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5 fabulous deck fix-ups

(BPT) - Are you tired of having a deck you’re no longer proud to show off? You’re not alone. According to the 2017 U.S. Houzz Landscape Trends Study, one of the top reasons motivating homeowners to tackle outdoor projects like deck upgrades is their open-air space is past its prime.

If you’re like surveyed respondents and ready to return your fixer-upper to its former glory, the process may seem daunting. Fortunately, a little inspiration is all you need to transform your deck into a backyard beauty. With these fabulous fix-ups, your deck will be re-energized in no time.

1. Refresh your color palette

One of the easiest ways to transform a ho-hum deck into a stylish oasis is an updated color palette. Refreshing the look of outdoor accessories and furnishings is a simple and cost-effective solution. MidwestLiving.com says, “Focusing on one or two colors adds a unifying feel to your décor. Punchy blue and green furnishings brighten the deck while not distracting from the view.” You can even swap out fabrics, accent pillows and cushions as the seasons change to keep your outdoor room looking fresh all year long.

If you’re increasing the size of your deck, consider choosing decking in a color that complements your home. It will help ease the visual transition from indoors to out and create a beautiful base for planters and deck furnishings. If you are looking to make a statement, consider varying the color of deck boards, inserting feature strips or using contrasting railings to frame your outdoor room.

2. Landscape your deck-escape

To create a deck-escape that draws guests in, integrate landscaping into your design. Start small by lining your deck with planters, curving flowerbeds and grasses. A punchy mix of seasonal annuals and perennials will help encourage visitors to explore your outdoor living space. Or, go a step further and use today’s versatile, moisture-resistant composite decking products to turn your deck into an extension of your garden. With proper installation, the boards can easily curve around trees or flower beds to blend your deck into its natural surroundings.

3. Provide pretty privacy

There’s no reason to give up style and comfort on your deck just because you want privacy, especially if your neighbors are within close quarters. Trellises, lattices and vertical gardens can screen an exposed view and freshen up your outdoor room. Nature can also act as a beautiful barrier. Slender evergreens like arborvitae can establish a relaxed sense of privacy and create a soft, lush backdrop. You can even add different shade-providing trees near your deck, creating a secluded space with a more intimate feel.

4. Build a beautiful addition

If your outdoor room is limiting the number of guests you can entertain, a new deck addition may be just the right fix. You’ll gain extra square feet and valuable space for themed outdoor areas. Try bumping your deck out on one side to make a basic square deck more interesting and gain room for an al fresco dining area or a spa-themed deck nook with a hot tub. With the right decking materials, you can even add a meandering garden path deck or curved getaway encircling a water feature.

“Composite decking with a plastic and wood blend throughout the board like ChoiceDek can be ripped, routed and bent to fit nearly any deck design,” says Randy Gottlieb, president of A.E.R.T. “The boards are easier to curve than capped composites and traditional wood planks. They give homeowners a lot more design flexibility at an affordable price point.”

5. Create on-deck destinations

To give your outdoor room a lasting edge, create on-deck destination areas that go beyond eating and socializing. Love gardening? Build a vertical garden or use extra deck boards to create planter boxes that allow you to pass on your “green thumb” to your children. If you’re a DIYer, use complementary decking to create a corn hole set for birthday parties and gatherings. With a spark of inspiration, the possibilities for reinventing your outdoor space are virtually endless.



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How to Tackle a Dust-Free Renovation

(BPT) - Kristen Johnson* loved her home, her family and their active lifestyle. She’d never want to change a thing — except for her foyer and adjoining dining room. When she and her husband first moved into their home, they had intended to refinish the hardwood floors in those areas in a darker stain to better fit their style, but life got in the way. Twelve years, two boys and countless birthday parties, pets and indoor soccer games later, their floors were covered in scuffs, scratches and stains, and some of their walls needed repair. To complicate matters even further, they had a wraparound staircase with a wood-tone banister that would also need to be refinished if they decided to change their floor.

With their big family reunion and a house full of people just weeks away, Johnson and her husband knew it was time to make a change. However, they couldn’t afford to disrupt their busy schedules, and they didn’t want to deal with the hassle of renovation dust getting all over their ceiling fans, cupboards or worse — especially with their son’s dust allergies. They knew if they decided to take on this renovation project, they’d need it finished quickly, and they’d need the entire project to be as dust-free as possible.

