Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
"It all comes down to dollars and 'sense,' " says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center. "In addition to warmth, beauty and durability, hardwood features increase your home's resale value. Even with a modest budget, if you take the time and price your options, updating worn floors, dated cabinetry, and lackluster walls will make a significant difference. And it's easier and less expensive than you think."
Survey says hardwood floors sell
When it's time to sell, hardwood floors not only add good looks, they increase the value of your home. According to a nationwide survey of real estate agents commissioned by the National Wood Flooring Association, 99 percent of respondents agreed that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell. In addition, 90 percent said these homes sell for more money.
"Absolutely true," says Bob Strader, a real estate agent with The NORTH Group of Keller Williams Realty in Atlanta. "Between two similar properties, buyers will gravitate toward the home with hardwood floors, and that home will sell in half the time."
Debbie Gartner, known as "The Flooring Girl" by customers at her New York-based flooring store, agrees and says quality increases value. "Hardwood sells," notes Gartner, adding that you're in luck if you already have a hardwood floor under a carpet. "Clients are shocked when I tell them it's almost always less expensive to refinish a hardwood floor than it is to re-carpet a room."
What about the kitchen?
Real estate agent Strader advises sellers to "upgrade their kitchens prior to going on the market because buyers see kitchen upgrades as being rather expensive." He adds that, "Homes without updated kitchens will take longer to sell, and will sell for less."
Gerry Henley, president of Kitchen Solvers, a national kitchen and bath remodeling franchise, suggests simple cabinetry updates that won't break the bank but will result in a higher return on your investment. And hardwood products offer plenty of options.
"Many homeowners overlook the low cost and high impact of re-facing their existing kitchen cabinets," he says. "By swapping out dated doors and drawer pulls, a homeowner can get the look of a newly updated kitchen and save up to 50 percent of the cost of a complete overhaul. Cabinet re-facing is a quick-moving project and the kitchen remains functional throughout installation."
Value in the details
Architectural details - hardwood crown moulding, baseboards and other millwork - add depth and character, provide a finished look, and change lackluster to extraordinary, so much so that according to the National Association of Home Builders' "What Home Buyers Really Want" study, crown moulding ranks higher than other luxury features such as fireplaces, kitchen seating and window seats.
Strader agrees. "From my experience, millwork adds the 'wow' factor that stays in a buyer's mind. And most sellers are unaware that a custom look can be obtained relatively inexpensively with off-the-shelf moulding patterns available at home improvement stores."
The American Hardwood Information Center offers some additional tips to keep costs low. For crown and other decorative ceiling mouldings, consider using a less expensive species such as poplar. Where durability is a must, such as baseboards, door casings and chair rails, consider a harder species, like white oak.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
"Did you go anywhere over summer vacation?" That is the question heard in school hallways and cafeterias at the start of every new school year. While the standard answers of "I visited my grandparents" or "I went to sleep away camp" circulate, imagine if your child excitedly responded "I explored the Australian Outback, designed traditional tango dresses in Argentina and learned the art of Irish dance in Ireland." Better yet, imagine if your child learned all of this without having to go on an expensive and time-consuming international trip.
Summer is often associated with learning loss, and parents also express difficulty finding productive activities for their children to do during the summer months. So, rather than allow this break from learning, turn this time into a learning opportunity to broaden your child's global mindset. Utilize summer to immerse kids in cultural, educational activities at home without the pressure of grades or busy after school activities.
"Exposing kids to different regions, traditions and wildlife around the world is so important because children hold the future of our planet in their hands," says Mireya Mayor, a mother of four and an explorer and wildlife correspondent for National Geographic. "As a mom, I want to encourage children to respect different cultures, love the planet and protect its wonderful attributes so it can be enjoyed for many generations to come, and the only way to love something is to know it."
Making learning fun and exciting is the best way to inspire kids and teach them to appreciate all the world has to offer, recommends Mayor. She has several easy tips for parents to "travel the world" from home with their families:
1. Incorporate travel into playtime
Travel-themed toys and games are a great way to pique kids' interests in different regions around the world. One example is the Barbie Collector Dolls of the World collection. With dolls from Ireland, China, Argentina, Australia, India, Mexico, Chile and Holland, and correlating activities available at Barbie.com/dolls-of-the-world, girls can be easily transported to almost every part of the world. While girls are having fun and enjoying playtime, they are also learning about each distinct destination. These worldly dolls can be found at Target, Walmart, Kmart and Toys R Us.
2. Host a monthly family "international dinner" night
Serve traditional dishes from other countries one night a month, selecting a new country each time. Have each member of the family read a note card to share a "fun fact" about the region and translate a word from the local language.
3. Tell stories
In Mayor's own book "Pink Boots and a Machete," she shares stories of her adventures, scientific discovery and world travel. By sharing photos and mementos of their own personal travel stories, parents can expose their children to the idea of new places and spur an interest in experiencing all the world has to offer.
4. Map it out
Mayor suggests displaying a wall map or globe in the main living area of the home so that kids are continually exposed to world geography and that travel is a continued topic of conversation. Parents can mark places the family has visited, as well as places they want to visit. This will help kids understand that there are never-ending opportunities to learn and explore new places.
Summer is the perfect time to inspire your child and expose them to the world beyond their backyard. Just by having fun "traveling" with your family, you will not only be combating detrimental learning loss but also creating long-lasting memories. Applying Mireya Mayor's easy at-home tips can give your child knowledge of the world they will have for life.
Tackle the job yourself, rather than hiring a professional painter, and you can save even more money.
