(BPT) - Spring is here, which means it's time to start cleaning. While a good wipe down can leave your home feeling clean, there are several overlooked items that could be hosting germs, dirt and dust. So when you're ready to get out the broom, mop and rags, don't forget to tidy up these areas of the home.
1. Bed pillows. Clean your pillows every six months by popping them in the washing machine. For the best results, wash two pillows at a time to help keep the washer balanced.
2. Washing machine. Run an empty washer through a "Normal" cycle to keep your washer delivering at its best performance. Whirlpool brand washers like the Cabrio High-Efficiency Top Load Washer also feature a "Clean Washer" cycle.
3. Dryer. In addition to cleaning out the lint trap, use the nozzle attachment of your vacuum to suck out any dirt that makes its way into the dryer. Then, wipe down the inside of the dryer with soapy water.
4. Electronic screens. Computer and flat-screens can get spotty. Give all of your screens a cleaning with a screen-safe spray or wipes designed for monitors.
5. Bath mat. You step on it almost every day, so if you're not washing your bath mat regularly, then you're stepping in leftover dead skin particles, soap scum and dirt after showering. Terry cloth and rubber mats can be machine washed while wooden mats can be wiped down with an all-purpose cleaner.
6. Dishwasher. That wonderful appliance in your kitchen does in fact need to be cleaned too. First, remove and rinse the filter (detachable cylindrical filter located on the bottom of the dishwasher) under the faucet. Large food particles can get stuck in the filter which may cause a funky odor. Next, place a dishwasher-safe cup full of vinegar on the empty dishwasher's top rack. Run a full cycle, using the hot-water setting. Finally, sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run a short hot-water cycle.
7. Ceiling fans and light fixtures. Hard-to-reach lights and fans are easy to forget. Use a soft microfiber cloth to remove large amounts of dust on ceiling fans, and run glass light fixtures through the dishwasher to bring the sparkle back quickly.
8. Mattress. A clean bed means more than washing your sheets and pillowcases. First, use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to remove any crumbs or dust. Then, blot or rub stains with a combination of hydrogen peroxide, liquid dish soap, and baking soda with a clean rag. Finally, sprinkle a light layer of baking soda over the entire mattress and let it sit for a couple of hours. This will absorb any excess liquid from the stain removal process. Hit your mattress with the vacuum once more to remove the powder and leave your mattress smelling fresh and clean.
To learn how to tackle spring cleaning in the rest of your house from the refrigerator to microwave, visit Whirlpool Corporation's Institute of Home Science.
(BPT) - Let’s face it — once you get past high school, the people who go farthest in life are the ones who are the “whole package,” those who balance style, good looks and brains. The same can be said of kitchen and bath upgrades. The ones that will stand the test of time — the ones you’ll love as much in five years as you do the day they’re installed — are the improvements that blend style and intelligence.
Sure you might fall in love with that $5,000 built-in coffee maker, but are you going to adore it as much when you’re still paying for it five years from now? And when you sell your home one day, will buyers agree with you that it was worth giving up an entire walk-in closet to get five more square feet in the master bathroom?
Great bathrooms and kitchens really do sell homes, so it makes sense to invest in upgrades that are the whole package. They look great, are stylish, functional and enjoyable, and will give you a decent return on your investment when it comes time to sell.
Here are six kitchen and bathroom improvements that really are the total package:
1. Granite countertops
Countertops are both a major design feature and a vital necessity in both kitchens and baths. New, quality countertops improve the appearance and function of either room. Of course, granite is still a top choice for kitchen counters but it also goes well in the bathroom, giving vanities a high-end look. A USA Today study found more than half of buyers said they would pay more for a home with granite countertops.
Whether in a kitchen or bathroom, adding solar-powered, fresh-air skylights will brighten the space with abundant daylight and freshen the air with natural ventilation that exhausts heat, humidity and odors. In baths, they also provide privacy. Energy Star-qualified no leak skylights like those from VELUX America can be operated by a touchpad programmable remote control, as can solar powered blinds in an array of designer colors and patterns, and are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit for the skylights, blinds and the cost of installation. Sun Tunnel tubular skylights make it possible to add natural light even in first-floor kitchens or bathrooms where there is no direct roof access. To learn more, and to locate local dealers and certified installers, visit www.whyskylights.com.
3. Quality lighting
Lighting is both a practical and design consideration for kitchens and bathrooms. In addition to natural light sources, such as skylights and windows, it’s a good investment to install upgraded light fixtures. You should have multiple layers of light, including overhead for both rooms, task lighting or under-the-cabinet lighting in kitchens, and vanity lighting in the bathroom. Your design options are vast, and upgrading your lighting can be both a design statement and an improvement that enhances livability.
