(BPT) - You don't have to be a pro to tackle many home improvement projects. With a little elbow grease and a few smart tools, DIY novices can easily complete all kinds of household tasks efficiently and correctly.
Here are 10 common DIY projects for beginners that any homeowner (or apartment dweller) can learn to do. Not only will your house look great, but you'll feel a great sense of pride too.
1. Install a kitchen backsplash: You don’t need to learn how to cut and install tile. Instead, add a stylish backsplash by using inexpensive alternative materials such as tin ceiling tiles, wooden beadboard or wallpaper.
2. Loosen rusty bolts: For stubborn nuts and bolts, reach for a Bernzomatic TS3500 Multi-Use Torch. This easy-to-use tool empowers all levels of DIYers and can be used for dozens of tasks. For this one, simply heat up the bolt to loosen the rust, then turn with a wrench to remove. Discover more torch project ideas at Bernzomatic.com.
3. Conceal wall blemishes: From nail holes to furniture bumps, repair wall blemishes by using a putty knife to spread a resurfacing compound. For larger dings, you can use an adhesive patch and add an all-purpose drywall compound with a trowel. Allow to dry, then sand and repaint.
4. Give furniture a vintage look: The rustic look is “in,” but rather than splurge on trendy furniture, get the same look for less money and have fun creating it yourself. Add an aged look to wooden furniture such as patio sets or console tables, or decor items like picture frames using a torched patina effect. The Bernzomatic TS3500 Multi-Use Torch provides ultimate control for steady strokes back and forth on raw wood to bring out the natural wood grain without having to apply a stain. It only takes seconds.
5. Create a perfect patio: If you want a new patio, but don't want to deal with mortar, consider flagstone. These flat stones fit together like puzzle pieces so you can create a small patio, meditation garden or reading nook virtually anywhere in your yard.
6. Repair equipment: Need to repair the grips on your bike, tennis racket or hockey sticks? When you want to regrip them, take off the old grip and use a torch to soften the adhesive to make it easier to remove the old grip. Simply add new grips around the now adhesive-free surfaces.
7. Eliminate picture-hanging snafus: When hanging small pictures, put masking tape on the wall before hammering or drilling. This will help ensure the wall or paint doesn't crack. Additionally, place a folded sticky note on the wall before drilling and it will catch all the dust.
8. Spruce up landscaping beds: If your landscaping is looking drab, mulch is an affordable way to limit weeds and protect plants while making the space more visually appealing. Use cut outs of landscaping fabric to line the beds before spreading mulch evenly on top. Quick trick: use a torch to singe the ends of the fabric to keep it from fraying.
9. Replace outlet plates: Faded or dated outlet plates can make an entire room look old. Update your space by installing new covers. For little cost, you can buy new plates and all you have to do is use a Phillips or flat-head screwdriver to swap out the old for new.
10. Evoke elegance with crown molding: High-end homes often feature crown molding where the wall meets the ceiling. To get the look for less, purchase foam crown molding from your local home improvement store, paint and install with foam-board adhesive. No nails required!
(BPT) - As the warm weather creeps in and the country heats up, now is the time for homeowners to make sure they’re doing their part to help increase comfort and reduce energy bills.
From the exterior to the interior, the consideration of a few simple tips could mean the difference between a summer that’s hot and expensive and a season that’s comfortable and won’t break the bank.
A real "pane" -- Use windows to your advantage. Turn off the HVAC if you’re in a climate that cools off at night and open a window. When morning comes, shut the window, and lower the blinds to capture cool air.
Seal it up -- Keep the cool in and the hot out. Homeowners are encouraged to take a walk around their home and look for cracks and openings that could let hot air in. Seal up those areas with caulk or weather stripping to increase efficiencies inside.
Plant some trees -- According to the Arbor Day Foundation, large deciduous trees (maple, oak, elm, birch) planted on the east, west and northwest sides of a house not only provide cooling shade, but also can reduce summer air conditioning costs by up to 35 percent.
Insulate for the win -- According to a recent survey, 46 million homes in the U.S. lack proper insulation. That translates to higher energy bills and uncomfortable residents. CertainTeed, a leader in insulation, has just the thing for homeowners with their new
Insulation Selector Tool. The Insulation Selector Tool works by recommending a personalized selection of insulation solutions based on climate data, budget and the homeowner’s specific needs for their home and family. The tool considers a wide range of variables that impact comfort, including creating consistent indoor temperatures, helping reduce family allergies, moisture and mold, and providing noise control.
