Monday, March 18, 2024

7 Steps to Start Growing Produce at Home

Growing your own produce is an all-around smart practice, from the money you’ll save at the grocery store to the contributions you can make toward a cleaner planet.

Maintaining a garden takes some effort, but it’s a project even a beginner can tackle with ease. Consider these tips to start growing your at-home garden:

  1. Select a perfect spot. You’ll want to place your garden in an area where you see it often so you’re reminded to weed and care for it regularly. Find a flat area you can access easily, where erosion and other pitfalls (including hungry wildlife) won’t be a problem.
     
  2. Choose between ground and containers. There are pros and cons to gardening in containers vs. the ground, and there’s no universal right choice. Rather, the best garden depends on your goals and preferences. A ground garden usually offers more space and may provide a better growth environment for roots. However, a container garden is often easier to maintain and may be all you need if you wish to grow just a few plants.
     
  3. Understand the importance of quality soil. You may think any dirt will do, but keep in mind the soil you plant in will be the primary source of nutrients for your produce. Not only that, but quality soil provides stability so plants can root firmly and grow healthy and sturdy to support their bounty. Quality soil also allows for ample drainage. Organic matter like compost, leaf mold or aged manure all help improve soil quality.
     
  4. Keep water close. Lugging water can quickly eliminate the pleasure of tending your garden, so be sure you’re situated near a hose. You’ll know it’s time to water when the soil is dry about an inch below the surface.
     
  5. Plan for plenty of sun. A bright, sunny spot is a must, since most vegetables, herbs and fruits depend on six or more hours of sun every day. Remember the sun’s path changes throughout the year, and as trees and foliage grow, they may produce more shade with each growing season.
     
  6. Consider what you’ll grow. Starting with veggies you know you like is a smart starting point since you’ll be pouring sweat equity into making them grow. Over time, you might add new varieties, but early on, keep your focus on foods you know you like so you can see a meaningful return and avoid waste. You’ll also need to consider what you can grow to maturity within your area’s growing season. If necessary, you might want to start transplants you can nurture indoors before moving them outside when the temperatures allow.
     
  7. Plant according to a calendar. Knowing how long it takes different foods to mature will help you create a planting calendar. You don’t want to harvest everything at once, and if you stagger planting and replant what you can, you’ll have a garden that produces food for your family for a longer period of time.

Find more helpful tips for managing your home and garden at eLivingtoday.com

SOURCE:
eLivingtoday.com

Understanding Thread Counts

Many companies use thread count to make their sheets more appealing and luxurious, but a bigger number doesn’t always mean a good buy. Before you reach into your wallet, consider these truths about thread counts.

A thread count is a scientific term with strict federal standards on how the threads are counted. Simply put, it measures the number of threads woven together per square inch, counted lengthwise and widthwise. A 400-thread count sheet will have 200 threads lengthwise and 200 widthwise.

When a sheet has a count of 150, it is considered a muslin fabric, which isn’t all that soft to the touch. Any count of 180 or above is considered high quality, but anything beyond 400 is likely to only signify a higher price tag.

However, a sheet with a thread count of 200 can be softer to the touch than one with a 400 thread count. The quality of sheets depends not only on the thread count, but on the quality of fibers within those threads as well. Many stores and manufacturers tout Egyptian cotton as the best because of its long, strong fibers, which are more durable than most other cottons. Another high-quality cotton type is pima, also known for its extra-long fibers.

When shopping for new sheets, make sure you are looking at both the thread count and the quality. Look for a count between 200-400 and make sure the fabric quality is high to ensure you get the best bang for your buck, as well as a comfortable night’s sleep.

Find more tips for selecting linens and other home goods at eLivingtoday.com

SOURCE:
eLivingtoday.com

Thursday, March 14, 2024

5 Steps to Get Your Yard Ready for Spring

As the weather begins to warm and days get longer, it’s important to begin preparing your yard for a healthy growing season. While factors like climate, soil type and grass type can all impact how your yard grows, there are a few steps you can take during the spring months to help your lawn thrive.

From dethatching and aerating to fertilizing and mowing, tackling these simple chores can help ensure your yard looks its best and is prepared to fight off seasonal weeds, disease and drought.

Tune Your Mower
Before it’s time for the first mowing of the season, inspect your mower and perform any routine maintenance necessary. That goes beyond sharpening, or replacing, the blade, and includes changing the oil, spark plugs and filter as well as filling with a fresh tank of gas.

Loosen the Thatch Layer
While it’s important to avoid working on your lawn until after the final freeze to avoid damaging the grass, raking your yard with a spring tine rake to loosen thatch – the layer of leaves, roots and dead grass that builds up between live grass and soil – before the first mow is equally important. Be sure to rake when the soil is dry; if it’s too soft or muddy, you may pull up healthy grass crowns.

Combat Compacted Soil
If your soil has become compacted – likely the effect of heavy foot traffic – and is too dense for water, air and other nutrients to reach the roots of your grass, aerating can help break it up and reduce thatch. A core, or plug, aerator can introduce tiny holes into your soil by removing plugs of grass and soil, which lets nutrients more easily reach the roots. An added bonus, the plugs can decompose on top of your grass, supplying more nutrients.

Fill in Bare Spots
If your lawn is looking sparse, overseeding, which involves spreading grass seed over your existing lawn, can help fill in bare spots. Be sure to choose the right type of seed for your climate and soil type to ensure proper growth. Applying a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer at the same time can provide additional nutrients that are important for promoting healthy growth.

Start Seasonal Mowing
When the ground is dry enough and your grass is long enough to require cutting, begin seasonal mowing. Be sure to use proper techniques, including varying your mowing direction each time to avoid creating patterns or ruts, and avoid cutting grass too low, which can make the lawn more susceptible to weeds and drought stress. In general, never remove more than one-third of the grass blade at a time.

