Fall Home Improvement (September 2022)

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Fall Home improvement S A T U R D A Y, S E P T E M B E R 2 4 , 2 0 2 2

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etween the Russian invasion of Ukraine and sky-high oil and gas prices, a significant pellet fuel supply shortage is likely this winter season. Industry experts say you should plan ahead and secure your fuel now for the cold winter months. The good news is that, currently, there is plenty of supply to stock up. As Tim Portz, executive director of the Pellet Fuels Institute explains, Russia is the second largest producer of wood pellets globally, supplying more than 2 million tons to global markets in 2020. But sanctions and restrictions due to the invasion of Ukraine have required U.S. pellet producers to fill the gap.

What’s more, the sticker shock Americans may experience this winter when reviewing their energy bills will likely have many switching to pellet heating in search of a better deal, and those with multiple heating options may start opting for pellets, putting extra demand on potentially short supplies. “Wood pellet demand fluctuates year to year, however with heating oil, natural gas, electric and propane prices at near historic highs, we could see record sales of pellets in 2022-2023,” says Portz. “Consumers will need to be savvy. To ensure their annual supply is secured, they should stock up now.” Wood pellets are used as primary or secondary space heat in more than 1 million homes nationwide. Pellets are

a renewable, clean-burning fuel made from the waste streams generated by the manufacturers of products like dimensional lumber, hardwood flooring, wood pallets and cabinetry. Although supplies are strong right now, pellet producers are highlighting the importance of keeping inventory moving through the system. With the capacity to produce more than 1 million tons of wood pellets each year, Lignetics Group, the largest residential wood pellet manufacturing company in the United States, notes that taking advantage of the surplus while it lasts will allow producers to run at full throttle and build inventory before usage begins to outpace production in the depths of winter.

Because pellets are competitively priced nationwide, consumers who opt for this method of heating will save hundreds of dollars over the course of a winter season compared to heating oil or propane, and thousands of dollars compared to electric heat. “Many have already turned to wood pellet heating and many more are expected to do so amid the current energy crisis,” says Brett Jordan, CEO of Lignetics Group. “However, these consumers will need to take their wise choice a step further by being prepared. Fueling up now on your normal pellet supply will mean being able to take advantage of this sustainable and cost-efficient option all winter.”




HOUSTON — Maria Cabanillas and Kris Griffith are doing everything they can at home to be kinder to the planet. They use solar panels as fuel, tend a massive vegetable garden, capture rainwater for irrigation and make their own fertilizer by composting. Much of their motivation is health focused, since they both work in the Texas Medical Center; Kris as a health care administrator and Cabanillas as an endocrinology oncologist. When they built their home in 2018, energy efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint was their guiding principle, but the way they live in it is full of thoughtful details about taking care of their little patch of the planet. Earlier this month, Hines announced it would take all of its buildings worldwide to an operational net zero carbon footprint by 2040. Net zero might be impossible for homeowners not used to calculating the complexities of how products are made or how their energy

Solar-powered LED pathway lights are one option to light up a walkway without adding more to one's electric bill. Metro Creative Connection

needs are fulfilled, but there are plenty of things they can do to tread more lightly. For Cabanillas and Griffith, the list is long. Their solar array includes eight storage batteries in their garage and 24 solar panels on the south and west-facing parts of their home’s roof. As evidence of its impact, their electric bill ranged from $105 to $115 a month last summer. Their previous house — similar in size to their current 4,000 square-foot home on the same lot

— was built in 1938, and had a monthly electric bill of $600 to $800. Kenny Marks built his Southampton home in 2017 to be energy efficient, with high-quality windows and doors, insulation with a high thermal rating and 50 solar panels on his roof. Electric bills average $500 a month for his 5,500-square-foot home and swimming pool, dramatically lower than the $1,200 to $1,400 per month for his previous house in another neighborhood.