CertainTeed offers insulation, drywall, siding, roofing, decking, railing, exterior trim and fence product lines, all proudly made in the U.S.A. For additional home improvement ideas, building solutions and inspiration, visit www.certainteed.com.
(BPT) - More than 6 million American children — nearly 9 percent of all kids in the U.S. — have asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, asthma attacks send more than a million people to emergency rooms, including approximately 24,000 children younger than 15, the CDC reports. Yet health experts agree many of those asthma attacks could be avoided through a range of tactics, including by improving air quality inside homes.
“Most people can control their asthma and live symptom-free,” the CDC reports. Knowing how to reduce or eliminate exposure to allergens and irritants inside the home could help people avoid at least some asthma attacks.
Asthma and kids
More than 47 percent of all asthma attacks occur in children, according to CDC data. KidsHealth.org says asthma is the leading cause of chronic absence from school, and the chronic illness that sends kids to the emergency room most often.
Many factors can trigger allergy attacks, including exposure to allergens inside the home. As the weather warms and parents open windows to bring fresh air into their homes, the breeze that enters can be full of pollen, mold spores and other airborne irritants. What’s more, irritants already inside the home such as pet dander, dust mites, smoke, bacteria and viruses can contribute to asthma symptoms.
Improving indoor air quality
Your home’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems play a critical role in the air quality inside your home. HVAC manufacturer Coleman, which makes ventilator systems, air cleaners and ultraviolet irradiation systems to support indoor air quality, offers some tips for ensuring your HVAC system works to clean the air inside your home:
* Have your HVAC system serviced regularly to ensure all components are working efficiently. A well-maintained system can dramatically improve air quality.
* Change air filters regularly, and choose a filter with a higher MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating. The higher the rating, the better the filter will be at capturing airborne particles. Clogged or low-MERV filters may not effectively remove particles from the air, leaving them for your HVAC system to recirculate. In fact, HVAC systems can recirculate contaminants an average of five to seven times per day, according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.
* Vent bathrooms and laundry rooms directly outside the home, and ensure vent fans are always working well.
* Any equipment that creates combustion and exhaust, such as fireplaces, heaters, stoves, range tops and furnaces should also vent outside to keep harmful fumes from re-entering your home's HVAC system.
* When you vacuum, turn on your home’s HVAC system. Vacuuming stirs particles into the air, and your running HVAC system can catch those particles and filter them from the air.
* Monitor and control the humidity in your home. Bacteria and viruses, which can contribute to asthma symptoms, thrive in very dry environments. Consider adding a whole-home humidifier, like Luxaire’s Acclimate Whole-Home Humidifiers, to your HVAC system. Through the use of natural evaporation, the humidifiers help maintain optimum humidity throughout the entire house, without the limitations of portable humidifiers that can only affect a single room.
* Air cleaners can support your HVAC system in removing irritants from the air. Like single-room humidifiers, however, portable air cleaners have limited effect. Consider incorporating a whole-home air cleaner that operates as part of your existing HVAC system.
Visit www.colemanac.com/IAQ to learn more about products available to improve the indoor air quality in your home, and to find a local contractor. You can also follow the company on Twitter at @ColemanHVAC.
Studies show the number of people with asthma is growing worldwide. Health experts from the CDC to the National Institutes of Health agree that controlling indoor air quality in homes could benefit children with asthma, as well as asthma sufferers of all ages.
(BPT) - What would you rather do: Pay your utility bill or take a much-deserved vacation? With an endless stream of bills each month, you might wonder where you can find the money to jet off to the beach or mountain resort of your dreams. There is a solution.
The average U.S. household spends more than $2,200 yearly on energy bills, with about half of that for heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). As a large portion of that energy is wasted, making your home more energy efficient will pay big dividends.
With only a couple weekends of work, these three simple low-cost DIY projects can significantly reduce your home cooling costs, freeing up money year after year so you can take vacations or do other fun activities. Best of all, the three actions work together to not only reduce your utility bills, but to make your home more comfortable year-round.
1. Add insulation
Chances are your home lacks sufficient insulation, despite when it was built. Some 90 percent of U.S. homes are under-insulated, reports the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA). Fortunately, adding insulation is simple, with products readily available at your local home improvement store.
One of the most cost-effective and easiest types of insulation to work with is expanded polystyrene (EPS) rigid foam boards. EPS panels are simple to cut to size without creating a mess, are recyclable and can be installed throughout your home, including in walls, floors, ceilings and foundation walls. A similar material, graphite polystyrene (GPS), also is easy to work with, and provides even higher insulating power, according to manufacturers. One of the EPS and GPS brands available at home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s is R-Tech insulation from Insulfoam. “R-Tech EPS and GPS insulations offer some of the highest insulating power per dollar,” says Michael McAuley, Insulfoam general manager.
