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Chimney fire prevention in 3 easy steps

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The growing chill in the air ignites the urge to cozy up in front of a crackling fire. Before you light that log in your fireplace, be sure you’re not sparking a chimney fire.

Approximately 23,000 chimney fires occur every year, causing near a billion dollars in damage, and potentially the loss of lives.

Chimney fires are usually caused by creosote build-up. That’s the highly combustible residue that remains in your chimney when burning wood. The wood emits smoke, vapor, gas, hydrocarbons, tar fog, and wood particles. When the internal temperature of your flue gets high enough, the creosote ignites. The fire can explode and erupt in flames, or quietly smolder undetected.

A chimney fire can also result from a faulty chimney liner. If your chimney liner doesn’t provide adequate protection from the searing heat, sparks can escape into your home and ignite a fire.

You can prevent a chimney fire with three easy steps:

  1. Have your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned. At the beginning of the heating season, hire a certified chimney inspector to examine your chimney—specifically, the chimney liner and ventilation. The chimney inspector will check for creosote build-up, cracks, and leaks, and make sure the vent is in good working order. A good chimney sweep thoroughly cleans the chimney, flue, and vents.
  2. Use the right wood. Not all woods burn the same. Seasoned hardwood—like ash, oak, maple, hickory, and beech—is best. It has been fully dried out, and the ends should appear cracked, showing the wood is dry. When wood is still green, it creates more smoke as the moisture is dried. This additional condensation can lead to creosote build-up.

Never burn any treated wood materials—e.g., plywood, pressed wood, pressure-treated lumber, engineered wood, like laminate. These materials have been chemically treated and could emit dangerous gases when you burn them.

  1. Take precautions outside.
    • Stack your firewood at least 30 feet from your home, to avoid any risk if the wood catches a spark.
    • During your fall clean-up, clear away fallen leaves, pine needles, and debris from the roof and flue. Anything near the chimney is at risk of catching sparks and starting a fire.
    • Place a spark arrestor screen over the chimney opening. The mesh keeps sparks from escaping to the roof and igniting a fire.

For some tips on finding a certified chimney sweep, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).

Must-have new home features, by generation

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Each person has a unique vision of the “dream home”. It could be spacious and luxurious or a country retreat. Maybe the house offers single-level living or has several stories.

Everyone seems to agree that spacious island kitchens, and updated bathrooms with separate tub and shower are essential. Still, different age groups are looking for different “must-have” features in their next home.

How does this list fit your new home wishes?

Baby Boomers

  • Single-level home. They don’t want stairs!
  • The coziness offers special comfort.
  • Low-maintenance surfaces. Granite and quartz are preferred.
  • Walkable, sociable communities. Boomers want walking trails and common areas to come together with friends, family, and neighbors.
  • This generation wants more detail, done with quality, like crown modling and built-ins.
  • Flexible space. Their lives are changing. Kids are moving out. They want the next home to be easily converted.
  • Storage. Even though they are often down-sizing their life, they want to be able to organize everything they keep, for easy access.

Gen X

  • Breakfast bar. Generation X (Echo Boomers) like to relax with their coffee and read the latest on their tablet while sitting at a counter.
  • Eco-friendly. New homes have energy-efficiency built in, but appliances aren’t enough. Home systems (HVAC), light fixtures, windows and doors—it all needs to respect the environment.
  • Upstairs laundry rooms. This generation of homeowner wants two (or more) floors, and they don’t want to haul laundry up and down those stairs.
  • Closet organizer. Gen X is particular about their clothes, and they will appreciate the value of a spacious, organized closet to store them.
  • Second-floor loft. Specifically, they are seeking a getaway to be alone with their laptop.
  • Outdoor fireplaces. They grew up with campfires but they want something more updated now.
  • Natural light. Their parents tolerated fluorescent lighting (to a point), but Gen Xers want ambient light streaming through windows.

Millennials

  • Open interior: The fewer the walls, the better. Open floor plans are ideal, so they can designate the purpose for themselves.
  • Low maintenance: No carpets or wood-burning fireplaces or stoves. Easy-care floors and surfaces, gas or ventless fireplaces are the way to go.
  • Spa bathrooms: While most homebuyers want a nice bathroom, Millennials will likely accept nothing less than the latest trends, from vanities to showers and tubs to plumbing fixtures.
  • Tech-ready. They want everything “smart” so the new home must be ready to handle the Millennial’s ever-expanding technology needs.
  • Energy-efficiency. Their new home must be eco-friendly, from construction materials to systems and appliances.
  • Less detail. Millennials aren’t impressed by crown molding and fine details.

New homes are always exciting. Finding the perfect one can be a chore, but remember, it’s out there!

Checklist to winterize your home

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Summer is over. The weather is going to get colder—much colder—before we see those pleasant temperatures again. Once you’ve stored your patio furniture and raked the fallen leaves, you will need to winterize your home, to protect it from all the hazards that a long, hard winter can bring.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a checklist to winterize your home.

Check your heating system.

Crank up the thermostat to 80 degrees, and listen for the furnace to turn on. Then, you should feel warm air. If that works, turn the temperature back down to the normal setting.

This is only a test. You should hire a professional to do a full inspection and cleaning of your heating system.

Put your air conditioner to bed.

You need to do more than turn off the A/C when the weather gets too cold to use it. Hose off the entire central air conditioner’s condensing unit to remove leaves and other debris. Be sure you use a heavy spray. Then, cover the condenser to prevent leaves, twigs, and other items from invading the unit. With freezing temperatures, those seemingly innocent things could lead to interior damage.

Inspect the chimney.

Creosote builds up in the chimney, leading to dangerous chimney fires. Hire a professional chimney sweep to ensure that the chimney and flue are ready for those crackling winter fires. While you’re at it, have a complete chimney inspection to find leaks that let in the cold air and ignite your heating costs.

Insulate yourself.

A burst pipe can be a disaster. Wrap insulation around any exposed piping to blanket them from the cold. If you have exterior faucets, turn off the water supply that feeds them.