What’s the big deal about renovation dust? Beyond creating a huge mess, renovation dust is also a health concern. As any homeowner who has embarked on an interior renovation project knows, the resultant dust gets everywhere — even inside closed cabinets and in adjacent rooms. However, as problematic as the mess is, dust-related health hazards are of even greater concern, particularly to allergy sufferers. Traditional methods of mitigating dust usually involve extensive prep work, like hanging plastic sheeting and taping off doors, or doing a thorough post-renovation top-to-bottom cleaning. Both options are extremely time-consuming.

Is there a better way to handle renovation dust? There is a better way to handle renovation dust: by collecting it right at the source like the pros do. Professional contractors are used to dealing with renovation dust, and given the volume of work they do, they create dust far more frequently and in much greater volumes than the average homeowner or DIYer. Rather than spend valuable time on prep work or post-project cleanup or suffer through the use of uncomfortable dust masks, they use dust collection tools that capture and contain dust immediately as it’s created, before it can become a mess or airborne health hazard.

How Johnson tackled her dust-free renovation. Because of their tight timeline, Johnson and her husband decided to take on some of their renovation themselves using supplies purchased at their local hardware store, but they let the professionals handle the tricky floor/banister redo.

To repair their drywall, they patched the damaged areas using joint compound and a drywall sander, which together cost about $130. To make the sanding process dust-free, they added a Dust Deputy, which they connected directly to the drywall sander and to their wet/dry vacuum. They found that this combination captured virtually all the dust generated by the sanding. They noticed no dust in the air, and the Dust Deputy prevented the fine drywall dust from clogging their vacuum filter.

Even though they had the flooring contractor tackle the floor and banister, they saved a few dollars by removing the varnish from the banister and other hard-to-reach areas themselves. To do this, they applied a gel varnish remover using a brush (together about $20), then scraped the wet varnish residue using a Viper Scraper attached to their Dust Deputy and wet/dry vacuum. The scraper captured the residue, and the Dust Deputy contained it for disposal, without it ever reaching, or damaging, their vacuum.

Their big splurge was on the floor refinishing, which they left to the pros to tackle (about $2,500). To keep that process dust-free, they selected a dust-free contractor in their area who used a cyclonic Oneida Vortex dust collection system with HEPA filtration. In the end, they finished the project virtually dust-free and just in time for their family reunion, and they were very pleased with the results!

*Kristen’s last name has been changed for privacy.



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Is your family expanding? Protect what matters...

(BPT) - You may have chosen the perfect color palette and all of your nursery furniture, but have you thought about some key safety checks?

“The arrival of a baby means you have to take a look at your home in a whole new light,” said Tarsila Wey, marketing director for First Alert, the most trusted brand in home safety. “Take the time now to help ensure your home is safe and secure.”

First Alert has outlined some crucial tasks to accomplish before the little one makes his or her appearance:

Maintain crib safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of children’s deaths under the age of one are caused by suffocation. Make sure that, when prepping the nursery, the crib meets safety standards, and avoid loose bedding or soft toys in the crib. After the baby arrives, the infant should sleep alone and be placed on his or her back on a firm surface.

Check your smoke alarms

Smoke alarms help protect your family, but in order to do so the alarms need to be present — and working. Install a working smoke alarm in the nursery and ensure that the rest of the home is properly equipped. The National Fire Protection Association recommends smoke alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.

Residential smoke alarms need to be replaced at least every 10 years. To find out whether it’s time to replace the smoke alarms in your home, simply look on the back of the alarms where the date of manufacture is marked. The smoke alarm should be replaced 10 years from that date (not the date of purchase or installation).

Protect from the “Silent Killer”

Often dubbed “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless and odorless gas that is impossible to detect without an alarm. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, CO poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the United States and is responsible for an average of 450 deaths each year. Standard CO alarms are designed to alert people to high levels of CO (30-70 parts per million), which can be fatal.

However, lower levels of CO have also been proven to be harmful to infants. Fully protect your newborn from both high and low levels of CO with the Onelink by First Alert Environment Monitor, which provides protection for those most vulnerable to CO levels as low as 9 parts per million, and peace of mind for parents. Compatible with Apple HomeKit and Alexa Skills, it also monitors temperature and humidity, and notifies users of changing conditions.

