Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist – 2013

Is your home ready for winter’s frosty temperatures and severe weather?

We all know about “spring cleaning”, but it is just as important to clean and prepare your home in the fall-before winter is here. This checklist, from Better Homes and Gardens, covers all the necessary maintenance for your home and will help homeowners prepare and protect their home this winter.

  • Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts to protect exterior surfaces and keep water out of the basement

  • Seal any gaps or cracks around windows and doors with weather-stripping and caulk to reduce drafts and to keep the heat in

  • Inspect roof for damaged or curled shingles, corroded flashing, or leaky vents-putting this off can be detrimental and disastrous (it’s much harder to find and fix the leak when its under snow and ice)

  • Repair damaged sidewalks, driveways, and steps-look for cracks more than 1/8-inch wide, uneven sections, loose railings on steps, disintegration of asphalt, or washed-out materials on loose-fill paths-these may not seem dangerous now but when it gets cold and icy out they can be hazardous

  • Drain and winterize all outdoor faucets and irrigation systems-it’s easier than dealing with a busted pipe later!

  • Clean or replace dirty/old furnace filters-filters that are clogged can make it harder to keep your home at a comfortable temperature and can increase your utility bills during the winter months

  • Have a professional inspect your HVAC system

  • Check fireplaces for build-up; hire a professional chimney sweep (better)-accumulations in a flue or chimney can result in a devastating chimney and/or house fire

  • Inspect any gas-fired room heaters-an improperly maintained gas heater can spew poisons into the air of your home, which can be very dangerous

  • Inspect wood stoves before firing up-cracks in wood-stove-stovepipes can release toxic fumes into your home,  so check for corrosion, holes, or loose joints often

  • Test smoke and CO monitors and replace the batteries

  • Inspect (or install) fire extinguishers-there should be at least one fire extinguisher in your home

  • Review fire escape plans

  • Rid your home of old newspapers and other fire hazards

Be sure to do regular cleaning and maintenance along with the specific chores on this list to ensure that your home and your family are prepared and protected this winter. For more great tips from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, click here!

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5 Affordable Ways To Spice Up Your Bathroom

Are you embarrassed to have people in your bathroom? Here are some affordable ways to spruce it up!

Whether you’re preparing to show and sell your home or just planning on having company over, you don’t want to be embarrassed about the look of your bathroom. If it’s outdated or dirty, it’s definitely time for a makeover. Because the bathroom is typically one of the smallest rooms in the house it doesn’t have to be expensive to update, but a great looking bathroom can offer you a great return on investment (second only to the kitchen). From the National Association of Realtors ®, here are 5 ways to spruce up your bathroom for cheap!

  1. Repaint. Giving any room a fresh coat of paint can totally transform the room and give it an updated look, but when choosing a paint color for your bathroom it’s important to coordinate with other elements in the room. Are the toilet, tub, and sink white or off-white? What’s the finish on the light fixtures and door knobs? Does your mirror have any color to it? Just as it is for any room in the home, it is important that the colors in your bathroom complement each other. *TIP: clean walls thoroughly with a washcloth before repainting; many beauty products leave residue on the walls that could cause problems with your new paint.

  2. New Flooring. Dirty, worn, or peeling flooring can be a major turnoff for potential homebuyers and guests. Again, because the bathroom is typically a small area, the cost of new flooring for the room and all necessary supplies won’t break the bank. Consider installing large tiles (it’s easier to clean than small tiles) or linoleum for a fresh look. *TIP: you can save more money by installing the new flooring yourself.

  3. Replace your shower curtains and curtain rod. Curtains need replaced fairly regularly, as they can accumulate mold and mildew if they aren’t properly cared for, but curtain rods should be replaced at some point as well. For the most part this is simply because things go out of style. Also, usual wear-and-tear often leaves curtain rods looking rusty and dinged up; if your curtain rod is out of style or a little worse for the wear, consider purchasing a nice, new rod to transform the look of your bathroom with relatively little effort.

  4. Upgrade your lighting. Many people tend to get ready for the day in the bathroom, so it’s very important that you have good lighting. Good lighting means that the room is well lit and that the light isn’t discolored for any reason. The National Association of Realtors ® says that bathrooms should have two different types of lighting: “ bright wall or ceiling light for regular use and a softer, warmer type of light, like a night light, to keep on when the bathroom is not in use”. *TIP: try replacing your lighting fixtures to update the look of the bathroom as well.

  5. Update the Vanity. Vanities experience wear-and-tear just like everything else in your bathroom. If your vanity is outdated or beat up, replacing it with something brand new can completely transform the look of the bathroom. Most home improvement stores have a variety of options for vanity and sink combinations for reasonable prices. If you’re not ready to purchase a new vanity, you can update the one you have by deep-cleaning it and possibly adding new paint.

