutions that can help people find a place for their possessions.
Getting items up and off the floor can maximize square footage in a home. Bookshelves, hanging wall shelves, hooks, cabinetry, built-ins, and other storage solutions that rely on walls and ceilings are simple and effective storage solutions. Unused space behind cabinet or closet doors are some additional places to store belongings. Hang razors or toothbrushes on medicine cabinet walls and curling irons and other hair tools on the interior of cabinet doors in bathrooms.
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Home offices can be some of the more disorganized rooms in a house simply due to the volume of electronics and paperwork within them. HGTV suggests using a color-coded system for important files to keep them organized. Label important items, whether they’re paper or digital files, in accordance with your system. Put it away When you finish using an item, return it to its storage location. This eliminates piles of belongings strewn
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Licensed & Insured! Based out of
West Branch, MI
1364 Oakhill Drive | Alger, MI
989-965-0594 | Randall Dixon, Owner
Page 40 â€˘ 2019 Home Improvement