Useful Articles

Things To Consider Before Demolishing a Wall

Brick wall photo

Demolishing an interior wall isn't as easy as picking up and a sledgehammer and swinging. To preserve the structural integrity of your home, and to ensure a safe environment for you and your family, members, you must plan ahead. While demolishing a wall isn't an overly difficult process, there are certain steps homeowners must take, which we're going to discuss further in this blog post.

Load Bearing or Partition?

One of the first steps in preparing to demolish a wall is to determine whether it's a load-bearing or partition wall. Load-bearing walls, as the name suggests, are intended to support some of the home's structural weight, whereas partition walls are simply designed for aesthetic purposes. Accidentally knocking down a partition wall is a major mistake that places your home at risk of collapsing, as the weight is distributed elsewhere. So, how do you know if the wall in question is load bearing?

The easiest way to determine if a wall is load-bearing is to contact the builder. Assuming you have the builder's contact information, he or she should gladly answer this question. In the event that you are unable to contact the builder, you can determine which walls are load bearing and which ones are partitions by looking at your home's blueprints.

What About Asbestos?

If your home was built before 1970, you should have it tested for asbestos before demolishing any walls. Disturbing an asbestos-ridden wall will send these toxic particles flying into the air, increasing your body's exposure to them. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the use of asbestos in 1970, but many homes still contain it. This is one instance where it's better to be safe than sorry, so have your home checked for asbestos knocking down any walls

Does It Contain Electrical or Plumbing?

You should also check to see if there's any electrical or plumbing behind the wall. Breaking a water pipe can turn an otherwise simple wall demolishing project into a costly nightmare. To prevent this type of headache from occurring, check the blueprints to see where exactly the electrical and plumbing runs. Rerouting electrical work is relatively easy; plumbing, on the other hand, is a bit more laborious and complicated.

Hire a Contractor

If demolishing a wall sounds too difficult and/or complicated, you can always hire a professional contractor to perform the job. Contractors have the tools, experience and skills necessary to demolish walls in a safe and efficient manner.

Solar Energy

How Solar Energy Works

Nearly everyone has seen solar panels used somewhere before. Whether they’re attached on the side of a home, building or used to power electronic devices such as calculators or garden lamps, solar panels are everywhere we look. With that said, few people understand the technical side of how they work. Here we’ll take a closer look at how these otherwise simple-looking panels are able to harness the sun’s power and turn it into ready-to-use energy.

The Basics of Solar Panels

Home Solar PanelsFirst, it’s important to realize that there are many different types of solar panels used in modern homes and commercial buildings throughout the world. With that said, solar panels all use the same technology to harness the sun’s power and turn it into energy.

So, just how in the world does it accomplish the task of creating clean, renewable energy from the sun’s warm rays? Solar panels are created by using a layer of silicone and a layer of boron, phosphorus or some other suitable element underneath a screen of non-reflective glass. In between the two layers of elements, there’s a junction where a semi-conducting material is placed. The combination of silicon and one of these other elements creates an electron combination with a positive charge, which is necessary to conduct electricity.

Photovoltaic Cells

The top layer of a solar panel is made up of numerous individual cells, known as photovoltaic cells. These cells act as semi-conductors using the two layers of positive and negative type silicone beneath them. When photovoltaic cells are exposed to sunlight, the solar energy rattles the electrons, knocking them out of orbit where they are absorbed by the conducting material between the positive and negative sheets. The electricity then travels to an inverter where it’s distributed throughout the electrical outlets in the home.

It should go without saying that the more photovoltaic cells are on a panel, the more energy it will be able to harness. However, what’s even more important than the number of photovoltaic cells you have is the direction they’re faced. If you’re using solar panels on the roof of your home, you’ll want to place them on the side of the house that receives the most sunlight year-round. Doing so will allow them to soak up the greatest amount of sunlight, therefore increasing the amount of power generated. Even small changes in the direction the panels are faced can greatly affect the amount of power they create by as much as 50%, so make sure to choose a suitable location before installing them.

 

Outdoor Lighting Ideas

Outdoor lights

Lets face it, traditional outdoor bulb lighting looks dull and boring for most patios. While it usually serves its purpose of illuminating the area for you and your guests, it offers very little in terms of decor or style. If you want to create a more attractive yet equally functional atmosphere, you must think outside of the box when it comes to the lighting on your patio.

String Lights

Running strands of string lights on your patio is an excellent way to give it a more stylish presence. You can accomplish this in a number of different ways, one of which involves wrapping strands of lights around the railing of your patio. This keeps it secure, out of your way and provides ample lighting when done properly. Just make sure that you choose a a type of string lighting with durable bulbs that don't break easily.

An alternative method is to run strings of lights form the roof of your home to the tops of the railing. As you can expect, this method is a little more time-consuming, as you must physically get on top of the house to run the lights. Once you have them set up, it will give the appearance of glowing stars over your head at night.

Tiki Torches For Lighting

A couple of well-placed tiki torches can provide all the lighting you and your guests need.. Find a suitable spot for them, preferably far away from the house and any flammable objects, and secure them in place with up-right stands. When nightfall approaches, you can light them to offer lighting and a warm, romantic feel.

There are also smaller half-sized tiki torches available that clip on to the sides of the patio railing. Although they don't provide nearly as much lighting, they look equally nice. Best of all, you don't have to worry about them falling over.

One of the lesser known benefits to using tiki torches is that help repel mosquitoes. Bugs are naturally drawn towards light, but the small generated by a tiki torch turns them away. If you're still having a problem with bugs on your patio, light a citronella candle.