Wrap an insulating blanket around your hot water tank to prevent heat from escaping.

Apply foam sealing gaskets around exterior outlets and switch plates.

Plug the leaks.

Windows and doors are notorious for housing leaks. Check your windows and doors—including the trim and the bottom of the doors—for drafts. Apply (or replace) weatherstripping. Recaulk areas where edges come together, at the corners of the house or where the roof meets the siding.

Proof the roof.

It’s no fun getting on the roof to make repairs in the dead of winter. Be proactive by checking your roof now, before the weather gets cold. Replace cracked, missing, or damaged roof shingles. Make sure the flashing is intact. And, if you didn’t already include the task in your autumn checklist, clean the gutters. All those leaves, sticks, and other unwanted stuff will add weight to your gutters when they freeze, and block the safe flow of water when the snow melts.

Shut down the sprinklers.

Water might still be inside your sprinkler lines. If it freezes, those lines could burst. After turning off the water supply, use an air compressor to blow air through the lines and push the resting water out.

Tune up your snowblower.

Imagine the first heavy snowfall. You suit up in your arctic gear to battle the white stuff. You get to the garage and discover that your snowblower won’t work. Avoid this scenario by starting it up before the winter. Fill the snowblower with gas, so it’s ready to rev up when you are. Stock up on sand or salt, and buy a really good shovel as a back-up plan.

Spend a little time winterizing your home now so you can enjoy a season without unnecessary home repairs.

Rent or own? Weigh the cost benefit.

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There continues to be an ongoing debate over the value of renting a home versus owning it. Renters know that they are spending money that they won’t recoup—it’s not easy writing that rent check every month and watching the funds fly away forever. Still, those who are financially capable of owning a home bide their time.

Many of these hesitant homebuyer-hopefuls are just afraid of the commitment and the housing market. They saw homeowners go underwater on their mortgages when the housing bubble burst in 2008. But that fear is costing them now. Housing prices are on the rise while mortgage rates remain low (but not forever). The issues that contributed to the fragile housing loans in 2006 and 2007 (no-doc and low-doc) have been rectified, with stricter underwriting processes than ever, to ensure safe lending.

Analysis paralysis on making the decision to purchase a home is costing renters too much right now.

Just weigh the cost benefit to buy a home right now, with today’s rates, mortgages, and tax laws.

  1. Investment. Real estate is a powerful investment because you can leverage the money you borrow to gain equity in your home. Home values are on the rise. How are your stocks doing??
  2. The cost vs. value of your monthly payment. Rent is an expense, which means it delivers no return. You pay a fee. A mortgage payment is a contribution toward your investment because your home will gain in value.
  3. Tax benefit. A homeowner can deduct mortgage interest, points on closing costs, and property tax. Energy-saving improvements are usually deductible. If you work from home, you can take a variety of home office deductions, which include a percentage of your utilities, mortgage, insurance, depreciation, and home repair for your dedicated home office space. Renters might be able to claim a small credit, depending on the state they live and work in.
  4. Cost control. With a fixed rate mortgage, your payment stays the same through the life of the loan. Conversely, a landlord will likely increase your rent every year, based on inflation, the cost of repairs, etc. Buying a home is your best protection against inflation!

Housing construction is on the rise, because the demand is growing. Home sales are moving faster than they have in almost ten years, which means the inventory is getting smaller. Mortgage rates are certain to increase. The longer you wait to make the move to buy a new home, the more you will pay. Talk to a mortgage specialist to get pre-approved so you know what you can purchase. You might be pleasantly surprised at your buying power!

How long does it take to close on a home?

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After touring through one home after another in search of the “just right” Goldilocks moment, you found it.

Then, your offer was accepted!

Now what? How long before you have the keys in your hand and a mortgage to go with it?

There are no hard and fast timelines, but there are some actions that need to happen along the route from accepted offer to homeownership.

How long does it take to close on a new home? Let’s take a look.

Mortgage Pre-approval

Let me start out by asking if you were pre-approved. I hope so. The worst feeling is to fall in love with a home, only to find out you can’t get the mortgage to buy it. Before you even browse listings, talk to a mortgage specialist and get pre-approved. Having the pre-approval letter when you shop will show that you’re a serious buyer with the purchasing power.

Home Inspection

Your purchase and sale contract iis probably contingent on having a home inspection completed. Your Realtor can help you find someone to handle the job. Once the inspection is done, you should receive a detailed report within 24 to 48 hours. That inspection report will identify any problems that need to be addressed by the seller, prior to proceeding with the closing. Depending on the repairs, the seller might either have them done or simply reduce the price of the home to credit you for the cost.

If the inspection brings up a major problem, you have the right to walk away from the deal.

Appraisal

The lender will require a property appraisal, and will assign an appraiser to handle this task, at your expense. The intent is to protect you from paying too much for a home. If the appraisal comes back lower than the purchase price, the lender is not going to approve financing. You will need to re-negotiate with the seller, based on the appraisal. Allow up to two weeks for the appraisal to be completed.

Underwriting

Even though you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage, you still need the lender to process the paperwork, which is known as underwriting the mortgage. In general, underwriting takes about one to two weeks.

During this step, you might receive any number of inquiries, such as recent bank statements, and letters of explanation for anything out of the ordinary the pops up on your credit report, like debt that went to collection. If you’ve been married or divorced, you might need to provide that documentation in order to verify a name change on your credit report.

Be advised: The lender will pull an up-to-date credit report on you when the mortgage underwriting begins, so if you’ve opened up a new credit card since your original pre-approval, you might not be eligible for the full mortgage amount. Do not tamper with your credit in any way once you’ve been pre-approved!

Homeowner’s Insurance

You will need to submit proof that you have secure homeowner’s insurance prior to closing. Do this as soon possible to avoid unnecessary delays. A simple call to your insurance agent can usually take care of it.

 

From start to finish, the timing for closing on your new home could require from four to seven weeks. An FHA or VA loan will tend toward the longer end of this range, because the government-insured loans require a bit more work on the lender’s part.