the green building world, LEED is a global certification program that promotes sustainability and a healthier environment by rating residential and commercial construction on materials used, waste, transportation and indoor air quality. “What I tell my clients is that many decisions in the design process can have a sustainable component to it. Let’s talk about them as we go,” said Reardon. A longtime proponent of solar power, Reardon acknowledged it’s tougher to convince the mainstream to spend money on it. “We’re raising awareness, again, in a different His motivation was kind of way to capture the same as Cabanillas’ more people’s attention and Griffith’s — he was and say, ‘here’s the probinterested in helping the lem. We’re putting more environment, and lower CO2 into the atmosphere electric bills are a very nice than our planet can hanbonus. dle. The best way to help is reduce power consump‘It all adds up’ tion,’” she said. Architect Kathleen RearFor homeowners who don of RD Architecture can’t spring for expensive designed Houston’s first solar panels, shifting to LEED-certified home using LED light bulbs should principles that have guidbe a no-brainer, Reardon ed her career: creating a said. A fixture that used tight envelope with good to use a 100-watt incaninsulation and windows descent light will run just and an efficient HVAC as bright with an 18-watt system. For those new to

LED bulb, meaning that the old incandescent bulb will use up to five times more energy. Since LED bulbs are cooler to the touch, they’ll put off less heat in your home, too. Other simple moves include buying clothes made of natural fibers and using them longer or donating them when you’re done with them. Even eating less beef helps, since a single cow in a single year can belch about 220 pounds of methane, a substance shorter lived than carbon dioxide but much more potent in the atmosphere.


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WILLMAR — A Willmar house took home the dubious honor of the Not-So-Great Lakes region winner while competing on HGTV’s “The Ugliest House in America: Ugly in Paradise.” The qualifications needed to win: ugly appearance, poor functionality and hideous design choices. The real-life Victorian dollhouse in Willmar edged out a lake house with a funky odor in Lake Elmo and a former church in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Comedian Retta took a road trip to five stunning destinations and visited 15 unsightly homes nominated by their owners. Each episode featured three houses full of bad designs, ranging from linoleum-covered walls and carpeted bathrooms to epic odors and pest infestation. The best part? Retta’s hilarious reviews of the cringe-worthy layouts and severely outdated styles. The present owner said he bought the house at 204 Terrace Dr. S.W. a year ago. It is full of unusual custom touches everywhere. Many of the furnishings were included in the sale. There are built-in hutches, curios, art areas and more. An open-concept kitchen and great room with vaulted wood ceiling. There is a tea room, a private hot tub room, and unusual stairs. The Willmar house finished in the top five, losing out to the House with No Privacy in Palm City, Florida. That home received a $150,000 makeover from designer Alison Victoria from “Windy City Rehab.”

The house at 204 Terrace Dr. SW in Willmar was featured on Season 2 of HGTV's "Ugliest House in America: Ugly in Paradise." It placed in the top five, and was nicknamed the "Inconvenient Dollhouse." Photos Contributed / Kristi Jo Block

The kitchen in 204 Terrace Dr. SW in Willmar holds a large array of cabinets and One of the bathrooms in the house at 204 Terrace Dr. SW in Willmar features a counterspace, but also incorporates a large mirrored space over the kitchen sink hutch top over the sink in place of a bathroom mirror, matching mirrors on either and green-painted crown molding and baseboards. side of the shower door, and a burgundy lace shower curtain.





hen living in a rental, it can be challenging to make the space feel like home. While you may not be there long term, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own with some creative, non-permanent updates. Here are a few tips to make your rental feel more customized to you. ► Prepare and plan: With any rental property, it’s a good practice to check in with your landlord before you make changes to the space. If you’re given approval to customize your rental, be sure to store anything

you remove and keep a list of any other physical changes you make in order to ensure your security deposit is returned when your lease concludes. It’s also best to research and purchase items that don’t cause damage to the wall. ► Enhance lighting: Brightening a space in a rental can be tricky if you have limited windows or ceiling fixtures that can’t be upgraded. Enhance your area by adding new table lamps and installing lighting in sections that might need more illumination, like under cabinets or in closets. Secure push lights or rope lighting with a removable

adhesive like Duck Max Strength Nano-Grab Gel Tape, which provides easy mounting with extreme holding power. Nano-Grab’s double-sided gel adhesion creates a clean look, with a removable grip so you can clean the space after you move. ► Create eye-catching walls in bathrooms and kitchens: Investing in high-end upgrades like new tile or flooring isn’t an option when renting, but reinventing the space with quality removable items is absolutely possible. Enhance your bathroom walls or kitchen