Update the escape plan

It is important to plan and practice an escape plan for your home in the event of a fire. According to an NFPA survey, only one of every three American households has actually developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. This is even more important with the addition of a new member to your family. As a family, walk through the home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Identify two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. For the second story, place escape ladders near windows, and practice setting it up so you’ll be able to use it correctly and quickly in an emergency. Make sure everyone understands the plan, with special attention to carrying the newborn. Choose an outside meeting place that is a safe distance from your home, and make sure to practice your escape plan twice a year — and before the baby comes.

Create an emergency call list

Even though everything we need is on our smartphones these days, when a babysitter or nanny is with your infant, they might not be as prepared in case of an emergency — and you might not be either! Having an emergency contact list readily available can potentially save time and make everything go a little more smoothly when there is a crisis. Make sure the list includes family numbers, poison control, non-emergency numbers for police and fire departments, and neighbors’ phone numbers.

To learn more about fire and carbon monoxide safety and the Onelink Environment Monitor, visit FirstAlert.com or FirstAlert.com/Onelink.



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5 smart technology upgrades to make the...

(BPT) - Smart technology has found a place in virtually every room in the home, even the one where we take care of our most low-tech needs. In fact, thanks to innovations like sensor-operated, self-cleaning toilets, moisture-sensing ventilation fans and digital shower controls, it’s possible to turn an ordinary bathroom into the brainiest room in the house.

If you’re ready to upgrade your bathroom with the latest smart technology, here are five elements to put at the top of your must-have list:

1. Smarter shower

From showerheads with light and sound, to digital temperature and water pressure controls that you can set from your smartphone, an array of high-tech features is available to elevate the simple act of getting clean to the level of a luxurious, high-tech experience.

You can find something for every preference. Love to shower at night? Install a showerhead that features its own lighting. Dislike fiddling with the controls every morning to get just the right temperature? Opt for digital temperature controls that allow for multiple pre-settings for individual users. Focused on conservation? Try a showerhead that senses what you’re doing — washing your hair, shaving your legs — and automatically adjusts the water flow accordingly.

2. Intelligent toilet

A toilet that cleans itself is a dream come true for many people, but TOTO boosts the intelligence of its NEOREST AC wall-mount toilet even higher. The intelligent toilet features a WASHLET personal cleansing system that uses warm, aerated water for comfort, a warm air dryer and a heated seat. An automatic opening and closing function and auto-flush ensure you never have to touch the toilet.

The toilet keeps itself (and the environment in your bathroom) clean with a flushing system that uses an environmentally friendly combination of gravity and high-speed water jets to spin away waste, while an in-bowl catalytic deodorizer helps keep the air fresh. The bowl itself is glazed with titanium dioxide and zirconium, which when activated by the toilet’s integrated UV light, creates molecular reactions that help keep the bowl free from visible and invisible waste.

Not only will you not need harsh detergents to clean the toilet, it’s is also WaterSense labelled, and uses just 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf) for solid waste and 0.9 gpf for liquid. Visit www.totousa.com to learn more.

3. Versatile ventilation

Bathroom ventilation fans serve practical and cosmetic purposes. Ventilation removes moisture and humidity that could promote the growth of mold and mildew, and can help exhaust unpleasant odors. Of course, not everyone puts ventilation to its optimum use, and that’s where a new style of bathroom fan comes in.

Ventilation fans that sense humidity — such as after someone has taken a long, hot shower — turn on automatically to help remove excess moisture from the room. Some fans can communicate wirelessly with wall switches or with an app that allows you to control the fan from your smartphone.

4. Multi-tasking mirror

Mirrors and medicine cabinets aren’t just for reflection anymore. Now you can kit out your smart bathroom with mirrors that feature built-in TVs and can communicate with your home’s security cameras, and medicine cabinets with defogging features that can let you get to your post-shower shave faster.

Refrigerated medicine cabinets are perfect for preserving delicate drugs and cosmetics, and you can find both mirrors and medicine cabinets with built-in USB ports for charging your devices.

5. Advanced accessories

Of course accessories can be additions that put any bathroom over the top, and you never have to settle for ordinary accessories in your smarter bathroom. Enhance the usability and convenience of your bathroom with items like:

* A small robot that mops floor tiles automatically.