In the end, you will walk away with the pride and joy of being a homeowner!

How to choose the right toilet

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Admit it. The toilet isn’t high on your list when you’re thinking about your bathroom remodel. It’s not something you discuss excitedly with your friends as you talk about your bathroom makeover.

A toilet has a function. Period.

So does a faucet, but there are many different types of that plumbing fixture. Before you brush off the toilet as a purely utilitarian item, consider your options so you’ll know how to choose the right toilet.

Onesie or two-piece?

A toilet is comprised of two components: the tank and the seat base. The two-piece toilet has reigned as the throne of choice for a long time, but the one-piece toilet has gained in popularity in recent years.

A two-piece toilet is easier to move, but a one-piece commode has no seams where germs can hide. Both are available in a variety of styles, from traditional to contemporary. The one-piece toilet tends to be more expensive.

Preferred seating

Toilets bowls come in a choice of round or elongated. The round is less expensive, but the oval shape is generally deemed to provide a more comfortable seat. In bathrooms where a few inches make a big difference, a round toilet is smaller and can save space.

A higher hopper?

The standard height for a toilet is approximately 14 inches, and that’s fine for most people. If you’re taller than average, you might opt for the 17-inch or 19-inch “comfort height’. This taller toilet seat is also ideal for elderly or handicapped people who are maneuvering from a wheelchair.

Push or pull flushing?

A toilet with a handle for flushing is a common choice. A push-button on the top of the toilet tank gives a more stylish flush feature. It might cost a bit more than the lever-style toilets, but also gets less handling and is easier to clean.

Low-flow or high-powered?

Energy efficiency is important to today’s homeowners. Twenty years ago, toilets used 3.5 gallons of water for every flush. Newer low-flow toilets reduced that usage to just 1.6 gallons per flush, but many people complained this gravity-based technology was no-go on the low-flow. New toilets offer different types of flushing technology. A pressure-assisted flush uses the low-flow quantity but adds power, which leads to a cleaner toilet bowl.

Toilet, toilet, on the wall

You also have the option of a wall-mounted toilet. It’s more difficult to install, but enables easy cleaning underneath (a job no one enjoys).

An in-wall toilet shows only the toilet seat emerging from the wall. The tank is hidden inside the wall. Installation requires a pro, but the sleek profile and simplicity is a great choice for certain bathroom styles.

While it might not be the most exciting seat in the house, the toilet will always be sought-after, so make sure you know how to choose the right toilet.

Laundry room design ideas

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Your laundry room isn’t one of those spaces in your home where you think, “Oh, I’ll just go there and relax.” It’s purely functional.

But that doesn’t mean the room is prohibited from having style. Look at today’s bathroom designs. They’ve evolved from functional dullness to spa-like beauty. Every space in your home should reflect your personality. Don’t skip over the laundry room. There are so many ways you can re-create this utility area without spending a fortune. Here are some laundry room design ideas to get you started.

Plan for the functions.

All great outcomes start with a great plan. Determine what you want to improve in your laundry room. More storage? Additional function? Nicer style? Create a wish list of things you’d like in your “dream” laundry room.

Additional functions could include a drop-down ironing board mounted on a wall (perhaps tucked inside an attractive cabinet). Maybe you’d like a folding area to sort through your laundry. Pet lovers could also consider converting the space occupied by a utility sink into a dog bath or shower. Some laundry rooms are situated in a place where they double as a mudroom, which means you need even more organization for this double duty!

Calculate your space.

Next, determine what you have to work with—such as space, plumbing, and electrical. Are you planning to knock down a wall to expand the space? Will you need to replumb, redo the dryer vent, or maybe switch from electric to gas (or vice versa)? Make sure you know the current condition of the room.

When you measure the space, take into account whether your appliances are top- or front-loading. Top-loading washers and dryers need extra clearance below the bottom of any cabinet or shelf mounted above it.

Now that you know what you want and what you have, you can build the plan for a room that might even get you excited about doing laundry.

Get creative with storage.

Where do you stash your cleaning products? Is there a shelf over the washer and dryer? Color that “gone”. Use the same storage logic for your laundry room organization as you apply to your kitchen, bathroom, and closet—easy access cabinets, drawers, cubbies, and shelving. Storage should be attractive, no matter what area it occupies.

If your laundry room is also the place where you keep your brooms, mops, and vacuum, how will you store them? A closet is a great addition, but if space is limited, think about adding a pegboard organization wall where you can hang them, along with other household cleaning items and tools.

Rethink the sink.

Perhaps one of the ugliest features in many laundry rooms is the utility sink—a big plastic basin with boring legs and an uninspiring faucet. That unsightly sink was designed for rinsing and washing really messy items, like muddy work clothes. Will a stainless steel sink handle the challenge as well? Absolutely! How about an oversized farmhouse sink in your laundry room for big jobs? Install the sink within a vanity, with a durable and attractive countertop. Add a kitchen faucet with a pull-down spray, and you easily, affordably improve the look of your laundry room—and add value to your home.

Your laundry room doesn’t have to be the dullest part of your home. Give it a real clean-up with these design ideas.

7 sure signs that your bathroom needs an upgrade

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Are you so used to your bathroom that you overlook certain features that might be outdated? Bathroom design has evolved dramatically over the past few years. If your bathroom has become a merely functional space, then it might be time to consider remodeling.

Here are some sure signs that your bathroom needs an upgrade.

  1. The toilet is older than your kids.

Plumbing has changed, and today’s toilets offer more efficiency than your outdated commode. Low-flow toilets offer significant savings, and the touchless toilet eliminates that concern over someone’s lack of “courtesy”.

  1. Water isn’t always where it belongs.

Do you have a leaky faucet in the sink or tub? Does your toilet keep running after it’s flushed? Examine your bathroom for leaks and drips. Check the walls, ceiling, and floors for telltale signs of hidden moisture. Worn-out plumbing is an insurance claim waiting to happen.