4. Eco-friendly fixtures and appliances
Of course you know new appliances and fixtures can make kitchens and baths look more appealing to buyers, and more enjoyable for you while you live in your home. But their value will be even greater if you choose options that can also help reduce your water, sewer and utility bills. From low-flow showerheads and ultra-high-efficiency toilets, to Energy Star-qualified dishwashers and refrigerators, eco-friendly fixtures and appliances are great design choices that will put money back in your pocket for years to come.
Tile is a big win for both kitchens and baths. Replacing worn or dated tile in showers or bathroom floors improves the look and function of the room. In kitchens, adding a tile backsplash is an affordable way to make a design statement while protecting walls from cooking spatters. Tile can also serve as a countertop material in kitchens and baths, where design flexibility and durability are essential.
6. Organization and storage solutions
From dishes, pots, pans and foodstuff in the kitchen, to towels and personal care items in the bathroom, you probably have a lot of stuff that needs to be stored in both rooms. So will future buyers! Adding cabinet and drawer organizers, as well as extra storage solutions, can make it easier for you to use both rooms. Plus, it will help reduce clutter, giving your kitchen and bath a more open, clean look.
You don’t need a huge budget to make kitchen and bathroom upgrades that really are the whole package. Even a minor renovation in either room can have a big impact on your home’s livability, beauty and resale value.
Perfect Patio Escape
(Family Features) As temperatures rise, it’s the perfect time to gather friends and family for a getaway in your own backyard. Spruce up your space with furniture and accessories that reflect the newest sights and styles of summer for a patio-ready look that truly takes you places.
Nothing brings people together quite like a party on the patio. Creating a bright, blissful space for your patio celebration is simple when you coordinate everything from dinnerware and drinkware to seating, accessories and even the entertainment.
Table talk. Making vivid memories is as simple as setting your table with a vibrant array. Top your table with layers of colors, textures and bold patterns. Use shatter-resistant dishes and dinnerware made of melamine for a tabletop that is as attractive as it is easy to care for.
Drink up. Quench guests’ thirst with a cold, refreshing drink station. Turn one corner of your party into a one-stop shop for drinks. Fill an embossed, copper-finished beverage tub with ice and drinks to create your own personal party server. It’s a must-have for hosts who like to mingle. Or add punch to your party with a jug-shaped acrylic beverage dispenser and a selection of drinkware made for outdoor entertaining. For example, BPA-free Clarity acrylic drinkware from Pier 1 Imports offers the classic good looks of glassware, but the shatter-resistant vessels are at home inside and out. Available in a brilliant range of colors and silhouettes, Clarity pairs perfectly with a line of melamine dinnerware for a cohesive table setting.
Outdoor seating. Incorporating sectional seating allows you to customize the size and shape that fit your needs. By placing furniture in a corner, you increase functionality without wasting an inch. An ottoman can serve as a small coffee table or low dining table, creating a variety of options for how to use the space. Similarly, repurpose garden stools for multiple uses like tables, plant stands and impromptu seating.
Light the night. Crafted of weathered wood and mixed metals, lanterns come alive when the sun goes down. Pair them with flameless LEDs and a remote control so you can turn the festivities on and off at the touch of a button. Group lanterns together and fill a few with surprising elements, like terrarium ornaments and faux succulents. Or for high-traffic areas, Pier 1 Imports’ lanterns and string lights are a perfect solution. Safe for children and pets, these colorful lights are decorative by day and illuminate the celebration after sunset.
Garden games. Add a little competitive spirit to your party by setting out a croquet set and let the games begin. Play as singles or set up teams of two. Other party games like bocce ball and horseshoes can inspire even more summer fun.
Finishing touches. From the playful to the poetic, unique accents bring your garden into full bloom and make a big difference on your patio. Bring your party theme to life or simply let your own personality shine with accessories such as pillows, rugs and decorative items like planters and garden art.
Bring Patio-Inspired Décor Indoors
Pick the perfect shade. To create a true warm-weather vibe, try delving into blue-hued accessories like pillows or curtains that run the gamut from classic stripes to pretty prints and embellishments. Whether in classic patterns or newly edged in a golden hue, they’re sure to soften the look of your room. Coordinate the color and texture of your textiles for a designer-worthy look.
Take inspiration from nature. For a fresh look, use faux succulents, florals and topiaries. Displayed on mantels, hung near a window or placed on a desk in your home office, they can help introduce a tranquility that’s refreshingly low-maintenance. A natural material like wicker, which doesn’t stand up to the elements as well as some other materials, is a great way to give your furniture a refreshed summer feel.