Find more tips to help get your yard ready for warm weather at eLivingtoday.com.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

SOURCE:
eLivingtoday.com

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Gone Viral: 'Miniclover' is a top trending grass alternative for yards across America

If you’re looking to renovate your yard, there’s a sustainable, drought-tolerant alternative to high-maintenance, water-guzzling grass that also reduces your environmental footprint.

“Clover lawns” went viral on social media last fall and became the most searched home improvement trend on Google in 2023. If you search #cloverlawns on Tik Tok , viewed more than 150 million times, you’ll be bombarded with photos and videos of fluffy, lush, green, gorgeous lawns grown with Miniclover seeds.

“‘Miniclover’ (Trifolium repens) is about 1/3-1/2 the size of white Dutch clover, only grows 4-6 inches and produces a thick, carpet-like look that blends well with turf,” said Troy Hake, president and owner of Outsidepride.com, offering drought-tolerant grasses, clovers, wildflower seeds and more. “It’s less expensive than grass seed and a natural solution for self-sustaining, low-maintenance lawns that look beautiful and help eliminate the need for fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and weekly mowing. We sold out of it for the past two years, even with a two-fold increase in production. You can’t go wrong with it.”

Wondering why grass gets a bad rap? The truth is climate change is looming and has further altered the natural pattern of droughts, making them more frequent, longer and more severe. Grass lawns, however, are not sustainable; they’re the most maintenance-intense part of yards, requiring regular fertilization, mowing and heavy irrigation to look good. Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated at almost 1/3 of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day. Plus, gas-powered lawn and gardening equipment release more than 30 million tons of carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Emissions Inventory.

In some regions, there’s continuous, strict regulations on watering lawns or bans on the use of drinking water for irrigating grass. As concerns about climate change and water scarcity intensify, some homeowners are looking for landscaping solutions that minimize water usage and reduce environmental impact. A standout in this regard, Miniclover requires significantly less water than traditional grass to thrive. It’s drought-tolerant and has longer, deeper roots than grass, reaching into the soil for needed moisture, requiring minimal watering, staying greener longer and showing more resiliency during periods of drought or water restrictions.

It takes nitrogen from the air, “fixing” it in the soil and eliminating the need for fertilizer or nitrogen plant food because it does the work for you, keeping grass green and growing while adding natural nitrogen to surrounding soil.

Some homeowners are already tearing up grass and completely replacing it with Miniclover; others are overseeding existing grass, reaping the many benefits of clover while maintaining a lawn-like look without committing to a complete lawn replacement. Both options are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than grass lawns.

With hectic lifestyles the norm, many homeowners want landscaping solutions that require minimal upkeep. While grass lawns require constant mowing, watering and fertilizing, perhaps it’s time to grow something other than traditional turf. Miniclover’s slow growth habits mean less time behind the mower while its dense growth pattern, evenly dispersed via stolons (stems that grow horizontally along the ground), crowds out weeds and controls erosion.

No need for herbicides; they’ll kill it. Grubs won’t eat it and bugs won’t lay eggs in it. It stands up to compacted soil, plus it’s immune to “dog patches.” It fills in bare spots fast and tolerates wet conditions. Mow as little as you like – the more it’s cut, the smaller the leaf size – or simply let it grow close to the ground, like grass . It blooms only once in summer with small, delicate flowers, which provide bees with nectar or, if preferred, mowing prevents blooming. It withstands foot traffic, making it ideal for pathways and play areas and its tolerance for shade makes it suitable for areas with limited sunlight.

For homeowners looking to reclaim weekends and minimize time and effort spent on lawn care, Miniclover seems like a dream. It lives up to its hype, offering the winning combination of environmental sustainability, very low maintenance, drought tolerance, aesthetic appeal and cost efficiency that benefits not only homeowners’ properties, but planet Earth as well.

For more drought-tolerant options, visit Outsidepride.com.  (Joan Casanova) 

 

SOURCE:
Outsidepride.com

Friday, March 1, 2024

7 Ways to Reduce Home Energy Costs

When building your budget, utility bills – especially the electric bill – are likely one of your largest monthly expenditures. One of the biggest culprits: home heating and cooling, which account for more than half of the average American household’s annual energy consumption, according to estimates from the Energy Information Administration.

In fact, 83% of homeowners are concerned about the impact of energy bills on their household budgets, according to a survey conducted by Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US (METUS), with 54% saying it cost “somewhat more” or “much more” to heat their homes this winter compared to last year.

To help dial down your energy costs, consider these tips from the heating and cooling experts at METUS.

Adjust the Temperature
While you’re sleeping or away from home, adjust your thermostat up 5-10 F in the summer or down 5-10 F in the winter, which can help lower annual heating and cooling costs if done consistently. A smart thermostat can monitor your energy use and behaviors then automatically adjust to make your home more energy efficient.

Look for Incentives and Rebates
Qualified homeowners may be eligible to save money on qualified home energy improvement projects. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) offers tax credits and rebates, including a credit of 30% (up to $2,000) for qualifying heat pump installation, an energy-efficient option to replace fossil fuel-burning furnaces. Other incentives under the IRA include offsetting costs of electrical panel upgrades and rebates for homes with energy usage reductions of 20% or more.

Switch to a Heat Pump
Among survey respondents, 54% ranked government incentives like the IRA as one of the top reasons they would consider installing a heat pump to replace a traditional air conditioner. Options like Mitsubishi Electric’s all-climate heat pumps use two units – an exterior heat pump, which replaces your existing air conditioning condenser, and an interior unit installed on your furnace – to deliver cost-effective, eco-efficient, year-round heating and cooling. These smart systems not only improve air conditioning efficiency on hot days, but also determine the best source of heat (gas or electricity) on cold days, so your HVAC system is always running at peak efficiency and comfort.