  1. Sinks, tubs, and grout have lost that loving feeling.

Does your tile grout look like a cigarette smoker’s teeth? Are your tubs and sinks stained and scratched? Maybe your bathroom is trying to tell you it’s time to pull the plug. Retire the tired fixtures. Take advantage of today’s vast array of choices for bathroom tile, sinks, and tubs.

  1. The lighting is one-size-fits-all.

Your bathroom is a functional space. Some areas benefit from soft lighting, while others are task-centric (applying make-up, shaving). Create the right ambience in your bathroom by installing more energy-efficient fixtures that shed the right light on you—like sconces on the sides of the mirror, instead of on top, and maybe a chandelier over your spa tub.

  1. You have more toiletries than storage.

If you constantly have to make room on the bathroom vanity countertop because of the clutter, you need more storage space in your bathroom. It’s time to rethink the cabinetry. Invest in a new vanity or add shelves. An organized, uncluttered bathroom is a thing of beauty.

  1. Your life has changed.

Maybe you’re now sharing your bathroom with others—spouse, significant other, roommate, kids, in-laws. How does that affect the bathroom design? Can two people easily maneuver through the bathroom functions simultaneously? Is there too much clutter? When you double up, you should double down and invest in a bathroom remodel.

  1. You’re trying really hard to overlook the colors and patterns.

A coat of paint can only do so much to change your perspective. Styles and trends are evolving. Have they reached your bathroom yet? Today’s bathrooms have a spa-like feel, achieved with a combination of the right colors, accents, and materials. Even powder rooms deserve an update.

Every room in your home should reflect your personal style and provide the comfort that you can only get in this space. Don’t allow yourself to be lulled into mere tolerance of your rooms. Turn them into an environment that adds to the picture of your own “Home, Sweet Home”.

What to look for in a new neighborhood

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As you go house-hunting, it’s important to know the features of your ideal home—the style, size, number of rooms, age, and special amenities are some of the most important. But you also need to consider the neighborhood. The people and places that surround a home can make a big difference to your living experience there.

Certainly, location is the biggest concern. You probably have your short list of areas that fit your needs. But even when you find the one that’s close to your job and quality schools, you need to do a bit more research to make sure your new neighborhood will fit well with your lifestyle.

Take a walk.

Don’t just drive around the area. Get out and walk. Listen to the sounds. Is major road noise traveling farther than you expected? Are there any strange odors in the air? Maybe there’s a wastewater treatment plant a bit too close to your new home.

When you’re walking around, you’ll notice details that you might miss in a car. Look more closely at how your neighbors care for their yards. How’s the curb appeal? And how do the curbs, sidewalks, and streets look? This will provide valuable insight into the care that is given to the neighborhood.

If you have a dog, take him for a walk. See how other people react, so you can gauge how pet-friendly this community is.

Knock on a few doors.

Introduce yourself to neighbors. Let them know you’re considering a particular home, and ask what they know about the house. Has it been well cared for? How does the community’s homes fare in storms (snow, wind, heavy rain)? If there’s a Homeowners Association, how effective is it? How stringent are the restrictions? How secure is the area?

If your potential neighbors aren’t forthcoming, it’s a good sign that you shouldn’t be expecting a homemade pie when you move in.

Revisit at different times.

You might initially tour the home during the day, when many people are at work. Go back in the early evening so you can see the activity level when more residents are home. Are there lots of kids riding their bicycles? Are families outside grilling? Do you see happy homeowners enjoying their yards?

Inspect the safety.

If you aren’t familiar with an area, learn about the crime rate. You can type in the community, zip code, or address on various websites to learn more about the criminal activity in your desired area.

Are the streets well lit at night? Is there a neighborhood watch program there?

Visualize your life here.

Imagine yourself driving into the neighborhood, into your driveway, and walking into your home. Picture yourself working and relaxing in your yard. Think about finding that favorite restaurant down the street. Consider that quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a few ingredients.

How does it feel? Can you see a happy life in this neighborhood?

Remember, a home can be made even better in the right community. And it can be a nightmare in the wrong one. Before you invest in a new home, spend a little time getting to know the neighborhood.

Home decorating mistakes to avoid

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It’s natural to be enthusiastic when decorating your home. But before you race ahead at full speed, stop and learn about these home design mistakes to avoid.

Tested your paint color on one wall.

The light in a room will change according to the time of day and the amount of light (from windows, skylights, and light fixtures). Brushing your paint sample in one area isn’t sufficient. Instead, go to the dollar store and buy a few sheets white poster board. Apply the paint to the poster boards. When it dries, hang them in different areas of the room, where the light differs. Look at these paint swatches at various times of the day and evening so you can see how it reacts to changing light.

Chose the bedroom color and then searched for bedding.

Your bedding choices can be somewhat limited, while the paint colors are not. Why struggle with finding a comforter, duvet, linens, and pillows to match the color on the wall, when you can more easily do it the other way around?

Bought furniture on a whim.

Buyer’s remorse probably begins in more furniture stores than anything else. Before you pull out your credit card, pull out your room measurements, to make sure the furniture is going to fit. It might also be helpful to have some photos of the room, to remind you of any existing furnishings that will need to fit in with your new stuff. Also bring color swatches to coordinate. And don’t be afraid to ask for fabric swatches to take home. After all, It’s a big investment.

Made big changes before moving in.

You buy a new home and you want it perfect when you move in. But be careful about doing too much. Live in the home for a while to determine if your pre-move decorating ideas will still make sense once you’re living there.

Succumbed to trend pressure.

Just because the magazines and blogs are telling you the latest trends in color, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures, and furnishings, doesn’t mean you have to follow. Choose according to your own tastes. Make your home a personal signature.

Bought artwork that matched the room.

The role of artwork is to reflect your style, not to fill a space. Look for art and accents that excite you. Then find the right place for them.

Guessed.

Whether it’s size, color, or style, don’t guess if it will work in your home. Bring photos of your rooms and specific spaces when you go shopping. And be sure you know the return policy before making the purchase. A little extra time with paint samples and fabric swatches could save you a lot of money and trouble.