Bring the beach home. Blend ocean-inspired colors such as blues, greens and corals with sandy neutrals and driftwood accents. Give your indoor space even more beachside ambience by incorporating seashells, starfish and anchors into your décor.
Accent with lighting. Light your home with lamps that are uniquely you. Whether your home is full of windows or has very little natural light, lamps, outdoor-inspired lanterns and strings of glimmering lights will leave no shadowy corners in your summer space.
Summer softness. Rich textures, shimmering beads, hand embroidery—that’s just the beginning of Pier 1’s collection of more than 150 summer pillows. With an amazing selection of pillows in every shape, loft, hue and style from all over the world, you’re certain to find exactly the right accents to bolster your furniture.
Find more ideas for creating your own party-perfect patio at pier1.com.
7 Places Mosquitoes Might Be Hiding in Your Yard
(Family Features) Spring has sprung, which means that mosquito season is almost here. These tiny insects could be living, flying and breeding right in your yard, and you might not even know it.
Mosquitoes aren’t just a nuisance, they are also a health threat. Some species common in the United States can carry and spread Zika virus, Chikungunya virus, West Nile virus and canine heart worm. The first sign of mosquito activity is usually buzzing from female mosquitoes and their bites.
Where Mosquitoes Breed
Take Back Your Yard
If you’ve done everything you can to help prevent mosquitoes and are still having problems, you may need a licensed professional. For more details, visit Orkin.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
(BPT) - Is your home chilly and dark in winter, or stuffy and dark in the summer? If your home has too small or too few windows, it can be difficult to get the natural light and ventilation you crave, and need for good health. You may look around your digs and think, “this place could stand some more windows,” but have no clue if it’s feasible to add them or how to get started.
Cutting a hole in a wall or roof can be a scary prospect for homeowners, but adding windows, roof windows or skylights isn’t as hard as you might think. What’s more, properly installed windows, roof windows or skylights can be a highly rewarding way to improve a home’s air quality, energy efficiency, healthfulness and visual appeal while making it a more pleasant place to be every day.
If you’re unsure what type of window or skylight might be right for you, here’s a rundown of the basics:
Unless you live in a bunker, your home already has vertical windows (in the walls) and the support structure for them was incorporated into the wall when the home was built. Replacing an existing under-sized vertical window with a larger one should be an easy task for a professional. Installing a new window where none existed before is slightly more complex. The installers may need to add support to ensure the new opening doesn’t compromise the wall’s ability to support the weight of the roof and/or story above it.
Vertical windows fall into several types, including:
* Double-hung/single hung — Double-hung windows can open from the top or bottom, while single hung open only from the bottom. These are the most common types of wall windows used in modern homes.
* Casement— Often, but not always, narrow and vertical, casement windows open outward using a crank handle.
* Fixed — These windows don’t open. Typically, picture or bay windows are fixed.
* Awning — Often used above or below fixed windows, awning windows flip outward from the top or bottom.
* Sliders — These windows open by sliding either to the left or right, and they’re common in contemporary or modern designs.
Most traditional windows admit light at the wall level, while skylights bring light into the home from above. Roof windows are somewhat of a hybrid in that they combine some of the best qualities of both vertical windows and skylights. They are located within reach and are operated by hand, and they can provide a great view of both the landscape and sky.
Roof windows are large enough and quickly open wide enough to allow a person to easily exit a room for roof maintenance or in an emergency. This makes them a logical choice for locations where building codes require a method of egress. Roof windows can be fitted with a variety of blinds and insect screens and are very often the choice for attic conversions and other applications where sloped walls or rooflines are within reach.
Skylights are often the daylighting solution of choice for rooms with limited wall space or where privacy is paramount (such as bathrooms and bedrooms), but they can be a practical, attractive and cost-effective way to increase natural light and passive ventilation in any room or space in the home.
New or replacement skylights are available in fixed or venting, fresh air models. Energy Star-qualified, no-leak, solar-powered fresh-air skylights from Velux America operate by remote control to provide passive ventilation as well as natural light. You can add solar-powered blinds in designer colors and patterns to either fixed or fresh-air skylights, further enhancing their energy efficiency while allowing you complete control over the amount of light and air that enters the room through the units.
Installing new skylights or replacing older glass or plastic bubble skylights with solar-powered fresh air models, plus solar blinds, can qualify you for a 30 percent federal tax credit on the products as well as the installation costs.