Globe Lighting

Globe lights provide create a fun-filled Asian theme that's sure to draw compliments form guests who see it In order to achieve this, all you need to is run a string of paper globes filled with bulbs over the top of your patio, similar to how you would run string lights. The subtle manner in which it lights up a patio will create a unique atmosphere for you and your guests to enjoy.

Lets face it, traditional outdoor bulb lighting looks dull and boring for most patios. While it usually serves its purpose of illuminating the area for you and your guests, it offers very little in terms of decor or style. If you want to create a more attractive yet equally functional atmosphere, you must think outside of the box when it comes to the lighting on your patio.

How To Decorate a Foyer

The entryway, also known is a foyer, is the first thing a guest sees when they walk into your home. If you take the time to properly decorate it, your home will look and feel more inviting. On the other hand, leaving it plain and undecorated will generate a dull and boring effect which has the opposite effect.

Where is the Entryway?

In most homes, the entryway is located directly inside the front door, as this is where most people will first enter your home. However, if you use a side garage door or backdoor, you may want to create an entryway here as well. Remember, there’s no rule stating where your entryway must be. Ideally, you want it wherever your guests enter your home, but this doesn’t necessarily mean inside the front door.

Console Table

There can't be enough said about the use of a console table near the entryway. Not only does it add a decorative element to the area, but it also gives you an entirely new place to decorate and add items to. Look for a console table that’s similar to the rest of the surrounding furniture and place it up against the wall in your home’s entryway. Now, find some decorations for it, such as lamps, picture frames, flowers, plants, vases, glass bowls, etc.

Decorating The Entryway Walls

After you’ve finished sprucing up your console table, it’s time to focus on the walls. You don’t have to go decorating the entire walls of the entryway, but instead focus on the area directly behind the console table. One of the easiest methods for wall decorating is simply hanging a mirror. It’s cheap, decorative and really opens up the whole atmosphere of your home. An alternative to hanging a picture is to use a painting or large photo. Just hang it directly behind the console table and use some subtle items surrounding it to emphasize it.

Lighting

Many homeowners overlook the importance of lighting in the entryway to their home. Because your guests will see this area first, you want it to contain an ample amount of lighting. If this means purchasing an extra free-standing lamp, then by all means go ahead do it. Sometimes overhead lighting isn’t enough to cover the entryway, which is why you see lamps added to a number of entryways in homes.

These are just a couple of tips to remember when decorating an entryway. Above all else, you want the area to feel warm and inviting, so keep that in mind when choosing your decorations.

Pros and Cons of Using Cork Flooring In The Bathroom

Cork Flooring

Cork flooring has become a popular alternative to hardwood and laminate. Along with its brilliant, luxurious appearance, it possesses several unique characteristics that simply aren’t found in other types of modern-day home flooring. If you’re looking to re-floor your bathroom, you should consider using cork. For a closer look at the pros and cons of cork flooring in the bathroom, keep reading.

Contrary to what some people may believe, cork flooring isn’t made from the recycled corks of old wine bottles. Although this would be neat, the cork material used in home flooring comes from the oak trees harvested in Southern Europe. Each tree is hand selected to achieve the highest quality and standards possible. Once harvested, the wood is carefully cut and processed to preserve its attractive qualities.

Pro: Cost

The exact price of cork flooring varies depending on the brand and supplier, but it’s usually cheaper than hardwood flooring. A single square foot slab can run anywhere between $2-$10 bucks, which is relatively inexpensive when compares to its hardwood counterpart. Homeowners looking to re-floor their bathroom on a budget can’t go wrong with cork.

Pro: Resistant To Mold and Mildew

Another benefit to using cork flooring in the bathroom is the simple fact that it’s resistant to mold and mildew. Bathrooms, as you may already know, tend to develop a moderate-to-high amount of humidity. Each time you take a shower or bath, moisture vapor accumulates in the air where it encourages the growth of mold and mildew. Thankfully, cork flooring is naturally resistant to mold and mildew due to the properties of oak hardwood.

Pro: It’s Stylish

With its soft tan coloring and hints of natural hardwood, cork flooring is simply beautiful. And best of all, it tends to flow cohesively with just about any bathroom décor and color palette. You don’t have to worry about cork flooring disrupting the normal balance in your bathroom décor.

Con: Damages Easily

Of course, there are some disadvantages to using cork flooring in the bathroom, such as its susceptibility to damage. If you happen to drop a piece of furniture on your cork flooring, it may leave a noticeable intention behind. Even stepping on it the wrong way can damage it.

Does this mean you should avoid cork flooring in the bathroom? Absolutely not, but you should take extra precautions to ensure it is safe and protected from damage. For instance, you can place any bathroom furniture on coasters so the legs won’t dig into the flooring.

Con: Difficult To Install

Installing cork flooring can prove to be a real challenge, especially for those who’ve never done it before. And since it’s such a time-consuming, labor-intensive operation, most professional flooring companies charge extra to install it. If you’re going to use cork flooring in your bathroom, take the time to familiarize yourself with the appropriate method for installation. There are dozens of videos and how-to guides published online that are worth checking out.

How to Make Your Living Room Look Bigger

Living Room

Even if the size of your living room is small, there are certain tricks which you can do to make it appear bigger than what it really is. Doing so will make it more warm, welcoming and comfortable for you and your guests to enjoy.

L-Shaped Sofas and Living Room Furniture

Positioning the sofas in your living room into an L-shape is one of the easiest ways to give it the appearance of a larger area. In addition, this type of set up is usually a preferred method, as it’s welcoming and allows guests to easily converse with one another.