Have HVAC Systems Serviced Regularly
For best performance and efficiency, regular maintenance of your heating and cooling system is imperative. Keeping outdoor units free of debris and changing air filters are tasks most homeowners can handle on their own but bringing in a professional – usually in the spring and fall – can help ensure your HVAC system and all its components, including electrical and ductwork, are functioning properly.

Improve Your Insulation
Poorly insulated attics, walls, ceilings, floors and crawl spaces can lead to energy waste and increase costs by requiring more energy to heat or cool your home. Because air can escape through these spaces when your HVAC system pushes air through your home, adding insulation can help reduce losses and keep your home more comfortable.

Use Appliances During Non-Peak Hours
Rather than using your oven, stove or clothes dryer from noon-6 p.m., peak time for many electricity providers, consider doing so in the morning or later at night. Using these appliances outside of the peak timeframe, when conventional heating and cooling systems are often running full bore, can help lower energy costs. Some utilities may also offer plans that incentivize limiting energy use during peak hours.

Think Multi-Zone
Consider upgrading to an all-climate, multi-zone heat pump, which can seamlessly connect to multiple indoor units, revolutionizing the way you experience comfort in your home. By eliminating problematic hot and cold spots in your home, this system ensures personalized comfort tailored to individual zones and optimizes energy usage by directing it only to the areas requiring heating or cooling. Replacing an outdated HVAC system with a multi-zone solution can also help achieve cost and energy savings. By efficiently managing temperature in different zones, you can experience improved energy efficiency, resulting in a more sustainable and economical solution for heating and cooling.

Find more solutions for improving your home’s efficiency and increasing energy savings at MitsubishiComfort.com.

SOURCE:
Mitsubishi Electric

Sunday, February 25, 2024

3 Ways to Use Propane in Your Home

 

A reliable, environmentally friendly energy source, propane can help power key home systems and appliances. Readily available in the United States, the portable, low-carbon energy source is stored on-site, meaning it’s always accessible to help keep homes running regardless of severe weather or other interruptions to the power grid.

Watch this video for helpful tips this season!

Consider these ways to integrate the clean energy source into your home from the experts at the Propane Education & Research Council:

Home Heating
Whether you use a furnace, fireplace or boiler to heat your home, propane can power your heating source in any climate. Propane-powered heating sources are highly efficient, typically cost less overall due to their longer expected lifespans and emit fewer greenhouse gases than electric or wood- or oil-burning alternatives.

Backup Power
When power from the electric grid is interrupted, a propane-powered generator can provide supplemental power in as little as 10 seconds to keep vital systems like smoke and fire detection, refrigeration, heating and cooling, Wi-Fi and other health and safety equipment operational for several days and nights. Plus, propane doesn’t degrade over time, unlike diesel or gasoline, making it an ideal standby power fuel.

Appliances
Because of their high performance and energy efficiency, propane-powered appliances such as cooking ranges and stoves, clothes dryers and tankless water heaters can increase the value of a home and decrease the strain on the electrical grid. Generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions than their electric counterparts, propane-powered appliances can heat and cool quicker, reduce standby losses and dry clothing faster, reducing energy usage and cost.

Learn more about propane and its benefits at Propane.com/ForMyHome.

SOURCE:
PERC

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Improve Wellness with Affordable Bathroom Upgrades

Wellness is at the forefront of nearly everyone’s mind, including keeping germs at bay and creating surroundings that promote mental and physical health. Even small, but important, spaces like the bathroom can benefit from changes with wellness in mind.

A bathroom can be one of the easiest rooms in your home to give a little extra TLC toward creating a healthier lifestyle. These cost-effective measures can turn your bathroom into a more practical, functional space that promotes your well-being.

Switch Up Surfaces
The countertops in your bathroom, much like the flooring, must be able to withstand a lot of water. Nonporous vanity tops, such as those made from quartz, hold up to being wet constantly and can help keep germs from breeding. In addition to being easy to clean, a solid-surface option like quartz never needs to be sealed or polished, making it an aesthetically pleasing, long-lasting option.

Clean Green 
Bathrooms are often hot and steamy places, and water vapors in the air can carry potentially harmful chemicals from cleaning products. Green cleaning products are made to control the spread of bacteria and viruses using safe and effective means. Not only are they helpful in preventing asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments, but they are a low-cost way to improve overall indoor air quality. 

What you use to clean yourself is just as important. Using green or organic personal care items can help reduce toxin exposure and lessen the likelihood of an allergic reaction.

Reduce Humidity
All that steam can affect your health in other ways, too, since it creates a humid environment that encourages mold and mildew. A heated towel rack is an inexpensive way to add a touch of luxury to your space while generating heat that helps reduce humidity and the growth of mold and mildew, therefore benefitting indoor air quality.

Heated towel racks like those from Amba Products come in a variety of finishes and styles to coordinate with your decor. For modest accommodations, the Radiant Small is a space-saving choice, and freestanding models are available if wall space is at a premium. Another advantage: Since the racks dry towels, they’ll stay mildew-free longer and don’t need to be washed as often, which helps save valuable natural resources.

Enhance Air Quality
Creating a green, spa-like oasis with plants can bring wellness benefits that don’t break the bank.  Indoor plants help rid the environment of pollutants, and the energy and ambiance they add may have mental health benefits, too. Plants like mother-in-law’s tongue or peace lily are popular options to incorporate as natural air purifiers. 

Explore Color
A bathroom’s color palette can also play a role in your wellness goals. Warmer shades like red and orange enhance energy while cooler colors like green and blue can be calming.