Skylights are also available for rooms with no direct roof access; Sun Tunnel tubular skylights are an inexpensive way to brighten up smaller half baths, closets, hallways and other interior areas of the home. Light kits are available for 24/7 illumination. Visit www.whyskylights.com to learn more.
Better light from above
A study by the Danish Building Research Institute shows that roof windows and skylights provide both more light and better quality light – twice as much as vertical windows and three times as much as dormers. Skylights deliver balanced light to the core of a room and brighten the space with less glare while requiring a smaller square footage of glass.
Whether you’re planning replacement work or a new installation, professionally installed vertical windows, roof windows and skylights can help brighten your home, provide better air quality and make any space more enjoyable.
(BPT) - Today’s garage doors come in so many different and attractive designs that the biggest challenge for homeowners is to find the right door that looks best with their home’s unique features. While it’s great to have options, sometimes too many options can be overwhelming. And a garage door purchase is an important one.
In fact, an upscale garage door replacement ranked first out of 11 popular upscale projects in delivering the best value for the buck, according to the new 2016 Cost vs. Value Report.
One reason for a garage door’s top value is its curb appeal. Since most garage doors face the front of the home, they have enormous impact on the home’s exterior appeal and its perceived value. This greatly increases the importance of choosing the right garage door design for your home.
Here are a few tips from Kelly Roberson, a writer and project manager who has written about home design for a variety of publications including Better Homes and Gardens, Before & After, Kitchen Makeovers and many more.
“The key to finding the right door design is found on the façade of your home,” she says. “Pick up on your home’s design elements and use them in your garage doors to create a really impactful sense of design cohesiveness.”
Roberson recommends paying attention to two key design elements in your home’s exterior: colors and shapes. Start with the colors of your home. Since garage doors are now available in hundreds of colors, you are likely to find a great door color that matches your home.
“Color can feel overwhelming, particularly when you think about making a good curb appeal impression,” says Roberson. “An easy trick is to turn to the accent colors already on your home’s façade. Pick one and use it in your garage doors for overall balance and beauty.”
Your home’s accent colors are often found on your shutters, your front door, or the trim on your home or window. If your home includes a multi-colored brick, look for a dominant or attractive color inside the brick.
The color of the roof can also be a strong design element for the front view of the home. It’s often a neutral color that presents a good choice for classic garage door colors.
Note that you might be searching for two colors, not just one. Many new carriage house garage doors come in two tones that provide additional color-matching opportunities.
“Most homes use three colors — a dominant color and two sub-colors that are used to a lesser degree,” says Roberson. “For your garage doors, try flopping that color scheme so that one of the sub-colors becomes the door’s dominant hue.”
After considering the right color, look at the shapes on your home, particularly those of your windows and the smaller windowpanes inside the windows. Garage doors typically contain two dominant shapes: one on the panels themselves and one in the windows. The challenge is to match the shapes on the home with the shapes on the door.
“In the same way that accent colors provide color guidance, accent shapes — small windows, peaks on roofs — can give you inspiration for shapes to repeat in your garage door,” says Roberson.
Consider any arch shapes on your home, such as arched windows or arched entryways. Several garage door window designs include arched options that can closely match the arch shapes on your home.
Some home exteriors contain dominant angles such as 45-degree angles from dormers or rakes. Since many garage door designs now include crossbucks, you might find success with a garage door that features crossbucks at the same angle.
When browsing for door designs, try www.garagewownow.com. It’s a non-commercial site that contains photos of dozens of garage door designs from many manufacturers, along with a Dealer Locator to help you find a professional door dealer near you.
“The key to choosing beautiful garage doors is to let your home be your guide. Build on the features you love the best, and choose a new garage door that integrates seamlessly,” says Roberson. “When you find the right match, you’ll smile with satisfaction every time you come home.”
(BPT) - Before you take that next breath, do you know what's in the air in your home? Sure there's oxygen and carbon dioxide - that much you know - but it's the things you don't know about that should concern you.
A quick test of your indoor air quality can unearth the presence of several, unwanted contaminants in your air, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde, allergens like dust mites, as well as mold and other particulates. This is the material you're unknowingly breathing in every day, and continued exposure to it can lead to future health concerns.
So what can you do about the quality of your air? Do you have to just breathe it in and deal with it? Hardly. You can dramatically improve the air quality in your home, and doing so is easier than you thought. Start by implementing these five tips.
* Keep the floors clean. Many of the particulates and allergens found in your home's air are kicked up from the floor as people or pets move about. Diligently cleaning the floors is a good way to minimize this concern. So whether your tool of choice is a vacuum, a mop or a broom, focus on the floors and your family will benefit.