"Any do-it-yourselfer can achieve professional-looking painting results when they follow the right steps and use the right painting tools," says Arti Lyde, a product director with Wagner, manufacturer of painting products. "Painting can dramatically improve the look and style of your home."
Follow these four guidelines and you can achieve professional-looking results with your own hands:
Prepping is paramount
Professionals know that properly preparing their work space is a key factor in achieving a good end result. Before you crack open that paint can, take these preparatory steps:
* Gather all the tools you will need in one place.
* Protect surfaces such as baseboards, woodwork and windows by taping off with a good quality painter's tape.
* Completely cover carpets with a good quality drop cloth that will resist punctures and rips.
* Some jobs require a primer before putting the final color on the wall. Primer preps the surface and helps the final coat adhere better.
Pick the right paint
The quality of the paint you choose will directly affect how good the job looks when you're done. For a good quality finish it is important to select quality paint, which adheres better, gives a uniform finish and will last longer. Also, look at the latest color trends and select a color that will meet your style.
Before you buy, research the brands available at your local home improvement store. Check out consumer review websites, giving particular attention to those that feature reviews from homeowners who've actually used the products. These independent, real-life reviewers can offer valuable insight into how well a paint might work.
Use the right tools
Many professionals use paint sprayers to achieve smooth, fast results. Now homeowners can achieve professional results. Two new sprayers, the Flexio 570 and Flexio 590 from Wagner, are designed to help DIYers achieve the same speed and good looks as the professionals do. The sprayers allow you to cover an 8-by-10-foot surface in just two to six minutes, and they can be used inside the house or outside on decks, fences, sheds or any other surface you need to paint quickly and easily.
Because both sprayers feature nozzles that allow you to precisely adjust the flow of paint, overspray is minimal - meaning that since you've already prepped by taping and draping, you can use the sprayer indoors with confidence that you won't get overspray on areas where you don't want paint. Another bonus that makes these sprayers great for indoor use - they're quieter than traditional sprayers, making about as much noise as a hair dryer. Finally, unlike other sprayers, the Flexio models don't require you to thin the paint with water; thinning can hinder the performance of even the best quality paint. To learn more, log on to www.wagnerspraytech.com.
Pay attention to the details
Details such as painting baseboards, woodwork and ceilings are the crowning touch on any paint job. Professionals know it's these finishing touches that pull together the look of a room.
With the right tools and professional approach, you can save money by doing your own painting - and enjoy the pride and satisfaction of a job well done.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
So, what's cool about gardening?
From growing vegetables in the front yard to creating an edible wall of green on the balcony, gardening is not limited to just a half-acre plot in the country anymore. Now, gardeners use any space available for a garden, no matter how urban or small. The key is adding individuality or personality to the garden in the form of handmade sculptures, water features, bird feeders or even the variety of unique heirloom plants that are used. Sustainability is also very important.Plants that serve a dual purpose - like low-growing thyme used as a ground cover in a small area or a cucumber plant that has been trained to grow up a trellis as a green screen - are excellent examples of how many gardeners have transformed traditional ideas of gardening. Looking at gardening and plants in new ways can lead to some great discoveries - and may even increase the productivity of a green space.
How can you join in the gardening movement? Here are some helpful tips to get started.
Even if you only have a window, and no outdoor space, you can have a garden. An herb garden, like the Miracle-Gro Culinary Herb Kit, can be grown on a window ledge in the kitchen. No ledge? No problem. Just hang a hook from the ceiling and grow your plants in a hanging basket. For those with little outdoor space, try container gardening on the patio or use an outside fence or railing to grow a vertical garden. Simply hang pots on hooks or create your own "living wall" using chicken wire, coconut fiber lining and a quality potting mix. Then, plant trailing produce or flowers and watch your wall grow. If you have a sunny space in the yard, create a small garden using the new Miracle-Gro Ultimate Raised Garden Bed. This easy-to-use kit snaps together and can easily be customized to fit in nearly any space. Simply add nutrient-enriched soil, like Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro or Potting Mix, and plant the garden on a patio, deck, rooftop or balcony.
Produce plants are for vegetable gardens and landscaping plants are for the front yard ... right? Not necessarily. The great thing about gardening is that the only necessary rules are the ones Mother Nature created: plants need sunlight, water, food and soil with good drainage. Other than that, do not be afraid to mix it up. Plant vegetables in the front yard, use strawberries in a hanging basket or plant an herb for groundcover along a path. Tomatoes will grow beautifully next to marigolds and sage will add a nice contrast when grown in a container alongside yellow daisies. Grow what you like that will thrive in your climate, even if it is not what your neighbors are growing.
Stay true to yourself:
If your favorite color is blue, then plant blue flowers. If you love salsa, then plant a "salsa garden" by using tomatoes, cilantro, onions and jalapenos. Add your own touch and make it personal. The materials used can represent your style and add interest in the garden as effectively as what is planted. With adequate drainage, even an old toolbox can come to life with some potting soil and impatiens. Collect stones and small objects with kids to make garden sculptures or bird feeders that the whole family can enjoy. Green plastic bottle caps can be turned into ornamental "trees" and grandma's cracked tea cup could become a bird feeder with a little imagination. If you have extra produce, make sure to share it. Friends, neighbors, family and even many local food pantries will take donations of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Although gardening can be seen as a science, it should also be looked as an art. Gardeners should feel free to experiment and express themselves through their gardens. Let your green space reflect your home, your interests and your individuality. Make it a tradition to try at least one new thing every year and you may be surprised how much you learn along the way.
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- ▼ August (8)