Begin planning bathroom upgrades that improve your health and well-being with more tips and ideas at ambaproducts.com .

SOURCE:
Amba Products

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Identify Your Ideal Kitchen Design Style

While you may see kitchens in a variety of styles and find them all beautiful in their own way, finding inspiration for your dream kitchen often requires sorting through many different considerations. From transitional to modern and every style in-between, these ideas can help you decide what suits your home while also fitting your personal tastes.

Find more inspiration at wellborn.com.

SOURCE:
Wellborn

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Mike Phillips REMAX



As a RE/MAX® agent, I’m dedicated to helping my clients find the home of their dreams. Whether you are buying or selling a home or just curious about the local market, I would love to offer my support and services. I know the local community — both as an agent and a neighbor — and can help guide you through the nuances of our local market. With access to top listings, a worldwide network, exceptional marketing strategies and cutting-edge technology, I work hard to make your real estate experience memorable and enjoyable.  Check out my Website and Listings here!

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me today!

Corral Clutter with a Mudroom

Often positioned near the primary point of entry, mudrooms are a popular addition to many family homes. These organizational dynamos are the perfect place to catch muddy boots, backpacks, sports equipment and dirty paws before they make it all the way into the main living areas.

Luxurious mudrooms in high-end homes can sometimes boast custom cabinetry, full bathrooms, laundry facilities, showers for pets and direct pantry access.

Regardless of whether your mudroom is an actual room or just a small space near the front door to hang bags and jackets, the organizational basics are the same:

Corral Clutter: One of the most important items in any mudroom is storage for shoes, pet supplies, backpacks, sporting equipment and other items. If built-in storage isn’t in your budget, put up a sturdy shelving unit with a bin or basket for each family member.

Get Hooked: Securely anchor a row of strong hooks along the wall for coats, hats, scarves or other seasonal accessories that may otherwise find themselves dropped on the floor upon arriving home.

Mud Happens: Mudrooms are meant to handle dirt so nix the carpet and lay down tile or hardwood flooring. Pick a stylish rug to catch dirt in its tracks while also adding a design element to the space.

Shoe Space: Place a wooden bench or sturdy coffee table near the door so everyone has a place to sit while removing shoes. Slide a few baskets or bins underneath as an alternate location for storing backpacks and other gear when not in use.

Take Command: Create a family command center by adding a small cabinet or desk with a corkboard above. It makes for a perfect spot to stash keys, charge cell phones, open mail, sort school papers and post the family calendar.

Find more organization tips and tricks at eLivingtoday.com.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Comforting Color: Fill your home with balance and hope

In the world of design, what’s old inevitably becomes new again, and a similar pattern is inspiring today’s on-trend color palettes for home decor. The latest styles reflect reviving and comforting colors influenced by heritage and romance, lending to a look that is familiar in an individualistic way.

With more people living their everyday, working lives at home, many homeowners are discovering the contentment that comes with slowing down. Often that means looking to the past to find comfort for moving forward.

Nostalgia serves as an emotional tool that delivers deep-rooted serenity and powerful healing properties. Looking to the past is often beneficial during times of uncertainty and can be an opportunity to bring styles and practices back to the present to create an appreciation of the past.

Whether living through the romance of rural lifestyles, the comfort of home or the nostalgia from far-off times, some of today’s most beloved design aesthetics celebrate the past, present and future while bringing balance, hope and comfort for you and your family to embrace.

Timeless Color

Using color to evoke feelings and emotions is hardly new but combining a carefully curated color palette with other design elements can allow you to create a look that pays homage to the past while breathing new life into your living space.

Reimagining classic, familiar tones allows you to achieve a design motif that is equal parts reminiscent and refreshing.

“The Vintage Homestead Color Collection offers an effortless look that reveals the importance of being hopeful to find stability and balance,” said Ashley Banbury, HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams senior color designer. “Our 2023 Color Collection of the Year revives elements from the past that are perfectly paired with vintage, comfortable and classic colors.”

Blending Past and Present

Striking a balance between old and new can take many forms, as these styles show:

  • Heritage Revival: An interest in reviving the past is evident in design trends like a remerging appreciation of antiques and vintage elements, such oversized furniture and traditional shapes. To capture this style, your design should focus on contrasting old and new for a mix-and-match look. Ultimately, the aesthetic is a look that feels simultaneously individualistic and curated.

    A cohesive color scheme can allow the various elements to stand on their own while working in harmony for an intentional design. For example, the HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams 2023 Color Collection of the Year includes a combination of familiar tones that have been thoughtfully curated by design experts who borrow color and design concepts from the past for a hopeful future and a sense of belonging. Hues like Poetry Plum and Hot Cocoa evoke warmth and depth, while moderate shades like Restrained Gold and Glamour offer fresh ways to incorporate mid-range neutrals. Meanwhile, soft tones like Natural Linen and Cool Beige offer subtle color for lighter, brighter spaces.
  • Mixing and Matching of Eras: A new take on retro design is emerging in which eras are blended and new and old furnishing work side by side. To get this look, you’ll craft a space that marries historical and contemporary design, celebrating both the old and new. To design for longevity, incorporate pieces that are ambiguous in era and stand the test of time.
  • Vintage Homestead: Reviving design elements from the past with mixed patterns, classic shapes and vintage decor adds up to comfortable and comforting design. With this trend, prints and patterns encompass a range of styles, reinforcing how interiors connect to fashion. Mixing classic elegance with sleek vintage shapes is refining the concept of polished comfort. To achieve the look, curate pieces in heritage shapes and patterns, along with retro accents. Be sure to incorporate vintage lighting and glass, as well.