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Doctoral candidate Xiating Chen checks data in a data logger attached to an ash tree near the Highland Community Center in St. Paul on Monday, Aug. 22. Chen and other researchers from the University of Minnesota's Forest Resources program are studying how urban trees contribute to stormwater quality and mediate urban heat island effects in the Twin Cities. Specifically, they measure the amount of water trees use and the amount of rain intercepted by the canopy.


ST. PAUL — Everyone knows that trees provide shade. What may be less obvious are their contributions to evaporative cooling. Think of tree roots drawing water from the ground and pumping it to their leaves, which effectively sweat H20, cooling the air around them in the process. How far does that cooling go in an urban environment that seems to be getting hotter? And how do trees impact storm water? As rainfall moves through their branches,

does it change chemical composition? Rainwater effectively feeds trees, but do trees also feed rainwater?

Experiments in St. Paul parks Those are the kinds of questions fueling a series of science experiments in four St. Paul parks. A team of interdisciplinary researchers from the University of Minnesota has outfitted 30 trees in parks across the city with a variety of sensors, rainwater and temperature gauges in a multi-faceted effort to better understand “transpiration,” or tree water loss, and to test rainfall filtered through

the tree canopy for nitrogen, phosphorous, carbon and ions. As tree research goes, that’s fairly welltrod ground, so to speak. While these wouldn’t be unusual experiments in woodsier, more secluded environments, what sets these set-ups apart is that they’re situated by parking lots next to popular urban libraries, rec centers and outdoor ballfields next to busy St. Paul streets. In other words, the city. “City trees and forest trees are different,” said Xiating Chen, a doctoral candidate in the U of M’s Department of

Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering, standing in front of a series of trees wrapped in aluminum-like sheathing by the Highland Rec Center. “City trees have more competition.” The long-term goal, said Chen, is to bring together the disciplines of forestry management and urban storm water management under a single roof. Diana Karwan, associate professor of forest resources, said the experiments are part of the university’s long-term ecological research on “urban nature.”

TREES: Page D9





hile the functionality of your home’s windows and glass doors is important, experts say you shouldn’t neglect to consider aesthetics as well. “No matter the architectural style of your home, you have more choices than you may think when updating windows and glass doors,” says Ashley Ridenour, door and window marketing manager for ProVia. “Many of these options can add instant curb appeal, while also elevating the elegance, beauty and style of your home’s interiors.” According to Ridenour, here’s how to capture your unique personality when making this renovation: 1. Add glass doors: Create the perfect

personalized entry to your home by opting for a front door with special glass, along with complementary sidelites. Today’s top-of-the-line glass entry doors are not only beautiful, they also provide UV protection, durability and energy efficiency for increased comfort. You can carry this inspiration to the back of your home as well — options abound for customizing your sliding glass or hinged patio doors. 2. Enhance privacy: Privacy glass allows light to filter in, while maintaining a high level of privacy for your home. ProVia carries five styles of privacy glass offering different levels of obscurity, which can be fitted to a wide range of door and window models and styles. 3. Beautify with ornamental glass: Decorative

glass is created by precisely cutting, beveling, mitering and soldering glass components into artistically designed patterns. Mimicking the handmade sheet glass of centuries past, the designs lend an elegant and vintage flair to ordinary door and window glass. Aesthetic imperfections like textural waves, striations and random air beads give each design its own unique visual character and charm. 4. Turn to color: Give your home a beautiful boost of color with custom hand-stained window and door glass. At ProVia, in-house glass artists create the design, and skilled craftsmen hand-apply the color fill to the glass. It’s an affordable way to get the timeless look of antique stained glass for your entry door, windows, patio doors