* A Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush that communicates with your smartphone to monitor how well you’ve brushed.

* A smart scale that helps you track your weight and health progress.

* Touch-free soap dispensers.

* A towel rack that uses hot air and ultraviolet light to dry towels and keep them fresh longer.

By upgrading to tech-savvy versions of everyday bathroom elements like toilets, faucets and showers, it’s possible to make your bathroom not only one of the most-used rooms in the house, but the smartest as well.



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Focus on a single element to get the feel of a...

(BPT) - Dreaming of a renovation but lacking the time and resources for a full upgrade? You might be able to refresh your space by focusing your efforts on individual elements that have the most impact.

This growing interior design trend uses a thoughtful approach to renovation by analyzing what should be replaced to achieve the desired aesthetic. At the heart of this movement is the idea that a strong, singular update can change a room dramatically.

That means you can revamp your favorite rooms without investing in a complete remodel. For example, a new chandelier in the entryway might be the statement piece you need to welcome guests in style. Or, rather than ripping out the dining room, explore how a new dining set with table and chairs can change the entire personality of the space.

When investing in singular pieces to enhance a room, custom features reign supreme. The Laura Kirar KALLISTA collection from Kohler is a great example. Kirar, an internationally renowned designer, marries the beauty of natural elements with the pureness of line and symmetry in the collection's bath vanity, mirror and sconces.

Have you grown weary of your tired bathroom design? Mixing and matching various materials lets you make a personal statement in any room. With the KALLISTA Paletta line you can customize the look by choosing from five different finish combinations. For example, nickel and antique silver blend beautifully together by evoking a stylish design element of warm and cool tones that creates personality and character within the room.

Not only do the mixed finishes add visual impact, but when you pair Paletta brassware with a marble top console table, you create a stunning effect that immediately captures attention no matter how big or small the space. This singular update can revamp a dated master bath or enhance a bland powder room — no massive remodel necessary.

Light is another element that can redefine a space, yet it's often overlooked when approaching a room refresh. Remember to look at lighting from different perspectives. Analyze natural lighting against installed ambient, task and accent lighting. Note fixtures and consider the impact of updating sconces and shades that are no longer en vogue. It might be just what's needed in the various spaces throughout your home.

When you take a step back and take stock of your surroundings, do so with a fresh set of eyes and see the possibilities. A complete update may not be necessary. Do your research, focus on singular elements with the most impact, and invest in luxurious features that stand the test of time. With this approach, you can change any room's setting beautifully without committing to an entire renovation.



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Must-have elements for building a sustainable...

(BPT) - When someone builds a home for you, you have the opportunity to make it as sustainable, eco-friendly and energy-efficient as possible. Not only are sustainable homes more cost-effective over the long term, they have a smaller environmental impact, and can be more appealing to homebuyers when you’re ready to sell and move.

In fact, more than half of Realtors report consumers are interested in sustainability, according to the National Association of Realtors’ REALTORS and Sustainability report. What’s more, 70 percent say a home’s efficient use of energy is important to potential buyers.

If you’re having a home built for you, it’s the perfect time to think about sustainability and energy efficiency. The experts at Coleman(R) heating and cooling offer some points to consider as you’re planning your sustainable home:

* Choose a builder who specializes in sustainable homes. While virtually all home builders today will offer eco-friendly or energy-efficient features, sustainable home builders take a whole-house approach. Their plans should include more than just high-efficiency windows and appliances, and lots of insulation. Sustainability planning should also incorporate elements like the position of the home on its lot, number and position of windows in the home, and shade and ventilation, among other considerations.

* Heating and cooling typically represent the largest portion of a home’s energy consumption. When choosing an HVAC system for your sustainable home, choose an option like Coleman(R) Echelon(TM) Variable Capacity Residential Systems, which use leading-edge technology to tune the system’s temperature settings and performance for optimum function give exterior conditions. The systems also self-monitor to ensure they operate at the highest level of efficiency while providing maximum heating and cooling comfort. Visit www.colemanac.com/comfort to learn more.

* The orientation of your home can enhance heating and cooling efficiency. For example, if you live in a colder region, placing your home with the maximum number of windows facing south can allow natural light to help heat your home in the winter. If you live in a warm climate, minimizing the number of windows on the west side of the home and planting shade trees on that side can help with cooling. Plant a tree that loses its leaves in the winter, and you can allow light to reach that side of the house when the weather is colder.