A versatile color choice like Darkroom, the 2023 Color of the Year from HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams, is an alluring shade that is classic enough for heritage interiors but also modernly retro for a throwback-inspired aesthetic. It’s a neutral perfect for creating an eclectic yet modern look inside and out. Indoors, use it on the walls to offset more earthy brown and taupe tones in your furnishings and textiles.

Get inspired to combine the past with the present for a comforting design that’s all your own at hgtvhomebysherwinwilliams.com.

Crafting a Conservatory

Today’s homeowners are also increasingly interested in biophilic design and bringing the outdoors in, which prompts a conservatory aesthetic in home design. To achieve the look, design your space to make maximum use of natural light in creative ways. Incorporate large potted trees and statement plants that blur the lines between indoors and outdoors.

SOURCE:
HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams

Sunday, January 7, 2024

How to Create Rain Barrels for Your Garden

Gardeners typically understand plenty of water, good ground and a steady stream of sunshine all play vital roles in the food production process.

However, on those hot, dry days when there isn’t any rain in sight, harvesting rain and storing it may be a perfect solution. A tried-and-true gadget like a rain barrel allows for the collection of rainwater from a home’s gutter system for later use.

Not only are rain barrels budget-friendly and good for the environment, they’re also good for your plants and crops. Rainwater is chemical-free, non-chlorinated, naturally soft, oxygen rich and warmer than water coming from the hose or sprinkler. That means flowers, trees, vegetables and shrubs may be more vibrant and hearty when irrigated with rainwater.

The nuts and bolts of making a rain barrel are simple. All it takes are three holes cut into a 55-gallon barrel and a few supplies from the hardware store:

  1. A small hole is cut into the side of the barrel, just 2 1/2 inches from the bottom. A brass adapter is then inserted so a hose can be attached for easy watering.
  2. The second hole allows excess water to drain away if the barrel gets too full. It is made approximately 4 inches from the top of the barrel, directly above the hose adapter.
  3. Drill a large hole into the top 2 inches from the side of the barrel. This hole must align with a downspout in your home’s guttering system. It is often fitted with a screen to filter out sticks, leaves and other debris.

Instead of a rain barrel, create a simple collection system by placing any recycled, water-tight container directly under a downspout. Buckets, trash cans and large pots make for easy collection containers.

Find more solutions for your garden at eLivingtoday.com.

SOURCE:
Family Features

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

4 Budget-Friendly Ideas to Freshen Up Indoor Spaces

Whether you’re fatigued by seeing the same decor every day or simply looking for an opportunity to refresh indoor spaces with an appealing mini makeover, rethinking your favorite room in the house doesn’t need to be an expensive ordeal.

Even if your budget is tight, you can still make small changes to transform a room. Consider these ideas:

  • Bring stylish flair to your space with a new color scheme. Rather than replacing all the furniture, which can be costly, focus on smaller accessory pieces such as pillows and decorative items. Create variety by using multiple hues of the same color or mixing two or more complementary colors.
  • Introduce new accent furniture. Smaller and less cost-prohibitive than centerpieces like a couch, for example, accent pieces such as end tables or a coffee table can provide subtle changes to the look of a room. You could also opt to refinish a piece of furniture you have on-hand to create a look that’s all your own.
  • Morph your room by simply rearranging what you already own. Adjusting the orientation of your furniture and decor can let you see your favorite room from a whole new perspective.
  • Whether it’s a flea market find, such as an old window frame that you paint and add a display shelf to the base, or a series of photos from your favorite vacation destination, adding some DIY art can not only update your room, but make it more personal, too.

A new look for your favorite room can go a long way, so find ways to update your space for a comfy retreat you can enjoy. Find more ideas at eLivingtoday.com.

 

SOURCE:
Family Features

Monday, January 1, 2024

DIY Tips for Installing Decorative Crown Molding

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to dress up a room in your home, crown molding can be a simple way to add elegance and class with minimal investment.

Crown molding is most commonly applied as a decorative trim where the walls meet the ceiling. It is often painted the same color as the baseboards, door frames and other woodwork, but can be colored to match the ceiling or a different shade to create extra drama.

Though the corner angles may be especially daunting for do-it-yourself types, installing crown molding is a project you can tackle without the assistance of a professional. However, it is a good idea to ask for help along the way, as all the measuring, marking and holding up pieces for nailing can be a bit much for one person.

This step-by-step guide can show you how to create a striking design element in your home:

  1. Measure the perimeter of your room, remembering to take into account any insets or bump-outs that add additional inches. Be sure to pad your total when purchasing materials to allow for a mistake (or two).
  2. Prime and paint the molding, front and back, and allow it to dry completely.
  3. Mark the studs near the ceiling on all walls so you can securely attach the molding.
  4. Measure from the ceiling down the depth of the molding and mark this point. Using a level, establish a baseline for the length of each wall.
  5. Use a miter saw or coping saw to trim angles for corner pieces. Remember the molding as it lays on the saw table is the inverse of its fit to the wall, so you may want to make a few practice cuts to be sure you’re trimming angles properly. A good rule of thumb: For outside corners, the top edge is longer; for inside corners, the longer edge is on the bottom.
  6. Attach molding using a nail gun, making sure to hit as many studs as possible for secure attachment.
  7. On the sections that fit in corners, nail the center of the molding first, leaving the corner end loose. Use a wood shim or screwdriver behind the bottom edge of the molding to make adjustments and eliminate gaps before securing the corners.
  8. Where you join two pieces for a long stretch of wall, be sure the seam falls over a stud, so you can nail both ends firmly in place. For the most polished look, fit the ends of these pieces together with complementary 45-degree angles.
  9. If your nails aren’t fully sunk, use a nail set to press them deeper. Use wood putty to cover nail holes.
  10. Caulk all seams using a thin stream and use a finger dipped in water to smooth away excess.
  11. Touch up paint, especially over putty spots and seams.