and even the glass in your storm door. 5. Opt for built-in blinds: Typically available in both white and neutral hues such as cream and tan, built-in blinds are another way to complement your home interior and add privacy. This is also a low-maintenance option for those who love a clean look — because the blinds are in a sealed and insulated glass unit, they remain dust free. To learn more about custom glass windows and for additional design tips, visit provia.com/glass/windows. “When it comes right down to it, windows don’t have to be purely functional. Before you make a selection, be sure to explore all of your options, and don’t be afraid to get a little daring,” says Ridenour.

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fuels for energy, making green remodeling potentially a $3 trillion market From Page D3 in the next decade. Few of Hellyer’s cliNote to steak or ents ask for eco-friendly dairy lovers: California products, but all of them researchers believe that appreciate products that feeding cattle a little bit are more durable — and of seaweed can reduce that alone is a factor in their methane emissions taking care of the planby 60%. et. He cited engineered “It’s such a big world, lumber as an essential and when we want somepart of remodeling, and thing we think ‘How is engineered wood floors this one little thing going have surged in popularity. to make a difference?’ The Products such as OSB — challenge is getting everyoriented strand board, one on board collectively made of wafers of wood to make one change, then that otherwise would be another change and if burned or thrown away — everybody could do that, are great alternatives to it would all add up,” Rearplywood and keep wood don said. debris out of landfills. Hellyer, who lives in a A long view 100-year-old building in For Scott Frankel, Metro Creative Connection co-president of Frankel Many homeowners are beginning to consider lowering their carbon footprints by the Heights that began its life as a pharmacy, notes Building Group with his installing solar panels on the roofs of their homes and garages. that a lot of older homes brother Kevin, environbuy panels in bulk to save in the Houston area are construction. That’s how so much gas. The sheer mentally conscious home we have less of an impact money for everyone. under insulated. Many construction is about tak- amount of impact you on the carbon footprint,” that suffered frozen pipes ing the long view — creat- have in building a house Newer products he said. “I don’t want to is massive, so the most in the February 2021 ing homes they hope will Frankel and contractor see trucks tear down a freeze might have fared still be standing a century important thing you can do is do it once. Acknowl- Frankel house. That would Rob Hellyer, owner of better if they’d had more from now instead of the Premier Remodeling and crush my soul.” edge Mother Nature and insulation. kind that get demolished a past president of the He said most homerespect her on the front Even the simpler to make way for another. Greater Houston Builders fiberglass batts that you owners ask them about end, and build houses Some 15 years ago, the Association, both said that roll out in your attic or solar panels, but few are that survive and thrive.” brothers started thinking while solar panels might willing to take on the The Frankels choose between 2x4’s in your about the environment be an obvious choice for cost, which can be as eco-friendly and energy-efwalls improve energy and more eco-friendly generating clean energy, high as the price tag of ficient materials across efficiency. (Hellyer used building materials they the board. One example is a fairly nice car and take more attention should these in his own home.) could use. Now many of 15 to 20 years to recover be paid to simpler things polyurethane spray foam Just pay attention to the homes they build are such as windows, doors insulation — the kind that through lower energy their thermal — or R — LEED certified. and insulation to keep bills. There’s good news, rating, getting a 13-23 R “My brother and I start- makes your home as well your house warmer in win- rating for walls and 30, 38 though: a 2019 Zillow ed to look at this, and we insulated as a Yeti cooler. ter and cooler in summer. or 49 for the attic. study showed that solar It’s more expensive than started to figure out, if Hellyer noted a recent panels can add 4 percent other methods, but will Tankless water heaters you want to talk about story published by zeroen- are gaining traction in lower your energy bill and to the value of a home. your carbon footprint, One way of reducing the ergyproject.org, that help your air conditioning home construction and you have to think about pointed out that 75 milcost of solar panels is to system last longer, Scott remodeling because they your daily output as a lion American homes, all join a co-op such as Solar Frankel said. produce an instant, endconsumer,” Frankel said. built at least 30 years ago United Neighbors, where “It’s a holistic less supply of hot water. “You are tearing down neighbors combine to so many trees and using approach to sustainable — are dependent on fossil The most efficient models