* The more compact a home is, the more energy efficient it will be. You don’t have to build a tiny home to achieve a more efficient design. A two-story home can be more compact and energy efficient than a sprawling single-story design.

* Insulation and air sealing can greatly improve a home’s energy efficiency. Talk to your builder about the best kind of insulation for your needs, and learn about R value and how it affects the efficiency of insulation. Discuss how the builder seals potential air leaks in the home, paying close attention to windows, doors and spots where pipes or wires enter the home.

* Finally, a truly sustainable home is one that makes maximum use of recycled and recyclable materials. Talk to your builder about the construction materials they will use. Are they sustainably sourced? Will they be able to be recycled someday down the road when they are no longer usable in your home?

Demand for sustainable homes is likely to continue growing, according to the NAR report. Choosing to build your new home with sustainable materials, systems and practices can ensure you reap the rewards of a more environmentally friendly home now and in the future.



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Tricks to customize a kitchen on a budget

(BPT) - Who wouldn’t want a kitchen customized to meet their specific tastes and needs? A complete kitchen renovation can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you don’t have to spend a bundle to achieve a custom effect. A few modest investments can help make your kitchen work well and look great.

Here are ways to affordably customize your kitchen:

Get creative with cabinets

Completely replacing cabinets can be costly, but it’s possible to create a custom look with the cabinets you already have. Customization tricks to try:

* Paint cabinets a trendy color, like dark blue. Or, paint one set of cabinets, such as those under an island, a different color.

* Remove the doors from one cupboard to create an open effect where you can display prized showpieces. Further accent the look by painting the back of the cupboard a contrasting color.

* Replace dated or dull hardware with drawer pulls and knobs that speak to your personal design tastes. For example, if you love a vintage look, replace metal hardware with glass or ceramic knobs.

Freshen up the faucet

Cabinet hardware isn’t the only “jewelry” in the kitchen. The faucet can also be a design focal point that looks as good as it works. If yours is old, basic or just not to your taste, replacing the kitchen faucet with a newer model that speaks to your style can help affordably reinvent the entire room. Plus, a new faucet can provide functions and features that will make your kitchen more usable.

For example, the Tournant faucet by Kohler combines traditional design with modern industrial elements, so it works well with a variety of kitchen design themes. A three-function, pull-down spray head lets you put the water exactly where you need it, while a special BerrySoft setting is gentle enough for washing fruits and vegetables.

If a more vintage look appeals to you, Kohler has recently added a bridge model faucet to its popular Artifacts line. Reminiscent of turn-of-the-century kitchen and bar faucets, the deck-mounted bridge faucet works with either lever or six-prong handles for temperature controls, and features a dual-function sidespray. Visit www.us.kohler.com to learn more.

Enliven your lighting

Good light is essential for a kitchen to function well, but it’s common for kitchens to have just one overhead light and maybe a pendant or two over a breakfast bar. Replacing dated fixtures with newer ones that suit your personal style is easy, but what can you do if you want more light without the expense of paying someone to install additional wiring?

* Replace a standard ceiling light with track lights. They require no additional wiring and you can position lights along the track to put illumination where you want it.

* Install under-cabinet lights that can easily plug into an existing counter-level electrical outlet.

* Place a swing-arm task lamp over work areas, so you can aim light where you need it most while working. The lamp can easily plug into a wall outlet.

Accentuate accessories

Accessories are the finishing touch of personalization in any room, including the kitchen. However, since the kitchen needs to be high-functioning, look for ways to accessorize that also enhance your kitchen’s ability to work for you.

* Every kitchen has small appliances that get regular use, such as toasters, food processors, blenders, etc. If your toaster sits out on the counter, why not turn it into part of the design theme by selecting an appliance in a bright color to match your decor?

* A matching set of potholders or dish towels hung from a hook beneath a cabinet or on the side of a cupboard not only puts a much-needed item close at hand, they can add decorative flare.

* Place a bright, cheerful area rug in front of the sink or prep area. The rug will not only perk up the space, it helps cushion your joints while you stand in one spot working.

