Warmer weather and more daylight hours bring renewed energy to truly enjoy your home with family and friends. Spring is a great time to get rid of the lingering grime and grit of winter to keep your clean home happening all season long. With a thorough home clean, you can create a vibrant living space for your day-to-day life, whether it’s playing with the kids, tackling your to-do list or simply relaxing. Here are three tips to help tackle some of the dirtiest places in and around your home.
(BPT) - Warmer weather and more daylight hours bring renewed energy to truly enjoy your home with family and friends. Spring is a great time to get rid of the lingering grime and grit of winter to keep your clean home happening all season long. With a thorough home clean, you can create a vibrant living space for your day-to-day life, whether it’s playing with the kids, tackling your to-do list or simply relaxing. Here are three tips to help tackle some of the dirtiest places in and around your home.
Wash your windows
You’ll be surprised how dirty your windows have gotten and how much brighter your home, and outlook, will feel once they are clean. First, remove the screens and use a vacuum’s extendable attachment to remove the loose gunk and dust. Then, wash with soapy water and a firm brush, rinse with a hose and let air dry. For especially dirty windows, first clean with soapy water, then move on to an even mix of water and white vinegar. While using a lint-free towel or cloth will help avoid streaks, a car windshield squeegee is the expert choice.
Tackle indoor surfaces
It’s important to make sure guests at your next get-together experience a clean and healthy home — but a full vacuum bag or clogged filter can reduce suction, leaving the dirt, dust and allergens that build up on many surfaces behind. For an ideal clean, make sure your vacuum is at its peak performance by replacing bags and filters. Arm & Hammer Premium Allergen bags and HEPA filters are designed to capture allergens, and need to be replaced every one to two months for bags and every three to six months for filters. If you have pets, use Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh Dry Carpet and Carpet and Upholstery Extractor Cleaners to neutralize pet odors and break down lingering stains.
Spruce up outdoors
Winter weather and activities can take a toll on the finishes and surfaces outside your home. Cleaning a few key areas will refresh your home’s look and feel as you spend more time enjoying your outdoor spaces for birthday parties, barbecues and more:
* Siding: No need to get complicated — first, rinse with a garden hose, then scrub the dirty areas with a brush and soapy water and rinse again. Make sure to avoid chlorine-based bleaches to keep surrounding plants healthy.
* Driveway and garage: First, soak up oil, stains and other nasty winter reminders by spreading a drying material, such as sawdust, on the stain. Leave it for one day before scrubbing with soap and water. A power washer can be used for particularly tough stains.
* Grill/barbecue: For gas grills, make sure the propane is disconnected. Then, soak the grates in hot soapy water and rinse. Scrub thoroughly under the hood and on the inside walls with a hard brush, first covering the heating elements, to get rid of grease and particles from last year. Wipe down with a damp towel.
With these tips, you are ready for a clean, healthy (and fun) season. For more tips, visit www.armhammervac.com.
(BPT) - In today’s increasingly digital world, it’s no surprise that more employees are opting to work from home. While there may be a shift of physical locations — from the office building to the home — productivity is still paramount, making the need for quiet home workspaces more important than ever.
“As urbanization continues, builders and developers are focused on optimizing available land, which results in more homes, apartments and condos built near highways and airports,” says Mark Montgomery, vice president of marketing for leading window manufacturer Ply Gem Windows. “The convergence of telecommuting and higher noise levels means there’s a growing need to enhance homeowner comfort with noise reduction technology.”
If your workspace needs a sound makeover, consider the following tips. For even more information on home improvement solutions, check out websites like www.plygem.com.
Think from the outside in
Everyday sounds like traffic, trains, leaf blowers, music, barking dogs or car alarms may go unnoticed on the weekends, but can easily interrupt conference calls and concentration during the busy workweek.
To cut down on outside noise, look for windows with Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. A typical single hung window unit without sound control glass has an average STC rating of 27. Sound control glass packages, on window lines like Ply Gem’s 1500 Brickmould Vinyl Collection, have ratings of up to STC 35. This reduces outside noise by approximately 40 percent when compared to single hung window units with no protection.
“STC glass packages may not be necessary for every window in the home, but should be considered for the rooms where the reduction of unwanted noise is most important — like the home office and bedrooms,” advises Montgomery.
As an added bonus, according to the Department of Energy, new windows will boost curb appeal, reduce maintenance and can significantly improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Insulate the interior … and the exterior
If your home office space shares a paper-thin wall with, for instance, a loud family room television, adding batt wall insulation for new homes, or blown-in insulation for existing homes, will help blanket sounds and temper vibrations.
For homes that face busy roadways, insulated vinyl siding is another solution. Look for options made with a premium, recycled-content vinyl siding panel permanently bonded with polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation. This wraps the home with continuous insulation to cover the entire exterior envelope — including wall studs where air and sound can penetrate.