2. Seal air leaks
While inadequate insulation allows heat to pass out of your home in winter or to come in during summer, another path for energy loss is air leaks. Insulating your home and sealing air leaks can save you up to 20 percent on home heating and cooling costs, notes the DOE. Common places to look for leaks include attic access hatches, around windows and doors and in crawl spaces. Readily available weather stripping, caulks and spray foams can help keep your home airtight. For step-by-step instructions, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “DIY Guide to Sealing and Insulating with ENERGY STAR."
3. Install a programmable thermostat
With your newly insulated and sealed home, a third step you can take to cut energy bills is to install a programmable thermostat. The DOE estimates you can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs by simply turning your thermostat back 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day. In the summer, keep your house warmer than normal when you are away, and set the thermostat to 78 degrees when you are at home and need cooling. Set your thermostat at as high a temperature as comfortably possible. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.
These three utility bill-busting tips are within the skill set of many homeowners, but if you want a little extra help, hiring a contractor is also cost effective, as these are not large projects.
(BPT) - Whether you’re looking to lower heating and cooling costs, or have a passion for protecting the environment, maximizing the energy efficiency of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is a smart move. The more energy efficient your system, the less you’ll spend running it every year, and the smaller your home’s environmental footprint will be.
Efficiency ratings are intended to help you decide which products are best for your home, so it’s important to understand what all the related terms mean. HVAC systems manufacturer Luxaire, which has received ENERGY STAR’s highest rating for two components, offers some guidance on interpreting energy-efficiency ratings and terms.
Launched in 1992 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the ENERGY STAR program is a voluntary labeling system designed to help consumers identify energy-efficient products. ENERGY STAR rates products in more than 70 categories. Over the past 20 years, ENERGY STAR-rated products have helped consumers save $362 billion on energy bills and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2.4 billion metric tons.
"Products that earn the ENERGY STAR rating are proven to operate using less energy. For example, in order to earn the highest rating, the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient designation, Luxaire's Acclimate AC8B Split System Air Conditioner and Echelon HC8B Split System Heat Pump demonstrated performance levels of up to 20 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) and 12.5 Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) for cooling and heating performance, and 10 Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) for heat pumps," says Ken Ely, product manager, Luxaire heating and cooling.
Federal regulations require heating and cooling equipment to carry an EnergyGuide label that provides an estimate of how much energy the equipment will use. The label also compares the unit’s energy use to that of similar products, and gives an estimate of how much it will cost to operate the equipment in a year.
In addition to energy efficiency labeling, it’s important to know some measurement terms. Generally, for all these terms, a higher number equates to better efficiency.
SEER measures the energy efficiency of air conditioning systems and heat pumps. The ratio measures the amount of cooling provided by an air conditioner in comparison to the amount of energy the system uses — measured in watts per hour — over a hypothetical season. SEER can give you an idea of how energy efficient a unit will be under average conditions. However, a number of factors, such as how you use and maintain a unit, can influence energy efficiency, so it’s important to realize a unit might perform differently in your home.
EER is very similar to SEER, except instead of measuring efficiency over a season, EER tells you how efficient an air conditioning unit might be when operating at a typical temperature.
HSPF is meant to help you understand a heat pump’s energy efficiency over a season. It’s typically referenced alongside SEER to give a better picture of a system’s probable energy efficiency. The HSPF formula uses BTUs (British Thermal Units, a measurement of heat) to estimate the useful heat output divided by the total electricity (in watts per hour) the heat pump uses during a heating season.
One more energy measurement to know is the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating. The AFUE measures average efficiency for furnaces, boilers and water heaters. Like SEER and EER, the measurement is for a theoretical heating season.
To learn more about energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, visit www.luxaire.com/greensavings and follow @LuxaireHVAC on Twitter. For more information on the ENERGY STAR program, visit www.energystar.gov. To learn about how to read the EnergyGuide label, visit www.energy.gov.
(BPT) - Ask any homeowner what they dread the most when it comes to home ownership, and it’s likely to involve some type of undetected water damage that could result in mold and mildew in their walls and ceilings — and the problems that follow.
Most water damage in homes is associated with pipes and appliances, especially those that are not regularly maintained. Left unchecked, resulting mold and mildew can potentially cause health problems.