* A pot rack above an island provides much-needed storage space for large pots and pans, while adding a homey touch to the kitchen.

Customizing a kitchen doesn’t have to be costly or require you to sacrifice any functionality. With a few smart updates, you can cost-effectively create the personalized kitchen of your dreams.



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Your backyard canvas: 3 ways to create an...

(BPT) - It’s amazing to contemplate that all the famous paintings in history — from da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to van Gogh’s Starry Night — are essentially formed from three primary colors. Artists skillfully combine red, yellow and blue to formulate an infinite range of colors to bring their paintings to life.

Likewise, when creating your own outdoor living space, you can combine three basic elements — decking, railing and lighting — in nearly endless ways to "paint" a personal masterpiece of fun and relaxation.

1. Get decked out with modern decking

For decades, backyard decks mainly have been rectangles. This is largely because of the rectangular shape of traditional wood deck boards. With the advent of modern materials, it is now easier to fashion decks of virtually any shape — from curved sections following the contours of a sloping yard to round decks. Or, let your imagination run wild and create a specialty shaped deck of something you love, like a giant guitar or stacked leaves.

“Today’s decking options offer exceptional design flexibility,” says Brent Gwatney, senior vice president of MoistureShield Decking. “Composites in particular are more easily bent into creative shapes than wood decking, and can be ripped and routed to form virtually any design you can think of.” DIYers and deck builders can even install moisture-resistant boards such as MoistureShield Vantage or Infuse decking on the ground, in the ground or under water for more design possibilities, notes Gwatney.

2. Rail against the ordinary

Many decks are required by law to have safety railings. But, with some creativity, the railing can enhance your deck’s look even as it prevents falls. With the variety of products now available, the railing can be a visual complement to your home and deck. For example, if you have a cabin, you could install hewn timber posts and railings for a rustic appeal. For a waterfront home, a nautical-themed railing system of posts and ropes could do the trick. Or, if you have a modern home and prefer simple visual lines, cable-and-wire railings or glass panels could be your style.

For a distinctive look for your deck, consider mixing colors and materials, like combining white aluminum railing and balusters with rich brown composite posts to create a dramatic look. Or, to add a sophisticated mix of texture and color, you can install on the top of a black or white railing a composite board that complements the decking color.

3. Light up the night

A third element to add to your outdoor living design palette is deck lighting. With the right lighting, you can extend your hours outside and keep your deck as charming in the nighttime as it is during the day.

From subtle post lights that cast a magical evening glow to understated recessed lights and rail strip lights that help guide guests’ steps, today’s deck lighting choices are both functional and affordable. And, with the emergence of energy-efficient LEDs, you can use them liberally with little effect on your monthly electricity bill. Some decking manufacturers like MoistureShield offer deck lights specifically designed to integrate with their decking and railing.



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3 steps to a more secure home

(BPT) - More than 75 percent of Americans are concerned about the security of their home, yet few think about door hardware when it comes to added protection.

In fact, out of those who have ever purchased a new lockset or deadbolt, only 19 percent have done so with the safety of their home in mind, according to a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA). However, when it comes to protecting your home, the right lockset or deadbolt can provide the best first line of defense.

When purchasing new locks, it isn’t simply “one size fits all.” Choosing the right lock or deadbolt for your specific needs can sometimes seem overwhelming. Two in five Americans polled don’t even know what factors to look for when purchasing one.

While many of today’s locks deliver improved security for your home, be sure to follow these easy steps to ensure you’re properly selecting and installing the product that best suits your needs.

1. Look for the BHMA Certified Secure Home label.

The hardware industry has strict standards when it comes to the quality of locks and deadbolts, and BHMA is the only organization accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop and maintain these standards. Each lock or deadbolt that features the BHMA Certified Secure Home label on its packaging has been tested to these stringent standards — the highest performance standards for residential hardware. The label also indicates that the product has been certified in three different areas: security, durability and finish. Products without the Secure Home label are not assured to have been tested and certified by a third-party laboratory.

2. Check the ratings combination.

Once a lock or deadbolt is tested to ANSI/BHMA standards for security, durability and finish, it is given a rating of Good (C), Better (B) or Best (A) in each area based on its performance during testing. The rating system is defined by progressive levels of performance requirements. Be sure to select the lock or deadbolt that is rated highly in the area(s) most important to you. For example, when looking for a new interior lock, you may not require the same rating for security or finish as you would for a lock being installed on your front door.

3. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

After purchasing the lock(s) best suited for your home needs, consult the installation instructions provided by the manufacturer for proper application. A BHMA Certified lock — or any lock, for that matter cannot function to its expectations if it isn’t installed correctly.

The added protection that locks and deadbolts can provide you and your family is not something to be overlooked. By fitting your doors — both interior and exterior — with certified hardware, using proper installation techniques and being diligent about using your locks when at home or away, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of unwanted company.

To learn more about BHMA Certified locksets and deadbolts, or the BHMA Certified Secure Home label, watch this short video or visit www.securehome.org.



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5 ways to create big luxury in a small master...

(BPT) - If you’re thinking about remodeling your small bathroom, you may know that studies show updating a bathroom of any size can increase the value of a home. However, there’s a statistic from a Houzz survey you might not know: 75 percent of people who renovate a master bathroom don’t make it bigger.

Enlarging a small master bathroom is often impractical; you may need to take space from another room, or extend an exterior wall to accomplish an expansion. Both options have disadvantages and costs. The truth is, you don’t need to move walls or spend like a home improvement show host in order to create big luxury in a small master bathroom.

Here are five ways to make a small bathroom space feel lavish and spa-like:

1. Rethink the shower stall versus tub debate.

Many large luxury bathrooms have a separate shower and soaking tub. In a small bathroom, which may be used by multiple members and generations of a household, creating an upscale feeling by separating the tub from the shower might not be a realistic option. Instead, look for ways to boost the appeal of your tub/shower space, perhaps by choosing a visually appealing, bright-white model for an updated, yet classic, style.

For example, Americast bathtubs from American Standard combine unmatched strength and durability with elegant, traditional design lines that blend perfectly with stylish bathroom decor. Patented three-layer Americast construction gives the tubs a porcelain enamel finish, sound-dampening qualities and superior resistance to damage, all in a lightweight material that makes for easy installation.

2. Step up your shower game.

The shower isn’t just where you get clean; it’s also a morning wake-up tool or end-of-day relaxation therapy treatment. Deluxe showers often feature multiple jets, rainfall showerheads and hand showers. Replacing an ordinary showerhead with a shower system is a cost-effective and easy way to add a luxurious experience to the shower.

Options like the GROHE Retro-Fit Shower System offer a drenching rain showerhead, along with an integrated hand shower for ultimate convenience. Since the main showerhead is mounted on a movable arm, you can position the spray overhead (to function as a rainfall shower) or at an angle for additional comfort, all with the choice of spray patterns. Even better, the system works with existing plumbing, eliminating any need to open the wall to change piping. For added indulgence, consider a shower system with an elegant brushed nickel finish to elevate the look of your overall shower and bathroom decor.

3. Splurge on luxury materials.

Yes, materials like travertine tile or granite countertops can be costly, but when you’re renovating a small bathroom, you need less of those materials. Adding marble tile above a small tub/shower area will cost far less than outfitting a large walk-in shower. Replacing a modestly sized vanity with a new cabinet and granite countertop won’t be nearly as expensive as redoing a large, double-sink vanity.

When you have less real estate to refurbish, high-end materials can be a cost-effective choice. For a reasonable price, you can use quality materials to significantly boost the upscale feeling of your small bathroom.

4. Add pizzazz to functional elements.

You can increase a small bathroom’s feeling of extravagance by adding some flare to functional items like faucets, mirrors and cabinet hardware. For a modest investment, you can turn everyday, often-overlooked elements into items that underscore the overall beauty of the room.

For example, replacing an ordinary or outdated faucet with a modern-style option from the Colony PRO bath collection is an affordable way to improve aesthetics and functionality. Sleek styling translates well into modern bathroom design. Plus, single- or double-handle design means that faucets are user-friendly for children and adults of all ages and mobility levels.

Replacing a typical bathroom medicine cabinet or mirror with a luxury model is another way to elevate a small bathroom to premium status. Today's medicine cabinets come with an array of leading-edge features, such as defogging functions, built-in electrical outlets, night lights, USB outlets, interior lights and set-in magnifying mirrors.