Simple and cheap updates, such as adding a fresh coat of paint, purchasing new lighting fixtures, and adding a new curtain, can dramatically enhance the look and feel of your bathroom. These quick and easy fixes will help you transform your bathroom from drab to fab in no time, and you won’t be embarrassed to show it to guests or potential homebuyers.

Read the original article from realtor .com here.

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How To Find Storage In Your Kitchen

Feeling claustrophobic in your kitchen? Having a hard time finding the right utensils? Time to free up some space!

The kitchen is one of the most-used areas of the home, with a lot of traffic going in and out all day long. So, it’s easy to see how a kitchen could get to be cluttered and completely overrun by junk in just a few days. It’s important though to maintain a clean and clutter-free kitchen, since it’s really the hub of your home. Also, in terms of real estate, “A functional and attractive kitchen adds tremendous value to a home”,  according to writers at Realtor.com. You can easily clear out some space in your kitchen and effectively de-clutter by thinking creatively and and really dedicating some time to organizing.

Stop holding onto junk.

  • If you’ve been hoarding broken appliances or utensils with the noble purpose of fixing them some day, get rid of them to help free up kitchen space instantly.

  • Broken plates or cups? Toss ‘em. They’re an eyesore and a hazard.

  • Go through your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets-get rid of any condiments, spices, etc. that have expired or that never get used.

  • Tons of mismatched and warped-by-microwave tupperware? Time for those to go too.

Organize.

  • Keep countertops clear of unnecessary junk. Reserve countertop space for regularly-used appliances or simple decorative items like a vase of flowers.

  • Don’t keep sponges or dish towels on display. Try storing them in a wire basket that can easily be hung from the inside of a cabinet door.

  • Store appliances that don’t get much use. If you don’t use your blender or panini-maker at least every week, store them to make room for things you do use.

  • Make use of flatware trays to keep silverware organized and maximize drawer space.

  • Use larger flatware trays to keep larger utensils, like spatulas, whisks, and ladles organized.

  • You could also use a decorative canister to store larger loose cooking utensils.

  • Hang a pot rack from the ceiling to quickly clear out an entire cabinet (or two). Pot racks make pots and pans easy to access and free up tons of space for other kitchen items.

  • Drawers and shelves within cabinets also help keep things organized

  • Consider using food storage canisters to hold staple items like cereal, snacks, flour, and sugar – these canisters are easy to stack, which helps you maximize cabinet and counter space.

  • Invest in a spice rack to keep all spices together and correctly labeled.

  • Store cleaning supplies in the laundry room or a hall closet to free up even more space.

These quick and simple tricks can help transform even the most cluttered kitchen into a manageable, functional, attractive room. Freeing up space in the kitchen will allow you to feel more organized yourself, will make cooking and baking easier, and will ensure that your kitchen is the hub of the home again.

For more tips on home and kitchen organization, check out this article from Realtor. com.

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How To Reface Cabinets

he quality and style of the cabinets in your kitchen and bathrooms can affect the value of your home; is it time to invest in refacing them?

Your kitchen and bathrooms are the most important rooms in your home, in terms of real estate. Improvements in these rooms can offer you the biggest return on investment and can quite literally make or break the deal if you’re trying to sell your home. In terms of kitchen renovations, paying for new cabinets can take up nearly half of your budget, according to HGTV, so deciding whether to replace or reface them is not a decision to take lightly. If your cabinets are in decent condition, it will be more cost-efficient to reface them, rather than replace them. Here’s how to do it from the DIY Network:

Start by refacing sides, drawers, and doors with veneer and stain.

  1. Remove cabinet doors, drawers and all hardware.

  2. Flat-front doors and drawers are easily refaced (if yours have raised panels or other architectural detailing, consider buyingnew unfinished doors and drawers and stain them along with your cabinets)

  3. Sand the side and front surfaces of the old cabinets enough to rough up the surface so the new wood veneer will adhere properly

  4. Practice applying veneer in less visible areas of the cabinet like the side panel

  5. Apply a thin film of wood glue to the cabinet surface

  6. Use a nail gun with 5/8-inch brads to fix the veneer panel in place (adjust the nailer to sink the brad heads just below the veneer surface)

  7. Nail from top to bottom to avoid creating a bubble in the middle of the panel

  8. When all side panels are in place, use a block plane to trim the veneer edges so they are flush with the old cabinet faces

  9. Apply veneer to the cabinet fronts – veneer all of the horizontal areas and rails first, then use a razor knife to cut in the pieces for the vertical stiles.