Six of the most common causes of water damage include:
* Window or roof leak that causes water to run down inside the cavity of the wall or ceiling
* Gutter clog that can cause rainwater to back up into your home
* Icemaker water line to the refrigerator that leaks, causing mold in the cavity or on the surface of the wall
* Washing machine or dishwasher water hose failure that can cause mold within the wall
* Air conditioner unit clog or drip pan overflow that can cause water to run down the interior wall or ceiling
* Nail in PVC pipe that results in water leak or bursting pipes
“Homeowners need to realize that the effects of water damage in their homes aren’t always visible — and once you find them, it’s likely mold growth already has occurred and can affect everything on the wall surface and behind it,” said Anitra Mecadon, TV personality and award-winning interior designer.
There are three main ways to protect against water damage and the issues that follow:
Use drywall with extra protection for your walls and ceilings — such as moisture-, mold- and mildew-resistant PURPLE XP drywall by National Gypsum — whether you’re building a new home, or remodeling or restoring the one you have. PURPLE XP products are GREENGUARD Gold Certified for indoor air quality while aiding in the creation of healthier indoor environments.
Routinely inspect vulnerable areas to prevent water damage before it occurs. Every few months grab a flashlight and do some sleuthing under sinks, behind appliances and around windows to check for moistness, rust, kinks or damage in water lines and hoses, and a musty odor. On a regular basis have professionals check things out, especially your air conditioning unit.
Act quickly to minimize damage from water intrusion, because mildew and mold can begin to grow within 24-48 hours of water exposure.
“I don’t know a single homeowner that hasn’t had a water problem of some kind at some point in the history of living in their home,” Mecadon says. “My advice is simple — be prepared. Walls and what they’re made of are important and they’re not all the same.
When you can, choose PURPLE XP drywall for performance, value and peace of mind that lasts.”
For more information, go to www.AskForPurple.com.
(BPT) - Researchers predict that rising water prices could mean within five years a third of American households will not be able to pay their water bills, despite the replenishment of water reserves around the country.
What's more, the National Weather Service warns that drought could increase or reoccur if the country experiences a period of sustained heat and dryness.
Fortunately, there are many ways for you to reduce the amount of water your home uses each year. One of the best places to start conserving water is in the bathroom, where toilet flushing, long showers and deep soak baths account for the largest portion of a home’s water consumption, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Here are simple ways you can significantly reduce your home’s water consumption, lower your water bill and do something good for the environment:
Ditch water-guzzling fixtures
Flushing the toilet accounts for about 30 percent of a home’s annual water consumption, making it the largest user of water in the home, according to the U.S. EPA. Prior to 1994, most toilets used 3.5 or more gallons of water per flush (gpf). Current federal guidelines require that toilets use no more than 1.6 gpf, but you can do even better.
* Toilets: Replace dated, older toilets with ultra-high-efficiency models like the American Standard H2Optimum ultra-high efficiency toilet, which uses an average of 1.1 gpf — that's 31 percent less than federal mandates. Exclusive PowerWash siphon-jet bowl cleaning technology drives this water-saving toilet to remove every trace of paper and waste, while its EverClean antimicrobial finish helps it stay cleaner, longer.
* Faucets: Inefficient and leaky bathroom faucets also waste thousands of gallons of water each year. WaterSense-labeled faucets use a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) and as little as 1.2 gpm, decreasing water use by 30 percent or more. The Fluent collection of high-efficiency bathroom faucets uses leading-edge technology to reduce water consumption, while producing a strong flow rate, all with high-style design to coordinate with various bathroom decors.
* Showerheads: A significant source of water usage in a home can be attributed to showerheads, pouring up to 40 gallons per day down the drain for an average family, according to the EPA. Since showers account for 17 percent of a home’s water use, replacing an older, less efficient showerhead with a WaterSense-certified one can curb waste in the shower. An example is the Hydrofocus 6-function showerhead that uses only 2 gallons of water per minute, while delivering a concentrated and invigorating spray. Its innovative pressure-compensating operation features a plentiful water flow across all spray patterns for a customized showering experience that caters to your family's personal preferences.
Make easy habit changes
Replacing inefficient fixtures is an investment that will pay off over time. However, there are simple habit changes that are free and will produce results right away. Your family can easily reduce water use in the bathroom by:
* Turning off the water when brushing their teeth. Running the tap while brushing can waste as much as 3,000 gallons per year, the EPA says.
* Taking showers instead of baths. It takes an average of 36 gallons to fill the bathtub. Plus, if you take baths less often, when you do indulge in one it will feel like a treat.