Recaulk before you repaint: Tips for caulking your home

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Keeping your home looking great requires exterior painting once in a great while. Not only will a fresh coat of paint—applied properly—improve the appearance, it also helps to protect the exterior and keep your home weather-tight.

Caulk first, paint later

Before you start the painting process, you need to take the essential step of re-caulking your home. Caulk provides a necessary sealant that removes gaps that can let in moisture, drafts, and pests (e.g., insects, mice). Moisture can cause the paint to crack, peel, or bubble. If water seeps into the house, it can lead to fungus.

Elastomeric caulk is the ideal material. It’s durable and adheres to most surfaces. Other good choices include polyurethane and standard siliconized caulking (not to be confused with silicon caulk). Look at the warranty rating of the caulk. It should last 25 years or longer.

Be sure to remove old caulking before you apply a new layer.

Where to caulk

If caulking is new to you, don’t worry. It’s very easy. Just load the tube into your caulking gun, and cut 1/4” off the tip at an angle. Cutting too much off the tip of the caulking tube could cause a mess!

Look for places where two different materials or sections come together, like the door or window frame and the wall, or brick and wood, around outside faucets and dryer vents The area should be dry before you caulk it.

Don’t overdo the application. A thin bead of caulk is sufficient. After you apply it, run your finger along the bead to create a smooth line. Use a damp cloth to wipe your finger each time you lift it in order to keep that smoothness. Also wipe up any excess caulking before it dries.

In areas where the caulk might show, avoid a white caulk. On brick for example, a clear caulk is a better choice. Around gray concrete floors or foundation, use a gray urethane or clear caulk. Bear in mind that elastomeric caulk goes on white but dries clear.

Be sure to caulk every section on a window or door where parts come together: the sill, the trim, and between the glass panes and wood frame.

Fill in gaps behind your fascia and soffits with caulk.

Don’t caulk areas that are designed to let moisture escape! This includes sections of the foundation.

The extra effort you invest now in re-caulking your home will prevent big problems later.

Smart home technology: 2016 and beyond

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Sci-fi movies have been filled with cool gadgets that put just about anything at your fingertips, with the push of a button. From George Jetson to James Bond, fictional characters have had all the fun.

Now, it’s our turn.

Smart home technology is automating everything in the home, from opening the doors and turning on the lights to tracking your sleep patterns and watering your plants. Today’s smart home technology lets you keep an eye on your dog when you’re away from home, alert you when your dinner is done, and warn you of leaky pipes.

In 2017, the GSMA expects we will spend $44 billion dollars on connected home technology, more than four times the projected sales of $10 billion this year.

In the kitchen, appliances like the smart refrigerator seem to be capable of doing everything except preparing meals. The touchscreen lets you listen to music or watch your favorite cooking show. Using LG’s HomeChat app, you can find out what’s in your fridge, perfect for when you’re at the grocery store without a list—as well as check on your other smart appliances.

Even your bathtub has become smarter. The Kohler VibrAcoustic Bath, for example, pumps sound waves through the water for a gentle massage, or acts as your bathroom sound system with your own playlist, whether the tub is empty or fill. When you get out of the tub, use the Oral-B smart toothbrush to make sure you’re brushing properly. Check your weight, body mass index, and heart rate on the Withings Smart Body Analyzer—and get the local weather forecast while you’re on this smart scale.

Dim the lights, lock the door, start your coffeemaker, adjust the thermostat, manage your smoke detector, turn on your sprinkler system, open your garage door, and even light your way in the dark. It’s all possible with the connected home and smart technology.

If you don’t want to coordinate all these functions, bring Amazon Echo home. This voice-activated home automation controller can operate your smart home technology with just a command. Ask it to play your favorite music, turn down the lights, and give you the latest news and weather update.

Are you keeping up with your home’s intelligence? Your life could be a lot easier if you do.

Get the beach look in your home

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You don’t have to live in an oceanfront cottage to treat yourself to the experience. The beach is a calming place, with its soft sand under your feet, the relaxing sound of waves rushing to the shore, and sunshine beaming down on your face. If you don’t have a seaside view, here are some ways to achieve the beach look in your home.

Color me beachy. Think about the colors of the shore. They’re soft and natural. Create a palette of colors to reflect this environment. Crisp white should be used amply. Contrast it with your preferred shade of blue: nautical, Aegean, cobalt, seafoam, or turquoise. Add the softness of buttery yellow or the peachy pink of a conch shell, or go vibrant with coral or sunny yellow.

Rough it up. The beach look reflects the textures of driftwood, coarse sand, shells, starfish, and sand dollars. Bring that tactile feeling into your home décor with rough-hewn accents or wooden furniture. Avoid the highly polished look. You want weathered wood complemented with natural materials, like cotton linen, seagrass, jute, and hemp.

Bring the outdoors in. Your interior décor should feel like you’re enjoying life on the beach. Incorporate decorative accents from outdoor living, like an outdoor rug, wicker rocker, and a basket of driftwood, mixed with shells and sea glass.

Don’t overdo it. Once you dive into the beach them for your home, you’ll discover a bounty of treasures that match your vision of coastal living. Restrain yourself. Your home décor should reflect the beach theme, not scream it through a bullhorn. Aim for subtle consistency. Don’t pack your space with clutter. That creates chaos of the mind. Choose a few perfect shells. Display one or two ships, not an entire fleet. Leave space around your décor. Less is more. Remember, at the beach, you revel in the breathing room, the open space that allows your mind to drift.

A beach theme can take you from a porch-front sitting in Nantucket to a tropical getaway. Decide what “beach” means to you, and then bring it home.

Savannah Area Dream Home Tour – THIS Weekend!

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Join us for the 1st annual Greater Savanna Dream Tour on Saturday, June 4th from 11 – 4pm! This tour will feature OVER 15 professionally decorated models or showcase homes so you’ll see a variety of styles, approaches to design, and price points. Refreshments will also be available at each decorated model.