When setting your furniture up into this pattern, place a matching area rug in the center and a coffee table on top. Choose a small, simple coffee table with a glass top to help increase visibility throughout the room.

Decorate Using Light Colors

When rooms are decorated with dark colors and dark-painted walls, it makes the room appear smaller. On the other hand, light colors can help achieve a larger looking room. If your living room is decorated with black or some other dark colored furniture and paint, you should consider changing it to something lighter. Beige is probably the best overall color to use in small living rooms, as it’s stylish and still light enough to make it appear larger.

Add a Mirror

Mirrors are the ultimate optical illusion for small rooms. Find an open wall (not above the TV) and hang a large mirror there. It will instantly increase visibility and give your living room a stylish touch as well. Mirrors also help brighten up a room by reflecting and bouncing light. Besides, mirrors go with practically any type of décor under the sun.

Natural Lighting

If there are windows in your living room, take advantage of them by opening them up and allowing natural light to come in. I recommend installing some light-colored curtains and tying them back so the sunlight still breaks through. This natural light will help brighten the room and give it a larger appearance.

These are just a few things owners can do to improve the look of a small living room. Just because it’s not at large as you would like doesn’t mean it can’t be transformed into a comfortable and welcoming environment. Follow the tips here to make your living room look bigger and more welcoming. If there are other rooms in your house limited with space, you can use the same principles there as well.

Simple Ways To Increase The Value of Your Home

Living Room

As a home owner, you should always be thinking of ways to increase the value of your home. Even if you aren't planning on selling your home now, these modifications and improvements will help you and your family out tremendously when that day comes.

Curb Appeal

There can never be enough said about the yard and lawn of a house. A lot of people neglect taking care of their yard, allowing weeds and brush to overtake it. Focus some time and energy on the yard by keeping the grass mowed, eliminating the weeds, and maintaining the attractive plant life around the house. If your yard looks lack-luster after clearing away the unwanted brush, you should consider adding some vibrant plants in front of the house. Most nurseries and home improvement stores can help you find plants that are right for your yard.

Exterior

While you're outside, you should also inspect the exterior of your home. Depending on what material it's made of, you may need to give it a thorough washing. Over the years, dirt and grime will stick on the siding of a house, causing discoloration and even threatening the integrity of it. While most of the time this only causes cosmetic damage, it can also lower the value of your home. A pressure washer on low to medium spray setting is usually enough to blast off any such dirt or debris and make your home look as clean as it did when it was first built.

Kitchen

In the last decade, kitchens have become a major selling point of a home. Not too long ago, you could get away with a traditional, non-updated kitchen. Although, most new home buyers now want a kitchen that looks modern with plenty of features. If your homes kitchen looks like the one your grandma used to cook in, it's time to do some remodeling. First, take out all of your appliances and replace them with modern stainless steel. Not only will this add beauty to your kitchen, but stainless steel are more durable and functional as well.

Also in the kitchen, you should consider updating and replacing the following:

  • Cabinets – if the cabinets are dated, damaged or lacking sufficient space, then you should replace them with newer ones.
  • Walls – many people, including myself, hate the look of old wood paneling. Whether it's in your kitchen or living room, you need to get rid of it.
  • Sinks and Faucet – most sinks will last for a while, but if it looks cheap or if it's stained, you need to replace it.

Master Bedroom

The first thing many potential buyers look at in a home is the master bedroom. For this reason, it's important to tidy it up. If the walls have lost their appeal, add a fresh coat of paint to help open up the room and make it appear larger. If the ceiling features the all-too-famous “popcorn speckling”, then you should consider removing it.

These are just a few things homeowners can do to increase the value of their home. Don't be afraid to jump into these projects, as you'll probably find they are easier to do thank you think.

Spring-Inspired Home Decorating Tips

With spring officially here, now is the perfect time to plan out new interior decorating ideas for your home. The blooming of all the colorful plants and flowers signifies the revival of new life, and you can use this to your advantage by decorating your home around these new changes. While there’s no “rule” stating that you must redecorate your home when the spring season approaches, doing so is a fun way to give your home a fresh new look. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, keep reading and we’ll reveal some interior decorating tips for the 2013 spring season.

Tip #1 - Use Brighter Colors

The spring season is the perfect opportunity to swap out all of those dull neutral colors for brighter, more lively colors. If you need some inspiration, just take a peek outside the window once spring is here. You’ll see beautifully-colored flowers blooming left and right, many of which have pink, red, blue, yellow and other bold colors. Use these colors as inspiration for decorating the interior of your home. Whether it’s the color of a new rug, wall painting or bed sheets, you should try to incorporate some of spring colors into your home.

Tip #2 - Bring In More Light

Another tips that’s helpful for transitioning your home into the 2013 spring season is to let in more light. Even if you can see just fine with a couple floor lamps, you should try to leave the curtains open during the day. The natural light provided by the sun creates a warmer, more relaxed feeling that works well during the summer. If you’re worried about people looking in through your windows, you can install a 1-way frosted film to it that prevents this from happening.

Tip #3 - Add Plants

Lastly, adding some plants throughout home will naturally give it a touch of life that’s helps bring the surrounding elements together. If you’ve never grown plants indoors before, start off with something easy like a corn plant. They require minimal water, minimal light, and they grow in a variety of temperatures and conditions. Just place it somewhere in the vicinity of a window and shouldn’t have a problem growing several feet tall. A lesser-known benefit associated with houseplants is that they work to clean the air inside your home. These natural air filters capture pollutants in the air where they are absorbed into the leaves and replaced by fresh oxygen.