RENTERS From Page D5

backsplash using a product such as Duck Brand EasyLiner Brand Removable Adhesive Shelf Liners. The sheets adhere directly over existing tile or paint

and can be removed easily, which means you can choose from the wide variety of fashionable designs and trendy patterns as often as you’d like. ► Add some shower power: A quick, straightforward way to make an ordinary bathroom feel a bit more spa-like is

to swap out your showerhead. There are simple-to-install options that include everything from a large, flat rainfall experience to a handheld nozzle for ease of use. Best of all, they can be installed manually without the help of a plumber and are simple to change, meaning you can

uninstall your new fixture and take your upgraded experience with you wherever you go. ► Showcase your personality: Infusing a bland space with a touch of personality is the best way to transform it into a cozy, sophisticated living area. Add fresh pops of

color with lush plants in bright pots or vases. Wall décor like artwork, macrame hangings or photo collages can add hues to empty walls and enhance the mood of a room. If your landlord is a little more flexible, painting an accent wall, hallway or even adding a stripe or

are gas-fueled, so they contribute to your carbon footprint, and the electric ones take a big electric circuit and can be more expensive to install, so while they may fill a need, they’re not so friendly to the planet.

Lifestyle and choices

For Cabanillas and Griffith, their efforts are part of their lifestyle. They grow most of their vegetables in a garden that spans much of their backyard, giving extras to family, friends and co-workers. Composting provides dirt and highgrade fertilizer, and their rain tanks hold 1,350 gallons of water that irrigate the plants. Griffith mows the drought-tolerant zoysia grass in the front yard with an electric mower. Already they’re planning their next round of crops; broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and potatoes were started in August, followed by onions, English peas and carrots in September. Cabanillas’ sister lives six doors down and has chickens and beehives so she provides them with eggs and honey whenever they need it. “It’s hard for people who have an existing house to go back and put this stuff in,” Maria said. “You can get solar, sure, it’s just a little harder. Our house was built with the intent of having solar and rain barrels and less of a carbon footprint.” (c)2022 the Houston Chronicle paint pattern into a bare space can bring your rented space to the next level. Upgrading a rental location doesn’t have to be daunting or complicated to complete. With the right products to help brighten up your temporary space, it’s easy to create a unique (and removable) look.



TREES From Page D6

“We want to know what trees do to rainwater both ways — between the sky and the ground, and between the ground and the sky,” Karwan said. “As scientists, we’re learning how to modify our studies because people are all around us and interacting with this. If we were in the middle of the woods, the setup would look different. There would be wires all over the place.”

How trees impact the urban environment

The experiments are being hosted on small groupings of trees by the Highland, Linwood, Dayton’s Bluff and Orchard recreation centers. Instead of caution tape and cables running between each tree sending data back and forth, each tree cluster is tagged with a small plastic label bearing a QR code, which can be scanned by smartphone to direct visitors to an explanatory website. Most, but not all, of the trees


in question are ash trees likely to be removed by the end of the researchers’ three-year grant. If their funding gets renewed, the researchers would then be able to conduct many of the same experiments in the same sites where the ash trees once stood,


offering compelling before-andafter comparative data that could shed even more light on how trees impact the urban environment. Chen pointed to a “sap flux sensor,” or a pair of nodules or thermal probes hidden beneath

a sheath of aluminum-like material. The thermal couples are heated to different degrees, creating a temperature differential. When the temperature difference falls, that’s an indication of increasing water flow. “It measures how quickly the

