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The Big Chill: Winterizing Checklist

by Desi Sowers

The Big Chill: Winterizing Checklist

While September brings the first day of fall, October can be the harbinger of the winter and all of its frigid pitfalls. It’s best to be prepared for the frost and snow with a few simple tasks that will prevent drafts, frosty windows and every homeowner’s nightmare: Busted pipes.

A good place to start prior to tackling problem areas in your home is a home energy audit. This will pinpoint specific places in your house where heat escapes. The U.S. Department of Energy has a do-it-yourself energy assessment, or you can hire someone to do the audit for you.

Big Chill Checklist

Weatherstripping:

Cold air can seep in through those little gaps between your door and the door frame, quickly reversing any effort you take to heat your home. Weatherstripping covers the sides and top of the door and a sweep fills the space between the threshold and door bottom. Hardware stores and home centers sell numerous products in metal, foam, rubber and plastic for this purpose and many can be installed in an afternoon.

Windows:

This may be another area where additional weatherstripping or caulk is needed to fill any visible gaps, though that still might not be enough remediation to prevent drafts. While windows add much needed winter light, they can let out a lot of heat — up to 12 times more than a wall if they’re single pane. Blinds can keep a little heat in, but heavier shades or curtains will minimize heat loss.

Fireplace:

Fantasizing about a cozy evening in front of the fire? Your romantic night might be cut short if your fireplace hasn’t been serviced. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys are swept at least once a year.

Furnace:

It’s also recommended that furnaces be serviced once a year. A heating system can break down at the most inopportune time is it’s not serviced. Worse, it can pump carbon monoxide into a home or eventually stop working. While a furnace service can run up to $100, the cost benefits are undeniable, considering the cost of a major fix or replacement.

Ducts:

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose between 10 and 30 percent of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if duct work is not well-connected and insulated, or if it must travel through unheated spaces.

Pipes

Frozen pipes are a royal nuisance, but with a little effort, many instances can be prevented. The best way to tackle these is to wrap pipes that run the exterior of the home with heating tape. Turn off the water and drain the remaining water at the inside valves. You can also purchase insulated covers for additional prevention.

 

 

 

Home Improvement Trends for the New Year

by /posted by Desi Sowers

Most homeowners are unlikely to be building, remodeling or decorating with abandon in 2010, given the slow recovery from the recession. But if you do plan to update your home or garden, here are some trends to keep in mind.

Home decor. The sleek, sophisticated but comfortable style known as “soft contemporary” will be a key look for the New Year, said Kris Kolar, vice president of interior design at Robb & Stucky Interiors. Instead of the eclectic clutter that has been popular for a while, there will be a move toward using just one or two eye-catching accents. These “punctuation-mark pieces,” featuring hand-worked techniques that give a custom look, may include special materials such as mother-of-pearl, flame mahogany and stainless steel.

Furniture. The environmental movement is getting stronger, said Jackie Hirschhaut, spokeswoman for the American Home Furnishings Alliance. Increasingly, furniture is being built using natural-fiber fabrics, recycled metals and sustainable woods. Red will be the trendiest accent color for furniture, she predicted. And home offices will continue to boom as growing numbers of Americans work from their residences.

Color. Classic neutrals and pops of exotic brights are the key shades at Pittsburgh Paints, which recently announced four color palettes for 2010.

The “Canvas” palette includes deep gray-browns and gray-blues, muted beige and chalky white. “Pink City” offers vibrant pinks, spicy oranges, grays and chocolate-brown. “Grace” includes elegant hues such as pale butter, bronze-gold and sea foam. And “Zest” reinvents the style of Palm Springs circa 1950, mixing high-energy yellows with gray, white and black.

Landscaping. Organic vegetable gardens, like the one installed at the White House are likely to be a huge trend in 2010, said Orlando, Fla., horticulture expert Tom MacCubbin. Community gardens are a growing trend, especially those that involve children. Of all vegetables, he predicts tomatoes will be especially popular. In the landscape, perennial plants that last longer than annuals and need less care are a strong trend, he added. Trendy plants include gold mound duranta, a shrub with acid-green foliage, and perennial bulbine, which sports spikes of yellow blooms.

New-home construction. The era of the extravagant McMansion is over, said Nathan Cross of NWC Construction in Orlando. When building new homes, people are increasingly budget-conscious. “It’s back to basics. Even the pool is a no-frills deal,” he said. About the only area where homeowners may be prepared to splurge a little is the master suite. Energy-efficiency will be important. So will going green: “So long as it’s a green trend that doesn’t cost too much.” Outdoors, some homeowners will be installing fireplaces, fire pits and summer kitchens.

Remodeling. The trend toward making minor improvements to home exteriors is likely to extend into next year—for good reason. It gives homeowners the biggest bang for their bucks when it comes to selling their homes. In terms of costs recouped, eight out of the top 10 home-improvement projects this year were exterior upgrades that cost less than $14,000, according to Realtors Report’s annual Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. A steel entry-door replacement topped the list, recouping 128.9% of costs, followed by upscale fiber-cement siding replacements (83.6%), wood deck additions (80.6%), and several types of window replacements (more than 70%). The two interior projects that landed on the top-10 list were attic-bedroom additions (83.1% recouped) and minor kitchen remodels (78.3%). The least profitable remodeling projects in terms of resale, and therefore not likely to be popular in 2010, were home-office remodels and sunroom additions.


Written by Jean Patteson

4 Ways to Stage Your Home and Create a Well-Rounded First Impression

by posted by Desi Sowers

home_securityRISMEDIA, October 29, 2009—Feeling good about a home and a neighborhood is part and parcel of making the decision to buy, so staging a home should involve more than just raising the charm factor. Look for ways to also make the house say “safe and secure” to ensure a more well-rounded first impression. 

In the course of my adult life, I’ve lived in 14 different residences, six of which have been single-family homes that I bought. Like most people, each time I had my list of must-haves in terms of living space, floor plan flow, structure, amenities, etc. But as I was also new to the area for half of those decisions, I was also interested in knowing more about the neighborhood and surrounding environment and would always envision myself coming home after dark. Even the most charming tree-lined street takes on a different character when the sun goes down. 

Home as a sanctuary has moved from cultural trend to the essence of what makes a house a home. The term “sanctuary” covers everything from the basic need of shelter, a place of refuge, security, as well as a home that fits the lifestyle of the family living there. Gone are the days when showing a house with a home security system or solid deadbolts might signal the buyer to think the neighborhood was unsafe. Today, a home properly equipped to address general security issues is expected and has become the norm. Making a home more secure doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. 

Here are some options for sellers to consider: 

1. Hedging your bet-Trimming the bushes at the front entry and near the windows of the home adds curb appeal and opens sight lines around entrances.
2. Security with style- Choose attractive storm doors and entry doors with more secure locking options.
3. Light it up- Motion-activated lighting, timer controls and dusk-to-dawn options paired with path lighting and landscape lighting means the curb appeal of the home doesn’t go down with the sun.
4. High-tech peace of mind-Easy-to-install, whole-home wireless security systems and monitoring means you can control locks, lights and cameras from a computer or cell phone. 

A buyer in the market for a new home today has more options than ever, and each has his or her own list of must-haves. Leverage the opportunity to show a home’s strength by marrying curb appeal and charm with a few upgrades that deliver on peace of mind.

Written by Melissa Birdsong who is vice president for Trend, Design & Brand, Lowe’s Companies, Inc. 



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