Cleaning Oak Furniture

When used in the construction of furniture, oak creates some of the most beautiful and stylish home decor pieces you’ll find. The rich, dark hardwood finish provides a look that fits just about any homes decor. However, in order to keep it looking as flawless as it did when you first got it, you must know how to maintain and clean it.

Dusting Your Furniture

On average, you should be dusting your oak furniture once every one to two weeks. This will help prevent dust from gathering and accumulating on the surface. If you don’t take the time to dust your furniture, not only will it look dirty, but it may potentially lead to discoloration and further damage.

To dust your oak furniture, you’ll need a proper dusting cloth. Don’t use a basic hand towel or paper towels, as these will simply smear the dust instead of picking it up. Instead, find an absorbent cloth that’s made to attract the dust and simply wipe down the surface of your oak furniture. If there’s dust or dirt that’s not coming off, you may need to lightly dampen it beforehand.

Polishing Your Oak Furniture

While dusting with a dry cloth is usually enough to keep the surface clean, you should give it a shiny polish every once and a while. This can be accomplished by using a small amount of Murphy’s Oil, or by using some general wood furniture polish. Typically, you should polish your oak furniture once every month or as needed. It’s important not to over-do it, as this could create a film of residue.

Warning: Before Using any Product

While most wood furniture polishes will work on oak, you simply wont know until you test them out. I recommend spraying a small amount on an inconspicuous area to ensure it wont damage or discolor it. If it cleans and polishes it well, then it’s safe to go ahead and use on the rest of your furniture. If it creates an abnormal looking spot, then you should avoid using it. Most people don’t take time to do this, but spending the minute or two it takes to test the product out may save the look of your oak furniture

Oak furniture is pretty easy to clean and maintain. Just take the time to keep it dusted and give it a good polish at least once a month. This will help keep it looking as it did when you first bought it.

The Pros and Cons of an Outdoor Shower

Most individuals associate the use of outdoor showers with the beach. While they're certainly useful for cleaning the sand off of your feet and body, outdoor showers can also be installed around your home as well. To learn more about the benefits of owning one around your home, keep reading.

The truth is that many people probably wouldn't think about installing an outdoor shower around their home as it's not exactly a “necessary” item. However, once you have one installed, you'll likely find you and your family using it on a number of different occasions.

What are Outdoor Showers?

Outdoor showers are constructed in countless different styles and designs. Some of the most basic may only include a non-adjustable water spout with no walls or drainage options. On the other hand, some of the more complex outdoor showers feature a fully-enclosed area with a door, high-quality shower head, and a drainage system.

There's really no limitations to what kind of outdoor shower you can build. The only thing necessary is a water line which can be ran pretty easily depending on your home's current plumbing system. Once you've ran a water line, you can install the shower head and either purchase or build your own enclosure. Sorry if you were expecting more, but that's all it takes to install an outdoor shower!

Swimming Pools

If you own a pool, you may want to install an outdoor shower around your home. When kids or your guests get out of the pool, they can clean any remaining debris or dirt off of them in the shower before going inside your home. In addition, an enclosed outdoor shower provides a private area to change in and out of your bathing suit.

Dogs

While bathing your dog is a necessary part of their grooming routine, it also coats the tub in hair. With an outdoor shower, you can comfortably bathe your dog without messing up the bathroom tub. Just put on your bathing suit and bring your dog to the shower with you. Hose him down with some warm water and doggie shampoo, rinse and you're done. Most dogs seem to naturally enjoy outdoor showers more than indoor ones so you shouldn't have a problem with hum trying to escape.

Kids

As a parent, I can honestly say that kids are somehow mysteriously attracted to dirt. Anytime my kids go outside in the yard to play, they come back with dirt on every square inch of their body. You can always wipe them down at the front door, but an easier method is to tell them to hop in the outdoor shower for a couple minutes.

Gardening

If you do any gardening, you'll find that an outdoor shower provides an excellent way for you to clean off before going inside. There's certainly nothing wrong with having a green thumb and wanting to grow some fresh vegetables or fruits, but it does come with a price – dirt. You'll be down on your hands and knees tilling up soil and adding new plants. Thankfully, though, an outdoor shower will help clean you off and prevent any of that messy dirt or mud from making its way inside.

Budget Friendly Ways to Decorate a Spare Bedroom

Spare bedrooms are an exention of your home, and anytime you have guests over for the night, chances are they will stay there. For this reason, it’s recommended that you invest the necessary time and energy into creating a comfortable and attractive atmosphere that you’re proud to call a part of your home. Contrary to what some people may believe, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to decorate a spare bedroom in an attractive manner; here’s how it’s done:

Painting

Painting a spare bedroom has a huge affect on its overall appearance and mood. When the walls have a fresh coat of paint, it will naturally bring more life and vibrancy to the atmosphere. So, how are you supposed to paint your spare bedroom without spending a ton of money? Take a trip to the recycling areas or dumps in your area to see if they have any extra paint. When people have leftover paint they don’t need, they will drop it off here for safe disposal. Most of the time they people running these places have no problem handing the paint over to someone who would use it rather than sending it off, so check them first. Depending on how large your spare bedroom is, you should only need one or two cans.

Curtains

Along with painting, you can also give the walls in your spare bedroom a fresh look by installing new curtains. Don’t waste your money on designer curtains, but instead make your own using basic fabric sold at the fabric store. Take a trip to your local fabric store and ask one of the workers to cut you however much fabric you need for a curtain. If you’re unsure how to make them, don’t be afraid to ask an employee for help, as they will help guide you through the process. It’s actually fairly simple and the only real legwork you’ll have is to make the loop for the curtain rod to go through.