Another quick fix for insulating the home office is to install a solid core wood or molded interior door. Many standard interior doors are hollow, which means that sounds pass through more easily. Solid core doors, which are thicker than hollow doors, act as a noise blocker. Once installed, make sure to surround the door with weather-stripping to fill any holes or gaps.
By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to creating a quiet home office retreat and defending your workspace from unwanted interruptions.
(BPT) - Selecting new siding is one of the most important curb appeal decisions homeowners face when building new or remodeling an existing home. With so many options — both classic and modern materials — there’s a lot to consider.
Many manufacturers are now combining traditional styles and materials with advanced technologies, delivering a product homeowners can love for years to come. Among all the options on the market, vinyl siding — with its various styles, textures and colors — remains the most-used product. In fact, 2016 marked 22 straight years that vinyl siding held the top spot in cladding for new single-family houses, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual home report. This material has come a long way since it was introduced in the 1950s, with manufacturers such as Ply Gem Building Products making strides in research and development efforts for design and performance.
Whether you are building a new home or remodeling, there are four key considerations every homeowner should account for when determining which siding option will best meet his or her needs: durability, design, maintenance and affordability.
Siding selection is typically a once-in-a-lifetime decision, making durability a key factor for many. Homeowners should look for a siding option that is resistant to every element, including rain, wind and even the sun. Manufacturers now offer siding products with technologies that resist the damaging impact of the sun, preserving color for the lifetime of the home. Options, like Ply Gem’s Mastic Vinyl Siding SolarDefense Reflective Technology, expand exterior home design with darker, on-trend colors that can make your home the envy of the neighborhood.
Design & color
Today, the most overwhelming decision for many when considering siding options can be style and color — but it doesn’t need to be. There are several primary siding material options available to homeowners — vinyl, aluminum, steel, wood, brick, fiber cement, stucco and stone — and countless color and style options within each material type. To help you determine what might look best, seek the advice of a siding specialist like a contractor, builder or architect for help. They can educate you on color coordination and what would go well with the neighborhood, while still giving personalized options for your home. Also check out online resources like Ply Gem’s home exterior visualizer to experiment with different options and customize your style.
“In recent years, homeowners have been getting more creative and choosing bolder colorful options for their exterior,” said Pat Verlodt, president of Color Services & Associates, an organization that identifies color trends and educates consumers and manufacturers about those trends. “Whether you’re looking for a certain period-specific color scheme to align with historical significance, for a new palette to freshen up your curb appeal, or for a specific panel texture, such as cedar shake or wood clapboard, my recommendation is to look at vinyl. It provides the homeowner the freedom to add low-maintenance color and definition that will never go out of style or need painting or refinishing.”
In fact, more than 400 vinyl siding colors have been certified for color retention, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI). The variety offers homeowners a virtually endless palette of fade-resistant colors, from pastels to deep hues, combined with trim, accents and accessories. Look to manufacturers like Ply Gem that offer complementary solutions for the entire exterior.
Beyond style and color, homeowners are also seeking siding that is low maintenance, which reduces or eliminates the cost and personal time expended for proper upkeep. Each siding material type has a different level of care and maintenance required. Vinyl typically requires just soap and water for periodic cleaning, and no need to paint, stain or caulk, which means little maintenance over the long term. Wood and fiber cement can require repainting every five to seven years. Stucco will need to be repainted and sealed. Brick and stone require repointing of mortar. The earlier point about durability plays a part here too, ensuring that the option you select is free from potential time-consuming and costly repairs due to storm damage such as wind and moisture.
Lastly, establish a financial plan and budget. By doing this homework up front, you can have a more informed consultation with potential contractors and better ensure that estimates are aligned with your budget. Don’t forget that sometimes investing a little more into the project up front may reduce issues and maintenance costs down the road.
As you look to select new exterior siding, be sure to keep in mind these important factors — durability, design, maintenance and affordability — to make the best choice possible for your home and lifestyle. To get started on siding your house, look to manufacturer websites such as plygem.com for siding choices, as well as home visualizer and color selection tools that help homeowners experiment with different colors and textures before making a decision.
(BPT) - If current design trends are any indication, wood siding is back. Design professionals are recommending one species in particular: cypress. What’s behind this revival of cypress siding?
“Good looks, dependable performance and affordability,” says Stephen Logue of the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association, www.CypressInfo.org. “Cypress has a unique appearance with its honey-like hues and intriguing grain pattern. Its ability to withstand the elements and nature has long made it a favorite siding material in areas of the country that experience constant heat, high humidity and torrential rains. Additionally, cypress is a competitively priced material. We see it being requested more and more.”
Architects side with cypress: Take it from the pros
Atlanta-based architect Daniel Martin says he recommends cypress to clients based on his firsthand experience with the unique wood.