* Taking shorter showers. The longer the shower runs, the more water goes down the drain. Never turn on the shower and walk away to do other things while the water warms. If you get delayed or distracted, the water could run for a long time before you actually step into the shower.
* Washing hands in cold water with soap, rather than letting the water run until it gets hot.
* Shaving at the sink, rather than in the shower. Shaving in the shower extends your shower time, unnecessarily consuming more water. Just don’t forget to turn off the water while shaving at the bathroom sink.
Taking steps to reduce bathroom water usage can help save you money in the short term and benefit the environment in the long run. These changes are simple to implement, with rewarding results to both your wallet and our planet Earth.
When you’re trying to sell your home, you should be willing to spend some money on repairs and improvements to help boost the sale price. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot to make a big impact if you invest in key quality details. Here are seven “little things” you can do to help make your home more appealing to buyers, and possibly get a better price — and you can accomplish them in just a weekend.
(BPT) - Anyone who’s ever bought or sold a home knows how even little things can sway a buyer to feel a particular house is "just right." While major features such as a good location, a big kitchen, and a certain number of bedrooms and bathrooms all drive a home’s price and how attractive it is to buyers, small details like fresh paint and new faucets can also help clinch a sale.
When you’re trying to sell your home, you should be willing to spend some money on repairs and improvements to help boost the sale price. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot to make a big impact if you invest in key quality details. Here are seven “little things” you can do to help make your home more appealing to buyers, and possibly get a better price — and you can accomplish them in just a weekend:
* Upgrade your kitchen faucet and sink — The kitchen faucet and sink aren’t just practical tools every kitchen needs — they can also be essential elements of a room’s overall design and appeal. Replacing a dated kitchen faucet is a minor change that can mean a lot to homebuyers. Choose a pull-down, multi-function option like the American Standard Edgewater semi-professional kitchen faucet with SelectFlo technology. In addition to modern styling, you’ll get four spray functions and a convenient pause feature, the ability to set a preferred water temperature without re-adjusting the handle, and a water-conserving maximum flow rate of just 1.5 gallons per minute. Pair it with an Edgewater double bowl stainless steel kitchen sink, and you’ve created a new focal point of design, efficiency and utility sure to catch buyers’ eyes.
* Install a programmable thermostat — If your home’s thermostat predates Facebook, it’s probably time to ditch the dial and install a touchpad programmable thermostat. Not only would a new thermostat help your home look more modern, a programmable thermostat helps with energy efficiency — something that’s very important to today’s homebuyers. The U.S. Department of Energy says reducing your thermostat setting by just 7-10 degrees for eight hours a day can save you as much as 10 percent annually on energy bills. A programmable thermostat automates the savings for you!
* Replace incandescent light bulbs — If your home still has traditional lightbulbs, replacing them with energy-saving LEDs or CFLs is an easy way to improve your home’s overall energy efficiency. These bulbs use 25-80 percent less energy than conventional bulbs and last three to 25 times longer, according to the Department of Energy. Imagine the appeal for homebuyers when your selling agent mentions that light bulbs won't need replacing for years after moving in!
* Upgrade the front door — Your home's entrance is the feature that officially welcomes potential buyers into your humble abode. Replacing an old, weathered front door with a new one creates a positive first impression. What’s more, installing a steel entry door returns 90 percent of its value at the time of resale, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report.
* Put a water-efficient faucet in the bathroom — A great deal of water can be wasted in the bathroom, and the faucet can be one of the biggest culprits. Replacing an older bathroom faucet with a modern water-conserving option like one from the Townsend bathroom sink faucet collection is not only visually appealing for buyers, it also speaks to their sense of environmental responsibility. What’s more, upgrading to a faucet with handles, instead of a knob-style operation, allows for easier functionality for people with varying degrees of dexterity, from small children to senior citizens.
* Add a water filtration system in the kitchen — Americans are more aware than ever of the quality of water inside their homes, so adding a filtration system can be an extra feature that appeals to homebuyers. Simple under-sink filtration systems can cost as little as a couple hundred dollars.
* Install a sun tube — Who doesn’t want a home filled with natural light? Not only does sunlight deliver physical and mental health benefits, using natural light can also help reduce dependence on artificial light sources that impact your energy bills. Sun tubes can bring natural light into dark spaces, even those on the ground floor. DIYers can install this special reflective tubing for under $500, while pro installation can run closer to $1,000.
When you’re selling a house, every little bit helps, and upgrading small details can make a big difference in how potential buyers view your home. Go ahead, make these upgrades now, and see potentially higher gains in the sale of your home.
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