Furniture

If your spare bedroom is in dire need of furniture, try asking some freinds and relatives if they have any extra pieces. Most people tend to hang on to their old furniture after buying new items. If your someone you know has some old pieces, they will probably be more than glad to hand it over to you. After all, it’s better than letting it take up space in their garage or attic.

How To Choose The Right Vanity For Your Bathroom

There are several different elements that play a key role in setting the decor of a bathroom, but nothing has more of an impact than the vanity. When you first step foot in the bathroom, your attention will likely be drawn to the vanity, making it the focal point of the atmosphere. This can either benefit your bathroom's decor or hurt it, depending on how it's done. If you're in the market for a new vanity, keep reading for some important tips on how to choose the one that's best suited for your bathroom.

Consider Your Bathroom's Size

When choosing a new vanity, consider the overall size of your bathroom and compare it to the size of the vanity. Unfortunately, some of the smaller bathrooms won't be able to comfortably accommodate an oversized vanity. And even if the vanity physically fits inside the bathroom, it will probably take up too much space. Homeowners need to carefully choose a vanity in a size that's relative to their bathroom; otherwise, you could find yourself struggling to find room for other furnishings and everyday accessories.

So, how do you know whether or not a new vanity will comfortably fit inside your bathroom? Rather than trying to 'eyeball' it (which is never a good idea), you should take a minute to run the measurements. Find the dimensions (size, height and width) of the vanity you are contemplating on purchasing, and use a tape measure in your bathroom for a better look at how it will fit.

Vanity Material and Construction

Of course, you'll also want to pay close attention to the material used in the vanity's construction. Bathrooms tend to develop a large amount of humidity, and this moisture vapor can take a toll on certain materials. The good news is that most reputable vanity manufacturers design design their products with moisture-resistant materials; some even add a layer of protectant sealer for another barrier of protection.

Hardwood is one of the most popular materials used in the construction of bathroom vanities; it's sleek, stylish, exhibits a truly unique appearance, and it's relatively inexpensive. If you're going to use a hardwood vanity in your bathroom, though, make sure it's treated with a water-resistant chemical or spray to ensure it will withstand the constant moisture of your bathroom.

Storage Options

While style, size, material are all key selling points when choosing a new bathroom vanity, you should also consider its storage options. Some vanities literally have zero storage, consisting of nothing more than a sink bowl and faucet. Others, however, feature a spacious cabinet with tons of room for items like towels, shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream and other toiletries. If storage space is a concern in your bathroom, it's recommended that you choose a vanity with an ample amount of storage space underneath.

Hopefully, this will help guide you on choosing the best vanity that's suited towards your particular needs. Just remember to take your time and browse through all of the available options, looking for size, features, style, storage options and material.

Tips for Growing Plants on Your Patio

Patios are designed to offer a relaxing environment where you and your family can go to enjoy the sights and sounds of mother nature. Along with using comfortable furniture and the right accessories, you should also consider growing some plants on your patio. Not only will it make the atmosphere more relaxing, but it can save you some money at the supermarket as well. Here we'll take a closer look at how anyone can grow plants from the comfort of their patio.

Sun Exposure

I've you're an experienced gardener, then it should come as no surprise to hear that plants grow the best when placed on the area of the patio that receives the most sunlight. Before laying out your plants, carefully survey your patio to determine where this area is. Remember, you want to locate the area that receives the most sun throughout the day. While one area may get the most sun exposure during the early afternoon hours, another may receive more sun exposure throughout the entire day.

Watering

One of the great things about growing plants on the patio is that mother nature takes care of most of the watering for you. When some spring showers roll over your home, they'll receive all the water they need to grow and thrive. With that said, some people get lazy and forget about watering their plants all together. If there's a dry spell and you don't see any rain for a couple of weeks, even some of the toughest plants are sure to start drying out and dying. To prevent this, make sure your plants are getting the necessary amount of water they need.

So, just how much water do you need to be feeding your patio plants? Unfortunately, there's no easy answer to this, as it depends on what type of plants you are growing. Some plants may require watering every other day, while others can go for a week or longer. Educate and familiarize yourself with the growing basics of any plant you are thinking about placing on your patio.

Bring Them In During the Winter

Depending on where you live, you'll probably want to bring your plants in from the patio when winter approaches. The sudden drop in temperatures can send plants into shock, causing them to slowly die off. However, you can keep your plants safe by storing them away in your basement or some other area of your house until the temperatures warm back up.

How To Choose Dining Room Lighting

The proper lighting is an essential part of a dining room. Not only will it illuminate the room, but it will add a new element of style as well. However, it’s important to choose your dining room lighting carefully, as not all of them are suitable for every area.

Should I Choose a Chandelier or Lamp?

In just about every dining room situation, a chandelier will both look and perform better than a lamp. The only reason you should use a lamp is if your budget prohibits you, or if there’s simply not enough room to place a chandelier on the ceiling. In all other cases, you should opt to hang a chandelier in your dining room.

If you do in fact choose to use a free-standing lamp over a chandelier, there a couple things you should know. First, make sure that it’s powerful enough to provide lighting throughout the dining room. Oftentimes, it may take 2 or even 3 lamps to provide enough lighting for the entire dining room. Also, because the dining room is typically considered more formal than other areas of the house, you should choose lamps which are a bit more formal and stylish than traditional lamps.

What To Look For in a Chandelier

A chandelier is usually the best all-around choice for lighting in a dining room. In order to choose one, though, you’ll need to get some measurements. Using a tape measure, see how long and wide your dining table is. A chandelier should be slightly smaller than the sides of your table. If it goes past the table, then it’s too large and you need a smaller chandelier.