liquid is flowing through the sap wood,” she said. In other words, transpiration. The 30 trees, which were wrapped in June, will stay that way into October, and then testing will resume next summer. The scientists are also using storm water data already collected by the Capitol Region Watershed District at key outlets such as Como Lake to help inform their research, which is just one series in a growing catalog of urban ecology experiments involving everything from pollinators to watersheds. Another team of U of M researchers is studying tree species resilience at Crosby Farm Park in St. Paul. The wide-ranging Minneapolis and St. Paul Metropolitan Area Long-Term Ecological Research Project, or MSP LTER, is funded by the National Science Foundation, which is focusing on more than a dozen urban research sites in the Twin Cities and additional sites in Phoenix. ©2022 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at twincities.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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hether your plants could stand a little more sun, a tad more space to grow, or you just want to redesign your backyard, transplanting plants offers them a fresh start. “Tried-and-true methods will help you safely move your plants; all it takes is some know-how, elbow grease and a shovel,” says Jamie Briggs, director of marketing, Exmark, a leading manufacturer of commercial mowers and equipment for landscape professionals and homeowners. This is the driving idea behind “Backyard Smart,” free online explainer videos full of facts to answer your most common lawn and garden questions. The following strategies, which come directly from a recent “Backyard Smart” episode, water, can kill sensitive roots. Likewill have you transplanting plants like wise, the cold, hard ground in winter a pro: makes it virtually impossible for plants to take root. Always transplant on When to do it cloudy, cool days to protect roots from Time of year matters. Perennials should be moved in spring when other the harsh sun and retain moisture in their soil. flowers are in bloom and the days are cooler. Conversely, shrubs should Rules of thumb be relocated in the fall — the cooler To begin, picture a circle around your air and warmer soil make for perfect plant. You’re imagining its root ball — transplanting conditions. Never move the mass of roots and packed-in dirt plants in summer or winter. Hot weather, when plants need the most that help provide plants the necessary

Now it’s time to dig. Always dig straight down, as digging too shallowly and at an angle can lead to damaged roots, which can stunt growth and ultimately kill your plants. Once you’ve dug up your plants, knock a little dirt loose from the compacted root ball. This enables roots to hang free, and encourages plants to take root in their new home.


nutrients and stability to grow. For perennials, dig a circle at least three inches out from the plant’s edge. Shrubs are a different story. Instead of digging out from the farthest part of the shrub, first measure the circumference of its stem. For every inch in stem thickness, draw the length from the circle to the stem a foot longer. If your shrub has a 2-inch-thick stem, measure a circle that’s at least 4 feet in diameter (or, a radius of 2 feet from stem to circle).

Always dig the new holes at the same depth as the existing ones. Planting too deeply can encourage water pooling around the root system, effectively drowning your plants. Planting too shallowly has an opposite, but equally deadly, impact: it exposes the root system to warmer weather and can dry it up. For an even easier reference when transplanting shrubs, the root flare — the area where the stem expands at the base — should be partially visible at the soil’s surface. Now fill the remainder of the hole with soil, water generously, rinse and repeat. For more easy-to-understand approaches to making the most of your outdoor spaces, check out the Exmark Backyard Life site at exmark.com/backyard. Now get outside and get moving — your plants will thank you for it!





our home is likely your most valuable asset, and you want to make sure you protect it with the right insurance. Did you know the cost to replace your home could be much more than it cost to build—and you could be on the hook for the difference? Whether it would cost more to replace because you’ve made major upgrades that increased the value of your home or simply because the price of building materials and labor has increased, you’ll need to come up with the additional funds or find ways to reduce costs. That’s why guaranteed replacement cost coverage, offered by insurers like Erie Insurance, is so important. If you experience a total loss of your home, this coverage allows you to rebuild it back to its previous size and specifications at today’s cost, subject to certain conditions.

To give you a better idea of the importance of insurance coverage that helps you protect the investments you make, consider the top three remodeling projects for the interior and exterior offering the best return on investment:

Interior 1. Refinishing hardwood floors. The main reasons consumers are refinishing hardwood floors is to upgrade worn-out surfaces and to improve livability, according to the 2022 Remodeling Impact Report by the National Association of REALTORS Research Group. At 147%, it also tops the list for the number one interior project for what homeowners can recover on the cost of the project if they sell the home, based on estimates from NARI Remodelers and REALTORS.