Find more tips for upgrading your home at eLivingtoday.com.

  

SOURCE:
Family Features

Sunday, December 31, 2023

3 Ways to Improve Your Home's Indoor Air Quality

The average American spends 90% of his or her time indoors, where clean, pure air can be taken for granted. While some people check the weather forecast for smog and pollen count to find out the status of outdoor air, many homeowners haven’t thought about air quality inside their homes.

People have, however, gotten more concerned about indoor air quality since the pandemic. According to Shelton Group Pulse research, 37% of survey respondents are more concerned about indoor air quality now compared to before the pandemic. In fact, the concentration of certain pollutants can be up to 2-5% worse indoors than outdoors, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Common pollutants include dust mites, mold spores, pet dander and chemicals of concern like volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Allergy triggers like pollen, smoke and ozone can leak indoors from outside. However, there’s one major culprit impacting indoor air quality many may not suspect: humans.

People are sometimes responsible for bringing allergens and pollutants unknowingly into their own homes. For example, pollen may be brought inside on shoes or clothes, and products may be unknowingly purchased that contribute to poor indoor air quality by slowly releasing toxic chemicals into the air.

While all homes will have some degree of infiltration, you can take steps to reduce indoor allergens, such as these three strategies from the EPA, which when used together can help you breathe easier in your own home.

Increase Ventilation

Ventilating your home regularly makes it less likely allergens can accumulate and cause harm. Let fresh air into your home regularly by opening the windows.

You can also use mechanical ventilation, like electric or ceiling fans, to increase air circulation in your home, especially when you don’t want to open windows or in addition to opening windows.

Additionally, if you need to paint an item, do it outside whenever possible. Also keep windows open when using harsh cleaning products.

Source Control

Source control is the most effective way to reduce indoor allergens in your home, according to the EPA. To reduce indoor allergens at the source, choose flooring – the foundation of your home – that contributes to better indoor air quality for your whole family and contains as few chemicals of concern as possible. Not only does an option like resilient flooring from Beautifully Responsible manufacturers come in water-resistant varieties that are easy to keep clean without harsh chemicals, many are independently certified to comply with high standards for indoor air quality. Look for the third-party FloorScore, which certifies hard surface flooring, adhesives and underlayments for low levels of VOCs and other chemicals of concern.

Clean the Air

Air purifiers are a simple way to filter indoor air without too much extra effort. These devices combine an internal filter and fan to capture airborne particles from pet dander, pollen and dust, circulating purified air back into the room.

The EPA recommends air purifiers with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Look for certified asthma- and allergy-friendly air purifiers to help minimize triggers of asthma and allergy. Remember to change filters regularly for best performance.

Learn more about supporting your well-being, and browse design inspiration to find the right flooring solution for your next home renovation project, at BeautifullyResponsible.com.

 

SOURCE:
Beautifully Responsible

Your Winter Wonderland Awaits

5 private cabin destinations for your next adventure

As colder temperatures settle in across much of the country, now is a perfect time to start planning your cozy season getaway. Perfect for lovers of the great outdoors, with breathtaking views and amenities like hot tubs, ski lifts, gourmet kitchens, game rooms and more, a cabin retreat can make for a unique and memorable experience.

Specializing in private vacation homes, Vrbo, a seasoned veteran in the vacation rental industry with nearly 30 years of experience, has lodging options available in some of the most popular winter destinations, including these five getaways. Booking these homes, or any others on the platform, can also earn travelers rewards for future trips through the vacation rental industry’s first and only loyalty program, One Key. Plus, the Book with Confidence Guarantee offers comprehensive protection throughout your journey.

To find more winter retreats, visit Vrbo.com or use the app to start earning OneKeyCash with every reservation.

Lone Peak View Fire Lookout Tower – Big Sky, Montana

Situated on more than 60 acres, this one-of-a-kind cabin offers 360-degree views above some of Big Sky’s most beloved wilderness, including the famed Lone Peak and the Madison Range. Ideal for families or smaller groups, the Fire Lookout Tower comfortably sleeps up to eight guests and features a wraparound deck, perfect for taking in beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The home also boasts a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, gourmet kitchen and hot tub.


Trestle House – Winter Park, Colorado

Nestled amongst the pines in Winter Park’s most exclusive neighborhood, Trestle House – a  Vrbo 2023 Vacation Home of the Year – boasts showstopping views, a slope-side hot tub and high-end amenities. The open main level offers views of tall pines, meandering ski trails and abounding mountains from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Plus, a full bar and game room cater to all ages and ski-in, ski-out access leads directly to the Winter Park Resort base area.

“The Overlook” Shipping Container – Rockbridge, Ohio

A unique, eco-friendly retreat located just outside Columbus, “The Overlook” is crafted from four 40-foot repurposed shipping containers and sits above the beautiful rolling acres of Hocking Hills, Ohio. Sitting on a total of 75 acres, the property is home to two waterfalls and a plethora of hiking possibilities on-site. Featuring three bedrooms and a hot tub for relaxing after a long day, the transformed cargo containers can accommodate up to eight guests.

 

Luxury Mountain Lodge with 360 Views – Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Ideally located for whatever adventure you wish to undertake, this luxury cabin offers panoramic Smoky Mountain views and rustic yet modern amenities that are perfect for that ultimate cozy cabin vibe. Designed for relaxation, family time and fun, Heaven’s Mountain Lodge features double-decker decks with unobstructed views, a private hot tub, multiple fire pits, a theater room, a stunning kitchen and a game room that includes pool, shuffleboard, foosball and a poker table.