Grab your friends and enjoy viewing these beautiful homes in the greater Savannah, Brunswick, and Kingsland areas THIS Saturday Only! (Click any of the location or community names below to see additional details)


SAVANNAH Locations:

Savannah Highlands  from the 190’s

Decorated Model: 107 Ballasalla Loop • Savannah, GA 31407

Other Available Homes: Savannah Highlands

 

Teal Lake  from the 230’s

Decorated Model: 7 Litchfield Drive • Savannah, GA 31419

Showcase Home: 52 Litchfield Drive • Savannah, GA 31419

Showcase Home: 51 Litchfield Drive • Savannah, GA 31419

Other Available Homes: Teal Lake

 

The Woodlands Villas at Southbridge from the $290’s

Decorated Model: 1001 Woodside Crossing • Savannah, GA 31405

Other Available Homes: The Woodlands Villas at Southbridge


RINCON Locations:

 

Lost Plantation  from the 180’s

Decorated Model: 216 Lockner Drive • Rincon, GA 31326

Showcase Home: 320 St. Andrews Road • Rincon, GA 31326

Showcase Home: 414 Keiffer Drive • Rincon, GA 31326

Showcase Home: 416 Keiffer Drive • Rincon, GA 31326

Other Available Homes: Lost Plantation

 

Picket Fences  from the 170’s

Showcase Home: 210 Crooked Oaks Drive • Rincon, GA 31326

Showcase Home: 220 Crooked Oaks Drive • Rincon, GA 31326

Showcase Home: 225 Sterling Drive • Rincon, GA 31326

Other Available Homes: Picket Fences


BRUNSWICK Locations

 

Covington Pointe  from the 150’s

Decorated Model: 106 Covington Pointe Drive • Brunswick, GA 31523

Showcase Home: 118 Covington Pointe Drive • Brunswick, GA 31523

Showcase Home: 128 Coral Drive • Brunswick, GA 31523

Other Available Homes: Covington Pointe 

 

The Plantation at Golden Isles  from the 150’s

Showcase Home: 202 South Beckingham Drive • Brunswick, GA 31525

Showcase Home: 238 South Beckingham Drive • Brunswick, GA 31525

Other Available Homes: The Plantation at Golden Isles


KINGSLAND Location

Settler’s Hammock  from the 160’s

Decorated Model: 275 Daniel Trent Way • Kingsland, GA 31548

Other Available Homes: Settler’s Hammock

Tips to prepare your home for the summer

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Do you feel it? That sudden urge to throw open the windows and escape from your winter hibernation? Summer is coming soon. You’re ready for months of sunshine, cookouts, and entertainment, but is your home?

Before the temperature climbs much higher, prepare your home for the summer season by doing these important chores.

Prevent water damage. Spring and summer bring their share of rain. Make sure your home is protected. Clean the gutters so the water can flow freely and direct the water away from the house, where it can pool and cause damage. Look for cracks and breaks in the gutters and downspouts. Also, inspect your foundation for cracks that could allow water to leak into your home.

Check the caulking around your doors and windows. If there are any cracks, replace the caulk so that those leaks don’t cause mold or wood rot.

Clean the driveway and walkways. Pressure wash these surfaces and then inspect them for damage. Replace broken pavers. Repair cracks or holes in your driveway to prevent them from getting worse.

Check the deck. Your deck might have taken a beating over the winter, from the cold temperatures, snow, and ice. Before you start your deck inspection. clean it. Use a brush with low pressure—a pressure washer can damage the wood’s fibers. Next, inspect the wood for cracks and splinters, including along the joists, posts, and railing. Make sure the attachment of the deck to the house is secure. Although decking material is treated to resist ants and termites, the wood on your home isn’t. Look at the hardware to see if any is missing or needs replacement. Then apply deck sealant or wood stain.

Touch up the greenery. Trim the shrubs to spark healthy growth. Cut branches that could cause damage, either by scraping your home or low-hanging limbs that might hurt a passerby. Rake out your garden beds and lawn. Fertilize the lawn early in the season and seed any areas that have become bare. While you’re doing your yardwork, be sure to scrub the bird baths and any empty containers or pots, to ensure no bacteria or bugs survived over the winter.

Get ready for watering. Bring out your hoses (assuming you stashed them safely in the garage and not under the snow). Make sure there are no cracks or leaks in the hoses and nozzles. Replace any faulty ones. Walk around the yard and check the sprinkler heads to make sure they’re intact and ready to water your lawn.

Inspect the HVAC. You’ll probably rely on your air conditioning shortly. Before you’re battling the heat inside your home, check the HVAC. Clear away any debris on or around the compressor outside. Make sure the condenser unit is level, so that it doesn’t work harder than it should. Clean or replace the air filters (which should be done monthly).

Prep for outdoor living. Clean your outdoor furniture. If the cushions were left out during the winter, consider replacing them. Clean the grill and make sure the propane tanks are full, or you have a supply of charcoal.

By investing a little time now, you can enjoy many months of comfortable summer fun.

Tub trends: What’s new in bathtub styles?

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The bathroom has evolved from a purely functional space to a spa-like retreat. Cabinetry looks like fine furniture. Vessel sinks paired with cascading waterfall faucet create a gentle, Zen appeal. Bathroom lighting ranges from simple lines to elegant chandeliers. Showers are now more spacious, elegant, and pampering with rainfall shower heads and body jets.

Recently, we’re seeing more creativity in bathtub styles. And not just the look of the tub but the placement. With high design hitting the long-ignored tub, bathroom designers are making this fixture a focal point that doesn’t need to be tucked in a corner any more.

“Bathrooms are often the only place where people regularly have time to themselves,” explains Australian interior designer Sarah Davison. Bathroom design, she says, should “create a refuge of serenity and personal luxury.”

Freestanding bathtubs are leading the list of tub trends. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) released its 2016 report on design trends, and 67 percent of the designers surveyed are specifying freestanding tubs; 39 percent of them said they expect to do more with these bathtubs in 2016.