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fully finished and functional basement is a dream for many homeowners. Such a space, when completed, can serve as an entertainment space, a man cave, an artist’s studio, or any number of additional functions. Despite their usefulness, finished basements are something of a rarity. In an analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction, the National Association of Home Builders found that only around 24% of single-family homes built in 2018 have basements. Homeowners who do not currently have a finished basement but are considering such a project can approach the remodel with a few key factors in mind. Careful consideration of these factors can ensure the project is budget-friendly and worthy of homeowners’ investments. ► Investment value: Conventional wisdom among home renovation and real estate experts suggests that a basement remodel is best if done to satisfy current inhabitants and not necessarily to appeal to prospective buyers once the home is put up for sale. Remodeling magazine reports that a midrange basement remodel costing around $70,000 will provide a return of around $49,000 (or 70%) at resale. Though that’s not a poor

In such instances, a pre-remodel inspection from a licensed home inspector can save homeowners lots of money and heartache over the long haul. Partially finished or even aging finished basements might not have been renovated in adherence to codes, which could lead to costly violations down the road. An inspection in advance of a remodel can give homeowners an idea of what they will need to do to bring the basement up to code. Local officials also can provide a list of necessary permits and a detailed description of requirements to ensure the remodeled basement adheres to code. ► Soil: Soil surrounding the home should be tested prior to beginning the project. Radon is an odorless gas found in soil that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes can increase individuals’ risk for lung cancer. Radon can seep into basements and increase that risk even further if it is present at elevated levels in the soil surrounding a home. Radon tests are simple and return on investment, homeowners who and cracks in the flooring, are indicative are remodeling a basement solely for the of significant issues with the foundation. inexpensive, and no basement remodel These issues can be costly to address, and project should begin without first conpotential ROI at resale can find other ducting such a test. they must be remedied before the baseprojects that provide a greater return. Finished basements are valuable spac► Foundation: The foundation of the ment remodel can begin. ► Existing space: Some homeowners es. Homeowners who want to finish or home must garner ample consideration remodel their basements should consider may have bought their homes with parbefore beginning a basement remodel. tially finished basements or even finished a host of factors before beginning the Certain foundation issues, such as soft concrete, cracked or curved outside walls areas that they simply want to remodel. renovation.




energy efficiency, and at 100%, it has a high cost recovery value.

From Page D11


2. Installing new wood flooring. The average cost recovered for this project is 118%. Surprisingly though, it was the number one feature homeowners surveyed by Erie Insurance said they got when they bought their home but wouldn’t choose again. When asked why, reasons ranged from feeling the feature was not worth the money, to being tired of it or feeling the feature is outdated now. 3. Insulation upgrade. This is a popular project if you’re looking to improve

1. Roofing. Offering a 100% return on investment, most consumers upgraded their roof due to worn-out surfaces, finishes and materials. 2. Garage door. The top reason homeowners replace their garage door is having plans to sell their home in the next two years, according to the 2022 Remodeling Impact Report. This project may be well worth the cost, offering 100% returns. 3. Fiber cement siding. With 86% recovery on the cost of the project, upgrading siding due to worn-out


surfaces, finishes and materials is a solid investment. If you’ve made any recent updates, talk to your insurance agent to make sure you have the proper coverage. To learn more

about guaranteed replacement cost coverage, visit erieinsurance.com. This year, make home upgrades wisely. For peace of mind, be sure to protect the investments you make in your home.