When shopping for a chandelier, you want to find one that matches the rest of your dining room, including furniture, wall decorations, accents and place settings. If you have an overall modern look, then you should stick with a modern chandelier. Typically, crystal chandeliers flow with just about any dining room style.

Don’t be afraid of trying some of unusual shaped chandeliers. Just because it doesn’t look like the chandeliers you’re used to seeing doesn’t mean it won’t look good when used in your dining room. If you’re hesitant on purchasing a chandelier without knowing what it will look like, take a picture of it and save it to your computer. Next, take a picture of your dining room and superimpose the chandelier image onto it. This will allow you to see if the styles go together or if they clash.

Kids Room Storage Ideas

Whether your kid is 1-year old or 10, chances are they have more toys than they know what to do with. Even so, it seems like they have to pull out each and every toy when they're bored or just looking to pass the time, which leads to a cluttered disaster zone that's difficult for us adults to move around in. Upon entering their room, you'll have to sidestep around action figures, dolls, books, crayons and everything else just so you can make your way around. Thankfully, however, there are some storage ideas out there that can help create a sense of balance and order in this otherwise chaotic situation.

Under The Bed

If you aren't utilizing the available space underneath your kid's bed, you're wasting a valuable area that could be used for storage. Take a tape measure and get the height and width of the area underneath their bed. Using those measurements, try to find one or more large plastic containers that will fit nice and snug here. Wal-Mart, Target and even craft stores sell them for about $10-$20 bucks a piece, which isn't bad considering how useful they are. You can then use them for storing your kid's clothes, old toys, extra blankets or anything else you want to keep neatly tucked away. When it comes time to use them, just pull the plastic container out and remove the items.

Cubby Bins

There's nothing quite like the versatility and style provided by cubby bins. Not only are they useful for storing just about any toy or item in your child's room, but they are easy enough to use so they can put away their own toys. Just place a cubby bin setup down on the floor level where it's easy to reach and show your child how to use it. Most children actually enjoying pulling them out and placing their toys in them, so you shouldn't have a problem getting your child to use it.

Closet Shelving

Another storage idea you should consider is closet shelving. The fact is that most people leave a lot of unused space in their closets which could be used for storing toys and other items. Take advantage of every square inch of closet space in your child's room by installing a shelving system on the walls. Even if there's a clothes hanger filled with their shirts and outfits, shelving can still be used directly underneath it. Just make sure it doesn't protrude too far out to the point where it's getting in the way.

Comparing The Different Bathroom Flooring Options

Installing new floor tiles in the bathroom is an inexpensive and relatively simple renovation that will drastically improve both the appearance and function of this area. If your current bathroom flooring is old, faded, damaged or stained from excessive mildew, you should consider replacing it with new floor tiles. But with so many different styles, materials and shapes available, how do you know which one to choose? Keep reading for a breakdown of the most popular choices of bathroom floor tiles.

Ceramic Tile

Arguably, one of the most popular flooring options for the bathroom is ceramic tile. Ceramic is an incredibly strong, durable and waterproof material that's created by pressing clay and water together before flash heating it. Once the clay is heated, it offers a superior level of strength that's perfect for the high-traffic area of a bathroom.

Another reason why ceramic tile is such as popular choice is because of its price. Completely redoing your bathroom floor in ceramic tile should only cost $100-$200 depending on its size. However, you can expect to pay twice this amount for some of the more expensive tiling options.

Stone Tile

Another popular choice of bathroom flooring is stone tile. While the exact size varies, most stone tiles are cut into large 12-inch squares. Each 'slab' is carefully laid down on the floor and supported with grout in between. Stone tiles offer a truly unique and relaxing atmosphere for your bathroom. And since they come in 12-inch squares, installation typically takes less time and work.

It's important to note, however, that stone tiles typically cost more than traditional ceramic tiles. If you're looking for a stylishly unique flooring option for your bathroom, you can't go wrong with authentic stone; however, expect to pay at least twice as much (sometimes even more) for stone tile as you would for ceramic.

Vinyl

A third flooring option for the bathroom is vinyl tile. This option is oftentimes cheaper and easier that both stone and ceramic flooring. You can find vinyl flooring available in large rolls or cut into individual tiles. After preparing your bathroom floor, simply peel off the protective sheet covering the adhesive backing and press it down to the floor.

Due to its waterproof properties, vinyl tile is perfect for the bathroom. Rather than soaking through, water sits on top of the vinyl where you can wipe it up with a towel.

Laminate

Lastly, some homeowners may choose to install laminate flooring in their bathroom. Contrary to what some people may believe, laminate is actually stronger and more durable than hardwood. Due to the high moisture content of the bathroom, however, laminate isn't the best choice. Allowing water to remain on laminate flooring will result in warping, rotting and other forms of damage. Instead, stick with one of the tiling options previously mentioned for your bathroom flooring. Ceramic, stone and vinyl tiles are all excellent choices that will hold up well under the constant stress and moisture from a bathroom.

Tax Deductions on Home Renovations

With taxes still fresh on everyone's minds, we thought we'd talk about tax-deductible write-offs involving home renovation projects. In most cases, you won't be able to deduct renovations or repairs. However, there are certain circumstances in which you can.

The first circumstance is when the renovation is categorized as a medical expense. If you or another family member living in your home needs a specialized ramp or elevator installed to move up and down between floors, this renovation would be considered a medical expense, and as such it can be deducted from your year-end taxes. The deduction amounts must be reasonable, however, and directly tied to the individual's medical condition.