You can find a freestanding tub to fit any décor, from rustic to contemporary. Choose your desired shapes—oval or rectangular, or something more artsy. Then customize it with a faucet that reflects your style. You can even place a freestanding tub within a shower if you’re short on space.

The familiar clawfoot bathtub has made a big comeback. Manufacturers have driven this bathroom design trend by refining and redefining the clawfoot tub’s shape, color, and material—like acrylic, cast iron, and copper.

Another popular tub trend is the Japanese soaking tub. The NKBA survey showed that 61 percent of the designers used a soaking tub in 2015, and 36 percent plan to use them more often in 2016. A soaking tub is designed for relaxation—a long, leisurely soak. A Japanese soaking tub takes up less space. They tend towards being more narrow and round, but deeper than a conventional bathtub. This soaking tub features a built-in seat, much like a hot tub, but without the jets. They reflect the Japanese custom of ritually cleansing the body and soul. In a soaking tub, you can submerge yourself comfortably up to your neck, because of the tub’s depth. Also known as “Ofuro” (Japanese for “bath”), this bathtub style is available in a wide variety of styles that allow it to fit well into your bathroom design.

For a truly unique bathroom design, consider an infinity bathtub. Picture that time you left the bathtub faucet running, and the water overflowed the edges—except in this case, you don’t need to panic! There’s a channel that collects the overflow and a pump that recirculates the water. If your bathroom has a window with a view, the infinity tub allows you to enjoy your soak while feeling like you’re outdoors in a stream. Your infinity tub can be elevated, like many bathtubs, or level with the floor, giving you the feeling of stepping into a lake.

With today’s bathtub styles, you forget about that tub hidden behind a shower curtain. Treat yourself to the joy of relaxing in a tub after a stressful day.

Small back yard, big ideas

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Big ideas for a small back yard

Just because you don’t have a sprawling landscape behind your home doesn’t mean you have to limit your vision for back yard fun. With a little creativity, you can apply some big ideas for a small back yard and turn it into your outdoor oasis.

Go up against the wall.

Use the wall space to hang planters, rather than take up ground space. Attach pots or mason jars, upcycle a colander and hang it from a hook or tree branch. Put up shelves to display your colorful pots and plants.

Do double-duty.

Choose furniture that provides storage as well as seating, like an ottoman with a lift-off cushion for keeping games or extra pillows. Add a coffee table where you can stash candles, paper plates, linens, and other items for outdoor entertaining.

Focus.

Create one focal point in your back yard, like a small water feature, container garden, or sculpture. A small memory garden makes a great focal point.

Scale it down.

Large outdoor furniture will dwarf a small back yard. Choose a bistro set with two chairs, or a table that can be expanded, as needed, for entertaining. And, while those big comfy cushioned chairs are attractive, they’ll make your space look crammed. Opt for simple lines and smaller sizes.

Don’t shut me out.

While you certainly want some shade to escape the heat, avoid the temptation to provide too much cover, either with greenery, pergola, or canopy. Open up your outdoor living space to let the sun shine in so you’re not closing in your back yard.

Simplify your colors.

A varied color palette can overpower a small back yard. Limit your color choices for your furnishings, and carry it over to your accents. Use the burst of colors in nature’s beauty, like the flowers in your garden, to add the splash you want.

Table your heat.

Don’t have room for a fire pit? Place a fire bowl on your table. You’ll get the cozy feel of the outdoor fireplace without taking up space.

When you’re working with limited outdoor living space, you’re only real limit is your creativity. Think simple and cozy—for size, color, and volume—and you’ll make the most of a small back yard.

Country life or city dwelling: Which lifestyle works for you?

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Country life or city dwelling: Which lifestyle works for you?

You could fit the entire population of Vermont in the city of Las Vegas, with plenty of room to spare. Of course, most Vermonters would run screaming from the city. And city dwellers would probably feel restless in a rural setting for an extended period of time.

Each environment—urban and rural—offers its own unique pros and cons. Your life situation—single, married, parent or no kids—has a big impact on your choice of living in the city or the country.

So, which lifestyle works for you? Let’s look at the pros and cons of urban versus rural.

City life: So much choice packed into tight space.

People who like living in the city enjoy the energy that pulsates there. You can live car-free and walk or take public transportation to everything you need—shopping, dining, entertainment, school, and work. In one block, you can choose from a variety of restaurant choices, from your favorite café to the pizza place that delivers. On any weekend, you can take your pick of things to do—movies, theatre, art galleries, comedy clubs, museums, street festivals, and more. You’re never far from fun.

That’s also a con. You’re in the midst of all this charged-up activity. Stress levels are higher in the city. Privacy is less. Your home is separated from your neighbor’s by a wall, not a yard. If you choose to own a car, parking can be hard to find, or expensive. Crime is more prevalent in the city, which makes sense when you consider there are so many more people there.

Most cities aren’t far from a rural area, so when you feel the need to escape, you can rent a car or hop on a bus for a country retreat.

Country life: Take it slow and easy.

People who choose to live in rural areas prefer the open space that is afforded outside the confines of a city. They are less enchanted by the choices afforded to city dwellers and prefer the simple pleasures. A hammock in the back yard. A vegetable or flower garden. Farmer’s markets with locally grown produce. Paddling down a river or hiking through the woods.

Country dwellers aren’t as enamored with designer labels—from the clothes they wear to the kitchen cookware. They prefer a casual lifestyle that’s uncomplicated. The choices are fewer than the city offers, but they don’t care.

With today’s technology, country dwellers aren’t as isolated as they used to be. The Internet, Wi-Fi hot spots, digital and cable television, and cell phone towers have spread to the outer confines of our society. So, moving to the country doesn’t mean you have to forego your favorite cable television series or rely on a (shudder!) land line for calling people.