  10. Trim all intersecting edges and corners so they are flush with the sides

  11. Reface the cabinet doors following the same procedure as above

  12. Fill all brad holes with wood putty colored to match your intended stain color.

  13. Let it dry and sand lightly to remove excess, use a sanding block to evenly distribute pressure and avoid gouges and indentations

Next: stain cabinet interiors

  1. When all of the cabinets are ready for stain, use a paint brush or rag to stain the inside edges and openings first, then the sides, and finally the cabinet fronts

  2. Apply a generous coat of stain, wipe away the excess and allow to dry according to the manufacturer’s directions

  3. Repeat with a second, final coat

  4. Stain the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, along with any separate wood pieces or moldings (if these parts have raised or routed features, use a paint brush to flow the stain into crevices and corners but don’t allow it to accumulate in these spots)

Finish Cabinets with Polyurethane

  1. Apply three coats of polyurethane to protect cabinets from heat, grease, steam, etc.

  2. Water-base polyurethane is a good choice because it’s relatively odor-free, “flattens” better than oil or alkyd urethanes and dries fast, allowing you to put on all three coats in a day.

  3. Use a brush recommended for the finish you choose and apply the first coat – Always brush in the same direction as the wood grain or pattern. Don’t lay the finish on thickly, and don’t overwork the brush — too many brush strokes will cause air bubbles in the finish, leaving bumps and pits when it dries

  4. After the first coat is dry, sand all surfaces lightly with fine-grit sandpaper to prepare them for the second coat

  5. Wipe away all sanding dust with a tack cloth, then apply the second coat of finish

  6. Repeat these steps with the third and final coat

Reassemble the Cabinets

  1. Install the door hinges first: position each hinge one hinge-length from the bottom and the top of the door (use the hinge itself to mark the location by lining it up with the door edge and marking the wood at its opposite end)

  2. Create a jig for pre-drilling door hinge holes in the cabinets – a shelf clamped to the bottom rail ensures that all doors will line up evenly when hung

  3. Install door shock absorbers inside each cabinet opening to enable the doors to open and close smoothly

  4. If you purchased new drawer fronts and boxes separately, lay one of the new drawer boxes on an old drawer front to ensure proper alignment (take equal measurements on the top, bottom and sides, then transfer these dimensions to the new front panel and drill pilot holes for the screws and clamp the front and box together when installing the screws from inside the drawer box)

  5. Repeat these steps with the other drawers

  6. When finished, install the drawer pulls

  7. Reattach the old slides to the new drawers, or install new drawer slides

Refacing cabinets can be more work than simply replacing them, but refacing allows you to save money while still giving your kitchen and/or bathrooms a great new look and thus increasing the value of your home. Read more on refacing cabinets from the DIY Network here.

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3 Cool Locks For Your Home

A house should be always be secure place and there are not many other aspects as important as home security. Having the proper and good quality locks on a main entrance can help to improve home security. While it is easy to go with a traditional lock such as a deadbolt or chain lock, there are now many advanced locks for your home.

Digital Locks

Digital keypad locks are very popular and replace almost every type of lock on the market. These locks operate successfully without having any key and no complexity arises to lock and unlock the door. You can perform the operation with the use of one hand only and it is very impressive if you have lots of item in your one hand and you can easily open the door from another one. It is very secure as no one can have idea what code you have set and it is impossible to access. Also it has a facility to change the password and you can do it frequently as per your convenience. If you have forgotten the password again no worries digital locks company having its substitute too.

Fingerprint Door Locks

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Here’s how a biometric fingerprint reader works – to gain entry your fingerprint is scanned by sensors that identify the specific mapping of your fingerprint which have already been pre-programmed and marked by computer algorithms and stored in a database. Once your fingerprint is scanned, access is granted within seconds. Therefore, only the people pre-authorized can successfully pass a biometric reader. That’s the magic of it all! There is no key, key card, or number sequence to deal with which can all be passed around or easily stolen. Remember, biometric fingerprint readers are great for residential and commercial use. That’s because the duplication of fingerprint technology is virtually impossible. The act of photocopying a fingerprint to gain access that you may have seen in the movies is make-believe, but biometric technology is not!

Keyless Entry Using Your Phone: Lockitron

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Any smartphone can use Lockitron through its intuitive two-button app. With Lockitron you can instantly share access with your family and friends. Lockitron lets you see if your door is locked when you’re gone. It will send a notification when your child unlocks the door using their phone or key. Renters can use Lockitron too because Lockitron fits over the inside of your current deadbolt. Easily take Lockitron with you when you move. Lockitron is compatible with any smartphone thanks to our mobile website. Older phones can use Lockitron through simple text message commands. Lockitron connects to the internet thanks to built-in WiFi. You can control Lockitron and receive notifications from Lockitron anywhere in the world.

While you might like the comfort of having traditional locks on your home, there are still many other options available to you!