“Shooting Star” Luxury Teton Village Cabin – Teton County, Wyoming

This classic and elegant cabin is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, surrounded by Grand Teton National Park with sweeping views of the mountains, ski slopes and curves of Shooting Star Jackson Hole Golf Club. With the look of a 19th century homestead, layers of modern and traditional detail are combined to create a cohesive richness and structure. The cabin sleeps eight and includes a stone dining terrace and hot tub, luxurious fireplace and gourmet kitchen.

 

SOURCE:
Vrbo

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Lay Tile Like a Pro: 11 steps to update bathroom flooring

Updating the flooring can help infuse new life into tired, outdated bathrooms. For an upscale, polished look that doesn’t have to break the bank, consider installing tile flooring.

Before you get started, you’ll want to make some decisions about the look and feel of your flooring:

Ceramic or stone? Weigh factors such as porosity, how slippery the surface may be when wet and how well it retains heat or cold. Ultimately, your decision hinges on the needs and uses of your family.

Complement or contrast? Define the overall style you want as well as the colors and tones that will help best achieve your vision.

Big or small? Generally, the larger the tile, the fewer grout lines, and too many grout lines in a smaller space can create the illusion of clutter. However, smaller tiles can eliminate the need to make multiple awkward cuts, and small tiles are perfect for creating accent patterns or introducing a splash of color.

When you’ve got your overall look and materials selected, keep these steps in mind as you begin laying the flooring:

  1. Prepare your subfloor. Use a level to check for uneven spots; you need an even surface to prevent cracks in the tile or grout as well as rough spots that could pose tripping hazards. Use patching and leveling material to create a consistent surface. Apply a thin layer of mortar then attach your cement backer board with screws. Cover joints with cement board tape, apply another thin layer of mortar, smooth and allow to dry.
     
  2. To ensure square placement, draw reference lines on the subfloor using a level and carpenter square. Tile should start in the middle of the room and move out toward the walls, so make your initial reference lines as close to the center as possible. Mark additional reference lines as space allows, such as 2-foot-by-2-foot squares.
     
  3. Do a test run with your chosen tile by laying it out on the floor. There are color variations in most tile patterns, so you’ll want to verify each tile blends well with the next.
     
  4. Mix tile mortar and use the thin side of a trowel to apply mortar at a 45-degree angle. Use the combed side to spread evenly and return excess mortar to the bucket. Remember to apply mortar in small areas, working as you go, so it doesn’t dry before you’re ready to lay the tile.
     
  5. When laying tile, use your reference lines as guides. Press and wiggle tile slightly for the best adherence.
     
  6. Use spacers to create even lines between one tile and the next, removing excess mortar with a damp sponge or rag.
     
  7. As you complete a section of tile, use a level and mallet to verify the tiles are sitting evenly.
     
  8. Let mortar dry 24 hours before grouting.
     
  9. Remove spacers then apply grout to joints, removing excess as you go.
     
  10. Allow grout to dry per the manufacturer’s instructions then go back over tile with a damp sponge to set grout lines and clean grout residue.
     
  11. Once grout has cured – usually at least a couple weeks – apply sealer to protect it.

 
Find more ideas and tips for updating your bathroom at eLivingtoday.com.

Building Your Dream Home Anytime, Anywhere

5 tips to create a comfortable forever home

For most homebuyers, their dream homes are not something they’re likely to find already on the market. With a unique vision of your dream home’s look, location and features, building a custom home is generally the easiest way to make that dream a reality.

To keep things moving as smoothly as possible amid what can be a complicated process, consider these tips as you embark on the journey.

Set a Realistic Budget

You’ll need to start by determining how much you can spend on your house. Typically, the cost of building a home is around $100-$200 per square foot, according to research from HomeAdvisor. You’ll also need to account for the lot price as well as design fees, taxes, permits, materials and labor. Materials and labor should make up about 75% of the total amount spent, but it’s wise to build in a buffer for price changes and overages. While building your budget, consider what items and features are “must-haves” and things that should only be included if your budget allows.

Identify the Perfect Location

Think about where you’d like to live and research comparable lots and properties in those areas, which can give you a better idea of costs. Because the features of many dream homes require a wider footprint, you may need to build outside of city limits, which can make natural gas more difficult to access. Consider propane instead, which can do everything natural gas can and go where natural gas cannot or where it is cost prohibitive to run a natural gas line. Propane also reduces dependence on the electrical grid, and a propane standby generator can safeguard your family if there is a power outage.

“As a real estate agent and builder, I have the pleasure of helping families select their dream homes,” said Matt Blashaw, residential contractor, licensed real estate agent and host of HGTV’s “Build it Forward.” “The homes we design and build are frequently in propane country, or off the natural gas grid. Propane makes it possible to build an affordable and comfortable, high-performing indoor living spaces and dynamic outdoor entertaining areas.”

Keep Universal Design Principles in Mind

Many homebuyers want to ensure their space is accessible to family members and guests both now and for decades to come. As the housing market slows and mortgage rates rise, buyers may look to incorporate features that allow them to age in place. Incorporating principles of universal design – the ability of a space to be understood, accessed and used by people regardless of their age or ability – can make it possible to still enjoy your home even if mobility, vision or other challenges arise as you age.

For example, the entryway could have a ramp or sloped concrete walkway leading to a front door wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair with a barrier-free threshold. Inside, wider hallways and doorways, strategic lighting and appliances installed at lower heights are mainstays of universal design. Counters of varying heights, drop-down cabinet racks and roll-under sinks in kitchens and zero-entry showers, slip-resistant flooring and grab bars in bathrooms offer enhanced accessibility.