Another instance in which home renovation projects can be tax-deductible is when they are green, energy-efficient improvements. For instance, the IRS offers a tax credit of 30% of the total cost of certain geothermal heat pumps, solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells, and similar equipment. If you spend $10,000 on a qualifying “green” product, you would receive a tax credit of $3,000. That's a pretty substantial amount that will yield huge savings the next time you file your taxes.

While not technically considered a tax-deductible write-off, you typically don't have to pay capital gains tax when selling your primary residence if the profitable is under $250,000. TurboTax explains this and other home renovation tax write-offs on its website, saying that the IRS views renovations as a means to increase the basis of your home.

Under the home sale exemption, you do not have to pay capital gains on appreciation of your primary residence when you sell it if your profit is $250,000 or less,” wrote the folks at Intuit TurboTax.

Because home renovations increase your basis in your home, they can help reduce the amount of your sale price that is counted as profit, and therefore can potentially help get you under the home sale exemption to avoid capital gains altogether. Even if not, the increased basis will limit the taxable portion of the sale price.”

As always, speak with a certified personal accountant or tax professional for more information about tax-deductible renovations. The IRS changes its laws on a regular basis, so what's accepted as a deduction may not be accepted the next.

Home Renovations: Where Do I Start?

Planning a home renovation project in the near future? Whether it's installing new flooring, expanding a bedroom, or just adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls, you'll plan ahead. Blindly jumping into a home renovation project – regardless of size and scope – is a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, though, you can ease the stress of renovating by covering all of your bases ahead of time, which we're going to discuss further in this blog post.

Define Your Goal

Before you even think of starting a new renovation project, you should first identify your goals and objectives. Ask yourself, what do I hope to accomplish by renovating my home? Don't overanalyze this question, but instead think about your end goal. This might be adding new floors, or tearing down a partition wall to create one large room instead of two small rooms.

Set a Budget

The first step in planning a home renovation project is to set a budget. Renovation projects aren't cheap by any means, but having a budget will ensure you stay on track and remain with your financial means.

So, how do you know how much a renovation project will cost? There's no easy answer to this question, as pricing varies depending on a number of different factors. With that said, the website homeadvisor.com offers average prices for common home renovation projects such as installing new windows, remodeling a bathroom, counter top installation, garage door installation, and more.

Gather Your Supplies

After setting a budget, head to your local home improvement store and pick up the necessary supplies and equipment. You may already have some of the supplies on hand, but chances are you'll need to purchase others. If you're unable to find any of the necessary items at your local home improvement store, look online. Granted, you'll have to pay for shipping, but buying smaller items like handheld power tools is often cheaper when they are purchased online as opposed to in store.

How To Prepare a Room For Painting

There's no faster or more effective way to revitalize the appearance of a room than by adding a fresh coat of paint. Whether it's the living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, or even a hallway, painting the walls will bring new vigor to the atmosphere -- and best of all, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. However, the secret to a successful paint job lies in preparation.

Remove Furnishings

First and foremost, go through the room and remove all furniture, furnishings, decorations, and anything else that's covering either the floors or walls. Ideally, the room should be stripped of everything, containing nothing at all. I know it's easier to leave your furniture in place, but doing so may result in damage if paint drips down onto it. No matter how hard you try to prevent it, there's always the risk of paint getting on your furniture, which is why it's a good idea to take the time to clear the room beforehand.

Remove Light Switch Covers

Next, use a screwdriver to remove all of the light switch and electrical outlet covers in the room you intend to paint. Again, some people leave these covers on while they paint, but doing so may result in paint dripping onto them. Paint isn't going to necessarily damage a light switch cover, but it looks messy and unfinished -- something that you probably want to avoid when painting a room. It only takes a couple of minutes to remove the light switch and outlet covers, so don't overlook this step.

Prep The Walls

One of the most common mistakes people make when painting a room is not cleaning the walls first. Why should you clean the walls if you are just going to paint over them? Although you can't see it, the walls inside your home are probably covered in dust and dirt. Even small amounts of dust can affect the texture and overall quality of your paint, as it creates a barrier between the paint and the wall. Use a damp washcloth to wipe down the walls, paying close attention to areas around the baseboards where dust tends to settle.

Drop Cloths

Last but not least, lay out several overlapping drop clothes across the floors to protect them from falling paint. You can purchase drop cloths or painter's tarp from most home improvement stores for as little as twenty bucks a piece, which is a small price to pay for preserving your floors.

Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Change Your Air Filter

When was the last time you changed the air filter in your home? The truth is that very few homeowners rarely, if ever, change their air filter. As a result, they end up wasting energy while encouraging the formation of dust, dirt and other airborne impurities. According to a report published by the United States Department of Energy, changing your heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) filter can improve the efficiency of your HVAC unit by 5-15%. So if you spend $300 per month to cool your home during the summer, you'll save about $30 bucks per month or $360 per year just by maintaining a clean air filter.

Mow Your Lawn

Now that the summer is here – well, almost here at least – you can expect your lawn to grow at its peak rate. This means you'll have to invest more time and energy into maintaining it. A good rule of thumb is to mow your lawn at least once a week, keeping it short and well-manicured. Allowing it to grow uncontrolled will have a negative effect on your home's curb appeal, creating a messy appearance that does your home no justice.

Pressure Wash

There's no better time than the summer to pressure wash your home's siding. Doing so will wash away stubborn dirt and mold, leaving your home looking fresh and clean. Even if you don't own a pressure washer, there are still several options available: you can rent one from a local home improvement store like Lowes or Home Depot, or you can hire someone to do it for you.