Suburbia: The comfortable compromise

The suburbs surround the outskirts of cities, a cushion between those hubs and the rural areas beyond. They offer easy access, via highways and public transportation to all of the action in the city, but residents can escape the bustle to their peaceful homes. Suburbanites like the blend of urban conveniences with rural solitude. Although the yards are small, they at least create a small boundary between neighbors, and a place for kids to play and their parents to entertain.

As more city dwellers move outward from the city, the suburbs grow deeper into the outlying areas. As one suburb fills up (and prices rise accordingly), homeowners look for the next “up and coming” community. The commute to the city becomes a bit longer, along with the distance to the desired amenities. But that’s the trade-off for compromise.

Which lifestyle is most appealing to you? And why?

Redecorating before a holiday? It’s all about the details!

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Sometimes you want to spruce things up before your visitors arrive for a big holiday (like the one THIS weekend!). You’ve finished redecorating a room—or, at least you think so. Something still isn’t right. The feng is missing the shui.

Sometimes, the little things that punctuate your room makeover with an exclamation mark. When you’re redecorating, don’t miss these room design details.

Trim color. I looked through the home decorating manual and I couldn’t find any hard and fast rule that says you have to have white trim in your home. Go for colorful contrast to your walls, or a soft complement, if you’re not quite so bold.

Decorative molding. From tall baseboards to wainscoting to crown molding, you can enhance the impact of your walls by adding or changing the trim. A chair rail allows you to break up the wall and use two different colors, or a combination of color and a pattern or texture (or both).

Wall accents. Rethink your idea of what you can hang on your walls. Go for more dimension in your home décor with pottery, vases, creative shelving, and even your favorite books or album covers centered within an open frame. Apply wall decals, which are easily removable when you change your mind or mood.

Lampshades. Just because the lamp you purchased came with a particular lamp shade doesn’t mean it’s the right one for your space. A simple change (try it seasonally) can make a big difference in the decorative impact.

Dimmers. This is perhaps the simplest and least expensive lighting makeover you can do. Replace your switch with a dimmer and you suddenly create mood lighting.

Switchplates. Boring. Paint them to blend or contrast with the walls. Decoupage your switchplates with fabric, wallpaper, giftwrap, book pages, or anything else that you can stick to it.

Natural touches. Fresh flowers, plants, and even twigs bring the outdoors into your room and boosts the energy. Treat yourself to a fresh bouquet each week.

Before you stamp your room makeover as complete, focus on the little details. You’ll be amazed at the power of these finishing touches.

Newcomer’s guide to the new home construction process

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If you’re considering have a new home built rather than opting to purchase a resale, congratulations. It’s a smart move! A new home delivers a wealth of benefits, including peace of mind from knowing that your home is protected by a builder’s warranty.

Before you start, let’s walk through the steps involved, so you’re clear on what to expect and when. Here’s a step by step, newcomer’s guide to the new home construction process.

Step 1: Site prep

The crew clears the site of trees, large rocks, and debris to prepare the property for building. If your new home will include a basement, they dig the hole for the foundation.

The footings are put in place. Concrete is poured for the foundation, and once it’s cured, waterproofing is applied. The crew then installs the basement and first-floor plumbing connections, including drains, sewer, and water taps.

The surrounding soil is backfilled to the outside of the foundation, filling in the moat-like gap around it.

Step 2: 1st Inspection

The building inspector checks the foundation to ensure it’s up to code.

Step 3: Framing

The frame of the house (wall, floor, and roof systems) are constructed and then wrapped in protective sheathing. This cover protects the frame from water seepage into the wood itself, which could lead to wood rot or mold, while providing a means for vapor to escape. The roof is added, sealing the home before the interior works is begun.

Step 4: Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC

When the framing is done, the rough plumbing, electrical, and HVAC contractors get to work, setting up the infrastructure for these systems. Vents and water supply and sewer lines are installed. HVAC installs the ductwork, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning vents and pipework. The plumbers and electricians run pipes and wire through the home’s interior walls, floors, and ceilings.

Step 5: 2nd inspection

The building inspector examines the framing, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems at this point. You might have different inspectors—one for the frame, another for the other systems.

Step 6: Insulation

Exterior walls, floors, and ceilings are insulated.

Step 7: Drywall

Drywall (also known as “sheetrock”) is hung. Seams are taped so they’re hidden. A primer coat is applied in preparation for finishing.

Step 8: Exterior finish

Your new home’s exterior is applied—e.g., siding, stucco, stone, or brick.

Step 9: Interior trim

The window and door trim, casings, moldings, mantels, railings, and other interior trim are installed and painted. The walls are painted or wallpapered, depending on your choice.

Step 10: Exterior walkways

The walkways, driveway, and patio are constructed at this point, after the heavy equipment use is finished. The grading is added to drain water away from the home.

Step 11: Flooring and countertops

The hard surface flooring (tile, wood, laminate) and all countertops (including vanities) are installed.

Step 12: Lighting fixtures and mechanical trims

Your light fixtures are installed, along with the outlets and switches. The electrical panel is installed. Plumbing fixtures (toilets, sinks, and faucets) are added. HVAC is finished.

Step 13: Finishing

The interior finishes are addressed in this step This includes installing carpet, and hanging mirrors, and shower doors.

Outside, the lawn and landscaping are completed.

Step 14: 3rd inspection

The building inspector completes one more assessment to ensure your new home meets all building codes. When approved, a certificate of occupancy (CO) is issued. If any concerns are identified, the inspector provides a written list, and the home will require another inspection before the CO is awarded.

Step 15: The walkthrough

Before the closing, you will do a final walkthrough with your builder and real estate agent. This is your opportunity to learn how everything works—e.g., which light switch to flick, how your HVAC works, how to open and close the windows. You also need to observe details. If there’s a nick in a door or wall, a scratch on a floor, a cracked tile, or a dent in an appliance, point it out during this walkthrough so that you can show the damage was done before you occupied the home.

Your builder will make a list of all repairs the must be completed. Determine the time frame for having all corrections completed, and get it in writing.

With good communication between you and your home builder, the new home construction process is exciting. You get to watch your home emerging from a vision to a reality!