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footage. The following are some ways homeowners can transform home offices created during the pandemic into more he number of professionals useful spaces. working remotely skyrocketed ► Go back in time. Perhaps the easiin 2020, when businesses were forced to close their offices in an effort to est thing to do with a home office that is no longer needed is to return the room to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. its pre-pandemic state. Because the shift As the world transitions from the panto remote work was so sudden, many demic phase to an endemic phase, many office workers also are transitioning back homeowners were forced to turn washrooms, breakfast nooks or areas of their to their offices. basements into home offices. Returning A recent survey from the Pew those spaces to their initial functions can Research Center found that 59% of make a home feel less cluttered and add workers in the United States are now more room for residents to relax and get working from home all or most of the around. time, while 22% are rarely or never ► Create a new entertainment working from home. In 2020, 70% of area. Many homeowners converted a workers were working from home all or spare bedroom into a home office during most of the time, while 17% rarely or never worked from home. Those figures the pandemic. In such instances, guest reflect that work life, albeit gradually, is beds and other furniture might have been moved into storage or even sold or returning to pre-pandemic norms. discarded. Either way, that means the As individuals find themselves going back to the office with increased frequen- office was cleared of bedroom furniture. Now that the room no longer needs to be cy, they might be wondering what to do with their home offices. If space inside a an office and now that homeowners have home is at a premium, then repurposing made due without the extra bedroom, the room can be converted into an entera home office into a space that can be tainment area. Swap out the desk for a used more frequently is a great way to foldout couch that can still accommodate make better use of the existing square


overnight guests when necessary. Then mount a flatscreen television on the wall and utilize the room as a gaming room for kids or a film room/man cave for mom or dad. ► Create an in-law suite. The pandemic separated families, as people living in different households were advised to avoid gatherings to stop the spread of the virus. Individuals with aging parents may have felt particularly heartbroken by this forced separation, especially if their elderly parents were living in nursing Your one stop design shop for all your window covering needs

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homes that were stretched thin by staff shortages and other challenges. In the aftermath of the pandemic phase, families may want to invite aging relatives to live with them. Home offices can be repurposed into in-law suites so aging parents don’t have to confront the isolation and loneliness many felt during the height of the pandemic. As professionals return to their offices with greater frequency, they can transform their offices into spaces they’re likely to use more often.




he kitchen is the heart of the home, it’s also a space where you can waste a lot of energy if you’re not careful. By making a few simple adjustments to your habits in the kitchen, you can easily cut your energy bills and do your part to help the environment. “The appliances you select for your kitchen have effects far beyond the food you eat,” says Peter Weedfald, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing at Sharp Home Electronics Company of America. “From the appliances you choose to how you use them, you can make a real difference in your energy consumption today.” Here are a few ideas for getting started: 1. Keep it cool: Minimize the time you have the refrigerator door open. Cold air falls straight to the floor like water. The longer you leave the door open, the more cool air drains away and the harder your fridge has to work to replace it. Refrigerators that have pantry and freezer drawers help contain the cold air even when they are open. Keep frequently accessed items in the refrigerated pantry drawer so everyone in the family can help themselves. 2. Go small or go home: Whenever possible, opt to use your small appliances. For example, the next time you’re reheating food, use the microwave instead of the stove or oven. According to the federal government program ENERGY STAR, microwaves use up to 80% less energy than conventional ovens. 3. Wash-up smart: If you find yourself running your dishwasher before it’s full, it’s time to consider an upgrade.

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Find a dishwasher that allows you to manage your load size. Features like the half-load option or Wash Zone setting available on Sharp’s Slide-In Stainless Steel Dishwashers will focus the water in one area when washing smaller loads to make every drop count. 4. Unplug: If you’re like most people, you use appliances like your toaster and coffeemaker for just a few minutes each day. Unplug small appliances like these

and about three times more efficient than gas. Bonus? Making the switch also means you’ll no longer be emitting greenhouse gasses associated with gas cooking. Learn more about smart, energy-saving appliances at sharpusa.com. To put a dent in your energy bills and reduce your impact on the environment, be mindful of your habits in the kitchen. Small changes can add up quickly.

after you’re done to stop “vampire energy,” which is the energy consumed by items when they are plugged in but are not in use. 5. Make an upgrade: Today’s appliances are generally more energy efficient than older appliances, and there are a lot of energy efficient selections. According to ENERGY STAR, induction cooktops are around 5-10% more efficient than conventional electric units

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