* Build a wall against formaldehyde. If you're like most people, you spend about 90 percent of your time indoors and that choice exposes you to a greater risk of inhaling formaldehyde and getting sick. Most people associate formaldehyde with laboratories and mortuaries but there are actually many sources of the chemical in the average home including glue, particle board, plywood, paper product coatings and other household chemicals. Fortunately, you don't have to suffer this drop in air quality, there are solutions to clean your air and remove formaldehyde. AirRenew with M2Tech uses an innovative patent pending technology to actively clean your home's air. This advanced drywall captures and transforms formaldehyde into inert compounds, and never re-emits them into the air, preserving your air quality. "Not only is it mold-resistant, it actually absorbs volatile organic compounds for up to 75 years," said contractor and home improvement expert Mike Holmes. "This isn't just about doing the basement; this should be the whole house."
* Service the furnace. Is your home's furnace running optimally? If it's not, it could be jeopardizing the quality of your air. Your furnace should be serviced annually by a trained technician to make sure it's running properly. After that, it's up to you to make sure the furnace filter is replaced every month. Set the first day of the month as your day to change your filter and you'll never forget.
* Circulate fresh air. This may not be doable on the coldest days of winter but during the other three seasons, try to have the windows open as much as possible. Even an hour or two of fresh air breezing through your home can dramatically improve your indoor air quality.
* Don't smoke. Among its many other negatives, nicotine use is the leading cause of lung cancer. If you're a smoker, the deterioration of your home's air quality is just one more reason to quit. Start your quit plan today and you'll be breathing easier indoors and out.
Your home is your castle and you should feel safe and comfortable whenever you're there so follow the tips above to improve the air quality in your home. And once you do, take a deep breath, you've earned it.
To learn more about AirRenew with M2Tech, visit CertainTeed.com/CleanTheAir.
(BPT) - Spring is here! This season of new beginnings also marks the start of the year’s busiest real estate period. According to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, the housing market in 2016 is set to be quite active with a 3 percent increase in total home sales compared to the previous year. If you’re planning to enter the housing market this year, buying or selling a home is a big decision and you can count on plenty of competition. To ensure you make the correct home buying or selling decisions, it’s important to do your research and arm yourself with valuable information.
“Selling or purchasing a home is one of the biggest and most important transactions many consumers will make in their lifetime,” says Tim Haynes, president of American Home Shield (AHS). “It’s important for everyone involved to make smart decisions that will help a home stand out in a competitive real estate market, and at the same time, protect against costly breakdowns.”
For both home buyers and sellers, AHS recommends preparing for what will happen vs. what might happen. A home warranty not only helps protect a home's systems while it’s on the market, but also helps provide buyers with additional confidence in their purchase. For an already financially stretched homebuyer, it’s important to know that a home warranty covers what homeowners insurance doesn’t – the repair/replacement of home system appliances.
To help you make the most of the spring home season American Home Shield offers these tips.
* Sellers: improve curb appeal. First impressions matter. Take your home’s exterior from drab to fab. Trim shrubs, mow the lawn and remove all dirt/debris from around the outside. Make sure the house numbers, mailbox and lighting fixtures near the front door look inviting. Add plants and comfy furniture to the porch for a welcoming touch.
* Sellers: optimize the space. Add the illusion of extra square footage by using the same paint in a lighter shade across rooms to create a seamless transition. Remove family photos and any customized decorations so the buyer can picture living in the home. Be sure to keep the master bedroom gender neutral. Lastly, have a professional cleaner shine the home, especially often-neglected areas like carpets, ceiling fans and baseboards to make a bigger impact.
* Buyers: do your homework. Narrow your home search to particular areas and neighborhoods that appeal to you with regard to housing prices, school districts and work commuting times. Determine your budget and stick to it. Familiarize yourself with the real estate market and your rights as a homebuyer. Know your credit score and take steps to improve it, if necessary.
* Buyers: ask the right questions. Don’t be afraid to directly ask the seller “what’s wrong with the house?” Ask to see disclosure forms around any issues with the house and check the age/condition of major home systems, like heating, plumbing, electrical and air conditioning — this can cut your costs in the long run. Additionally, an independent professional home inspection is highly recommended. This is an investment that can pay for itself many times over, especially if hidden defects are found.
American Home Shield is the nation’s largest home warranty company, servicing homes for over 45 years offers tips to arm and has a trustworthy network of over 3,000 contractors. For more information and helpful home buying and selling tips from American Home Shield, visit www.ahs.com or the Home Matters Blog and YouTube Channel, which have hundreds of maintenance tips, videos and content for homeowners to help protect homes from the inside out.
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