5 Rules Of Ladder Safety

Some of you homeowners are still working on spring cleaning, some of you are getting ready for the upcoming holidays, and some of you are getting your home ready to sell. No matter what you’re working on this year, it’s important to practice ladder safety.  According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission reports, there are 164,000 ladder injuries each year. The number of incidents rises around the holiday season each year, but no matter what time of year it is, and no matter what you’re working on (cleaning gutters, washing windows, changing light bulbs, etc.) it’s important for you and your family to be safe when working on ladders. Here are some safety tips from Werner, one of the world’s leading ladder manufacturers to help keep you safe this year!

It’s very important to choose the right ladder for the job. If you’re trying to replace a light fixture on the ceiling, maybe you only need a 6-foot step ladder; if you’re cleaning out second floor gutters, you will need an extension ladder or a specialty ladder that bends to a 90-degree angle to get at a hard-to-reach place in a stairwell, according to Inman News. Ladder manufacturers make different styles of ladders so that, no matter what job you’re doing, the ladder you’re working on will keep you stable and productive (climbing or standing). Choosing the wrong ladder for the job could easily end in a trip to the emergency room, so make the right choice!

The length of the ladder you choose depends on the height of the job you’re doing. One important guideline for ladder safety is to never stand above the fourth rung from the top of an extension ladder or the third rung from the top of a stepladder. So, the ladder you’re using for the job needs to extend a certain distance beyond the area you’re working on; experts advise that “if using a stepladder to get on a roof, the ladder must extend 3 feet beyond the roofline. If an extension ladder is leaned against a gutter or roof line, it must extend 1 foot above the roofline.”

Use common sense when working on a ladder. It seems like pretty simple advice, but the truth is that many of the ladder injuries reported each year were preventable. Make sure you’re using your ladder the way it should be used.

  • Ladders should be set up on a firm foundation.

  • Tennis shoes or other shoes with non-slip soles are the best to wear when working on ladders.

  • Your body should be centered on the ladder and be sure to keep your waist between the rails while maintaining a firm grip on the ladder.

  • Don’t over reach or lean to one side.

  • Climb and descend facing the ladder by moving one step at a time and firmly setting one foot before moving the other.

  • If you need to move a ladder, climb down before repositioning it

  • For high work, have one person hold the ladder at the bottom while the other one performs the task.

To read the full article on ladder safety from Inman News, click here.

Money Saving Landscaping Tips For Homeowners

Landscaping is a great way to increase your home’s curb appeal and create a perfect hang-out spot for family and friends. So, whether you’re looking to sell or stay, landscaping is an important area of your property to focus on. However, if you’re not careful, landscaping can also be a very expensive investment. Here are some tips from Better Homes and Gardens for saving money on your landscaping this year.

1. It’s very important to plan before you buy. You should sketch out a complete, detailed landscape design before you buy anything. If you don’t know exactly what you want and what you want to do with it, you could end up wasting a lot of money, so plan first!

2. Decide how much design you actually want. Keeping things simple by building a deck or just a square patio helps keep the cost of landscape designing down, but if its not what you want and you aren’t going to get use out of it, then it’s a waste of money. If instead, you want a lot of design elements (a gazebo, a rock pathway, a small pond, an outdoor kitchen, etc.) it may be useful to hire a landscape architect or designer to help you create a perfect space that you will love and actually use.

3. Consider a consultation. Even if you’re not looking to hire a professional landscape architect or designer to work on your yard, it can be very helpful to simply set up a consultation with an expert. From $50-$100, you can typically get an hour-long consultation with someone who can help you figure out exactly what you want to do and who can give you tips, which will save you from making costly mistakes later.

4. Take your time in buying. Most people aren’t so well-off financially that they can afford to design and landscape their property all at one time. It’s easier and more cost-effective to divide your landscaping project into phases and buy what you can when you can. Only spending what you can at the time will save you from having to make loan or credit payments later. Dividing the project into phases will also help you reassess the project as it moves forward.

5. Buy reasonably priced, quality materials. Warehouses that specialize in landscaping materials often will have items for the lowest price, but the quality may not be the best. Typically, more specialized stores will offer a greater selection and higher quality materials. Plus, such stores usually can provide a more personal service, expert advice, and better guarantees for their products than many warehouses can. Better Homes and Gardens says, “Plant prices may be higher at specialty nurseries, but many offer money-back guarantees on trees, shrubs, and bedding plants”.

6. Make use of online and mail-order sources. Shopping through catalogs and websites can exponentially increase the choices you have for landscape materials. These sources are typically the best if you’re looking for rare plants or specialized products, since most warehouses and stores don’t carry rare or specialized materials. Sometimes you can get a great deal on a product by shopping online or through a catalogue, but don’t forget about the shipping prices.

Read the full article from Better Homes and Gardens here.