“The performance is great,” Martin says. “I’ve had cypress siding on my own home for more than 20 years, and I’ve only had to repaint it once in that time. One of the main reasons I recommend cypress is because it’s resistant to decay, as well as insects like termites and bees. Carpenter bees love some other species of wood, such as cedar. They’ll bore in and lay their eggs, and then woodpeckers come along and gouge out grooves to get to the eggs, destroying the wood. That’s not an issue with cypress.”
As Martin has learned, cypress comes by its durability naturally, thanks to an oil that is produced while the tree is growing. The oil acts as a preservative, meaning cypress wood doesn’t need to be pressure treated with chemicals like some other wood siding options.
David and Laurel Mullikin, a husband-and-wife design/build duo in Atlanta, say they use cypress regularly in outdoor applications.
“We’ve designed some of our best projects with cypress,” Laurel says. “It’s one of our favorite species of wood to use. In fact, we’re currently designing our own new home. We are incorporating cypress as the ceilings for our porches, adding a lot of aesthetic warmth to a part of the house many people overlook. And we’re using cypress siding and finishing it with the Shou Sugi Ban method, which involves charring the surface of the wood and then sanding and sealing it. The process not only provides a unique look to an already beautiful wood, but also enhances its natural durability."
For the best performance
As with any wood siding, cypress will require a little TLC every now and then to look and perform best. With properly applied finishes and regular maintenance, cypress siding will last a lifetime or longer.
Whether installing new cypress siding or refreshing existing wood, the first step is to make sure its surface is clean so that it can better absorb the desired finish. Wash the wood with a mild bleach-and-water solution, using a pressure washer on a low setting. Let the solution soak for 15 minutes before thoroughly rinsing. Then, allow the wood to dry for about a week. This also is a good time to repair any nail holes and surface irregularities.
Homeowners who prefer cypress’ natural color can preserve the look by applying a clear, water-repellant sealer to all sides and edges of siding boards. It’s also suggested to look for products with a UV inhibitor to block out the sun’s fading rays. Sealers should be reapplied every few years to rejuvenate and protect the wood. If left untreated, over time, cypress will weather to a dark gray.
To bring out the richness of cypress’ grain, semi-transparent, oil-based stains work best. These stains will penetrate the wood, prevent water problems and allow the wood to breathe. Stains typically need to be reapplied every two years.
If you like the clean look of a solid finish, paint it. For best results, apply a 100 percent acrylic latex paint with a compatible primer. It’s also recommended to back prime the boards to avoid any potential moisture issues.
No matter your chosen finish, remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results. For more information on cypress, or to get inspired for your next home or renovation project, visit www.CypressInfo.org.
(BPT) - With memories of winter fading fast, you might not be thinking about your home's insulation, but the warm months are the ideal time for some simple DIY insulation projects with huge paybacks. Proper insulation - from roof to foundation - helps keep your home cool in the summer (and warm and cozy in winter).
In fact, 90 percent of U.S. homes are under-insulated, according to analysis by the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA). Adding insulation to your home is an easy way to save yourself hundreds of dollars per year in both heating and cooling costs, while helping to make your home more comfortable year around.
A trip to your local home improvement store to choose insulation can be overwhelming, though, given the dozens of options. Many homeowners will gravitate toward fiberglass insulation, as it is likely what they have in their homes and is familiar.
Advantages of fiberglass batts and rolls include they are relatively inexpensive and fit the stud and joist spacing in most homes. While fiberglass insulation installs quickly, it can be challenging for the average homeowner to get it done right. "It's very difficult to complete a fiberglass insulating job without leaving a few gaps in coverage, and even a small void can diminish a wall's overall [insulating value] by 50 percent," notes the Dr. Energy Saver company's website. Homeowners should consider that fiberglass batt insulation does not continuously cover spaces, but fits between studs. The insulation may also slump and lose its insulating value over time, creating more energy-wasting gaps.
Rigid foam insulation
Another DIY insulation option available at home improvement stores throughout the U.S. is rigid foam insulation. Of the several rigid foams available, expanded polystyrene (EPS) can be used throughout the home, including walls, floors, ceilings and foundation walls. "EPS panels are lightweight and easy to cut and handle," says Tom Savoy, technical director for Insulfoam. "EPS also installs easily over the home's framing, providing continuous, high-performance insulation in a way that's not possible with batts or rolls."
Location, location, location
When planning where to add insulation, Savoy explains that one area to pay attention to is "knee walls," which are short walls with attic space directly behind them. Such walls commonly lack insulation, but are a prime source for heat loss. "Although it can be difficult to access attic spaces behind knee walls, readily available "fanfold" EPS insulation fits through many attic access doors and hatches, and easily unfolds to cover up to 100 square feet," says Savoy.
Garage doors also many times are un-insulated. To fix this common area of heat loss and heat gain, some EPS manufacturers offer garage door insulation kits designed to fit easily into the door's segments, allowing the job to be completed in less than one hour.
For additional tips on where and how much to insulate, the U.S. Department of Energy provides information on adding insulation to an existing home.
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