Consider Alternative Energy Sources

With today’s electric grid, more than two-thirds of the energy is wasted; it never reaches homes. Unlike electricity, propane is stored in a large tank either above or below ground on the property. A 500-gallon tank can hold enough propane to meet the annual energy needs of an average single-family home – enough to power major systems in a home.

Propane pairs well with other energy sources, including grid electricity and on-site solar, which makes it a viable option for dual-energy homes. Like natural gas, propane can power major appliances such as your furnace, water heater, clothes dryer, fireplace, range and standby generator. Often, propane works more efficiently with fewer greenhouse gas emissions than electricity, meaning your home is cleaner for the environment.

Propane can even power a whole-home standby generator, which is often a big selling point. When a homeowner purchases a standby generator, a licensed electrician installs the unit outside the home and wires it to the home’s circuit breaker. When a power outage occurs, the generator automatically senses the disruption of service and starts the generator’s engine, which then delivers power to the home. From the warm, comfortable heat of a propane furnace to the peace of mind offered by a propane standby generator, many homeowners trust propane to provide a safe, efficient, whole-home energy solution.

Build a Team of Experts

Hiring the right people can make the process of turning your dream into reality go much smoother. Start by researching reputable builders, paying special attention to the types of homes they build to find a style that matches what you’re looking for as well as price ranges for past homes they’ve built. Consider how long the builders have been in business and if they’re licensed and insured.

Depending on your builder’s capabilities, you may also need to hire an architect or designer. In addition to your real estate agent to assist with purchasing the lot and selling your previous home, you may need assistance from other professionals, such as a real estate attorney, landscape architect and propane supplier. A local propane supplier can work with the builder to install a properly sized propane storage tank either above or below ground and connect appliances.

Find more ideas for building your dream home at Propane.com.

Propane-Powered Appliances

You may be surprised to learn propane can power major appliances, which can increase the value of a home because of their high performance, efficiency and reduced dependence on the electrical grid.

Furnace
A propane-powered furnace has a 50% longer lifespan than an electric heat pump, reducing its overall lifetime costs. Propane-powered residential furnaces also emit up to 50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than electric furnaces and 12% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than furnaces running on oil-based fuels.

Boiler
Propane boilers have an expected lifespan of up to 30 years, but many can last longer if serviced and maintained properly. High-efficiency propane boilers offer performance, space savings and versatility as well as a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared to those fueled by heating oil.

Standby Generator
Propane standby generators supply supplemental electricity in as little as 10 seconds after an outage. Plus, propane doesn’t degrade over time, unlike diesel or gasoline, making it an ideal standby power fuel.

Clothes Dryer
Propane-powered clothes dryers generate up to 42% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to electric dryers. They also dry clothes faster, which can reduce energy use and cost.

Range
With up to 15% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to electric ranges, propane-powered ranges also allow for greater control of heat levels. Plus, their instant flame turnoff capabilities help them cool faster.

Tankless Water Heater
Propane tankless water heaters have the lowest annual cost of ownership in mixed and cold United States climates when compared with electric water heaters, heat pump water heaters and oil-fueled water heaters. They also only heat water when it is needed, reducing standby losses that come with storage tank water heaters.

 

Photos courtesy of Laurey Glenn and Paragon Building Group (house exterior and kitchen)

 

SOURCE:
Propane Education & Research Council

Saturday, December 16, 2023

How to Build a Sustainable Home

Rising fuel costs and increased awareness of society’s environmental impacts have many homeowners looking to leverage sustainable building materials to reduce the amount of energy used to heat and cool their houses. If you’re starting construction on the home of your dreams, consider the benefits of building with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind.

Here are a few tips to follow before beginning to build your sustainable dream home.

Create a Reasonable (and Flexible) Budget
As the first step for any new build, creating a budget that fits your means is critical. Remember, new construction is often a fluid process, meaning you may need to cut back in certain areas to balance out unforeseen costs or desires to go above and beyond on amenities that are important to you.

Hire the Right Construction Professionals
Even if you consider yourself handy or a DIY pro, new construction isn’t a project to go at alone. Do your research on local professionals like architects, contractors and others who are experienced in sustainable construction. Contact trusted friends, family and neighbors for references and read reviews online to gather options before requesting bids or signing contracts.

Start with a Sustainable Foundation
Constructing a sustainable home starts with the foundation. A longer lasting home can begin with strong building materials like insulated concrete forms (ICFs), such as those from Nudura, which provide superior energy efficiency, sound-proofing and lower utility costs versus traditional wood-frame construction. Dual-insulated ICF walls with a concrete core provide high R-values (a measure of insulation's ability to resist heat traveling through it) and thermal mass, as well as disaster-resilient structural support from the foundation to the roof. They even provide architects greater design flexibility to build your dream home according to your desired interior and exterior aesthetic specifications.

Select Eco-Friendly Materials
While installing energy-efficient appliances and high-quality windows and doors are obvious examples of eco-friendly materials, there are other solutions to help you go green in your new home. Consider options like countertops made from recycled glass or reclaimed bricks for fireplaces and accent pieces.

Power Your Home with Renewable Energy
If it’s within your budget, you can take your new home to the next level by powering it with renewable energy like solar or wind. Typically installed on the roof, solar panels harness the sun’s rays and convert that energy to power your home. An additional benefit: You may save money in the long-run on electricity bills.

Prepare for the Unexpected
Project delays, fluctuating costs and more can turn building a new house into an unpredictable process. Don’t let potential surprises deter you from seeking your dream space or forever home. Be prepared for the unexpected so you aren’t caught off guard. In fact, unanticipated circumstances can sometimes be a good thing, like building materials dropping in price, a new product hitting the market or those flashy eco-friendly appliances going on sale.

Learn more about sustainable building at nudura.com/sustainable-design.

SOURCE:
Nudura