Repaint The Front Door

When was the last time you applied a fresh coat of paint to the front door of your home? If it's been two years or longer, it's probably about that time again. Repainting the front door – even if it's the same color – can make a world of difference in your home's appearance. You have to remember that the front door is one of the first things a person sees when approaching your house. Therefore, you should invest the necessary time and energy into keeping it spotless.

Check For Thermal Leaks

Another home maintenance tip for the summer is to check for thermal leaks. Using an IR thermometer, go around your home and look for steep temperature fluctuations. This may include areas such as windows, doors, vents, etc.

Dealing With Pests in The Garden

Are you tired of getting swarmed by mosquitos or other pests whenever you try to sit outside on your patio? This is an all-too-common problem faced by a countless number of homeowners. Whether you live on the east coast, west coast or somewhere in between, chances are you'll experience outdoor pests at some point or another. So, how can you prevent them from taking over your garden?

Remove Dead or Rotting Plants

Let’s hope you don’t find too many dead or rotting plants in your garden, but you’ll need to remove them promptly when you do. Allowing decaying plants to sit in the soil will naturally attract insects and pests that are looking for a quick and easy meal. The decaying plant material is easier for them to consume, so they will feed on it first. If you see any plants in your garden that are decaying with little-to-no chance of recovery, go ahead and remove them.

Remove Leaves and Foliage

Another step that’s helpful in preventing insects and pests in a garden is to remove leaves and other foliage from the top of the soil. I know this probably sounds like common sense to most people, but it’s easy to start slacking with basic raking once your garden shoots up. The main issue associated with leaves and foliage is the moisture that it traps. When a storm rolls through and starts dropping rain on your garden, the foliage will trap the water and create the perfect breeding grounds for certain pests and insects. This can all be prevented, however, by raking the surface of your soil and the surrounding area in a timely manner.

Adjust pH Levels

Generally, the more acidic your soil or growing medium is, the less problem you’ll have with insects and pests. These little critters want a quick meal that’s easy to eat, and highly acidic soil doesn’t offer this. Of course this is somewhat of a double-edged sword since highly acidic soil can also kill plants. Do your research to see what pH levels the plants in your garden prefer and make the necessary adjustments as needed. If it falls below or over the recommended level, add fertilizer to help adjust it. Not only will your plants grow fuller and more healthy, but the appropriate pH levels will likely deter some insects and pests from trying to consume them.

How To Improve The Air Quality in Your Home

Indoor air pollution poses a serious threat to its inhabitants. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently named it one of the top five environmental hazards, attesting to the need for cleaner indoor air. But how exactly can you improve the air in your home?

Indeed, studies of human exposure to air pollutants by EPA indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be 2 to 5 times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoor pollutant levels. Indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health. The problems they cause can be subtle and do not always produce easily recognized or immediate impacts on health,” wrote the EPA.

Vacuum

I think probably sounds like common sense to most homeowners, but vacuuming your floors on a regular basis will encourage cleaner air. When dust and other pollutants settle, they tend to land on the floor. Therefore, vacuuming is a quick and effective way to clean up the air inside your home. Try to get into the habit of vacuuming at least once a week. And when you empty the contents of your vacuum cleaner, do it outside to prevent dust from falling back onto the floor.

Dust

Equally as important as vacuuming is dusting. No one actually enjoys dusting their furniture (no one that I know of at least), but it's a key step towards improving the air quality of your home. You don't have to spend several hours wiping and polishing every surface in your home, but instead give your furniture a quick brush with a feather. This should whisk away most of the dust with little effort on your part.

Houseplants

Need another reason to decorate your home with houseplants? Here's one: numerous studies have shown plants to be effective at cleaning and purifying the air. This phenomenon is attributed to their ability to collect and absorb pollutants while releasing fresh oxygen back into the surrounding atmosphere. Of course, you'll need to dust your plants' leaves and stalk once in a while to prevent dust from accumulating on them.

How To Remove Popcorn Ceiling

Tired of looking at the dreaded popcorn-style ceiling in your home? While it was once a popular technique used by builders and contractors due to its low price and easy of use, it has since gone the way of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, many homes remain stuck with this outdated style, forcing homeowners to seek ways to remove it. The good news is that you can remove popcorn ceiling, and it's actually easier than you may think.

Prepare Your Room

You'll first need to prepare the room so you don't damage any furniture, flooring or other nearby items. Go ahead and remove everything from the room. I know it's easier to leave the furniture in place, but trust me you don't want to get popcorn fragments scattered across your favorite sofa or recliner. The bottom line is that you invest the necessary time and energy into removing all of your furniture before attempting to remove the popcorn ceiling.

After you've removed your furniture from the room, lay out several drop cloths or painter's tarps across the floor and tape it to the baseboards. Doing so will prevent any of the popcorn or paint from falling on your floors, which could otherwise damage it.

Spray The Ceiling

Now comes the fun part: spraying the popcorn ceiling. This can be done with good old fashioned water, or you can use a special cleaning solution. The purpose of this step is to loosen up the popcorn texture, allowing it to come off with greater ease. I recommend creating a solution of half white vinegar and half water. It's cheap, effective, and will help clean the ceiling as well as loosen up the popcorn texture. Simply spray a light coating over the popcorn so it's damp but not soaking wet. And don't worry about the odor, as the vinegar smell will dissipate after it dries.

Start Scraping

Let the water-vinegar solution soak in the popcorn for about 5 minutes, at which point you can start scraping. This is best done using a small putty scraper, which can be purchased from most home improvement stores for a couple bucks. Working from the rear of the room and making your way towards the front, scrape off the popcorn texture from the ceiling.