5. Lighten up the space.

Finally, adding more natural light into a small master bathroom can make the space seem larger and more appealing. If your small bathroom already has a window, forgo blinds or shades in favor of easy-to-apply privacy film. Readily available in home improvement stores or online, in a breadth of simple or fancy patterns, this opaque film allows light to enter the room while providing the necessary privacy.

If your budget allows, consider adding a skylight for natural lighting and passive ventilation. Even if your small master bathroom is on the ground floor, it may be possible to use a tube skylight to bring more natural light into the space.

Achieving ultimate comfort and luxury in your small-space bathroom is at your fingertips, easily and affordably.



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Tips to turn the kitchen sink into a beautiful,...

(BPT) - When you’re updating a kitchen, it’s time to ignore that old adage “everything but the kitchen sink.” Many homeowners don’t think about replacing their kitchen sink unless it’s broken, ancient or they’re upgrading countertops. However, the sink has the potential to be the perfect focal point of beauty and functionality in any kitchen.

Whether you’re undertaking a full kitchen renovation, or simply looking for a cost-effective way to freshen an existing room, replacing the sink offers many benefits.

Reasons to replace

Swapping out an old kitchen sink with a new one allows you to:

* Change a key style element in the kitchen — The style of sink should underscore the overall design theme of the kitchen. If you have a white porcelain apron sink in a modern kitchen, a stainless steel sink like the Ludington line from Sterling might better match your decor.

* Add features and functions — Do you always run out of working room in your single-bowl sink? Replacing it with a dual-bowl unit can increase your work area, plus give you the opportunity to add a garbage disposal on one side. When you replace your sink, it’s also natural to replace the faucet, allowing you to choose one that better meets your needs, such as a pull-down or touch-free unit.

* Improve performance — Perhaps the existing sink is too shallow to comfortably allow for filling large cook pots. Or, overmount installation makes it difficult to keep the sink and surrounding countertop as clean as you would like. Replacing an underperforming sink with a new one allows you to increase sink depth and create an easier environment for cleaning.

Top kitchen sink trends

Some sink styles are timeless, like stainless steel. Still, trends constantly emerge in sink design and in how homeowners incorporate sinks into their kitchens. If you’re considering replacing your kitchen sink, here are some trends to keep in mind:

* Two sinks can be better than one — Houzz reports a growing number of builders are including two kitchen sinks in new homes. The design improves workflow, allowing one sink to work for food prep and the second for cleanup. A typical arrangement is to have one sink in a kitchen island and a second in the wall-hugging countertop area.

* Stainless steel still has staying power — Stainless is the most popular sink material, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). In terms of durability, it’s difficult to beat stainless steel. What’s more, the finish blends well with virtually any kitchen design theme, especially if you also have stainless steel appliances. Options like Sterling’s Ludington series offer deep basins, single- or double-basin styles, undermount installation, and SilentShield sound-absorbing technology. Visit www.sterlingplumbing.com to learn more.

* Integrated accessories mean the sink has it all — Of course, accessories can make an already great sink even better, and the NKBA reports demand is growing for sinks with integrated accessories. In addition to built-in garbage disposals, homeowners want sinks with soap dispensers, water filters and hot water dispensers, the organization says.

* Subtle or stunning — Sinks attach to countertops in different ways. Drop-in or self-rimming sinks fit into a hole cut in the countertop and rest there courtesy of a lip — or rim — that sits on top of the counter material. Undermount sinks only work with solid surface countertops such as granite, marble or quartz, and attach to the underside of the countertop. Undermount design allows the countertops to shine, and also makes it easier to keep the countertop area around the sink cleaner. Sinks with apron-front designs calls attention to the sink and showcases the beauty of the stainless steel.

Every kitchen needs at least one sink; after all, it’s a critical point in the work triangle. Upgrading a kitchen sink can be a simple, cost-effective and visually appealing way to help transform the entire room.



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Tips to prepare your budget before buying a home

(BPT) - It’s virtually impossible to know what size home you can afford if you aren’t fully aware of how much money you are earning and how much you are spending each month.

Start with your income: How much do you bring home after taxes and retirement plan contributions?

Next, look at your expenses: What are your necessary expenses? How much are you paying each month toward your debt? What additional expenses do you have that wouldn’t be deemed “necessary?” How much money do you have left (if any)?

This will help you see how much breathing room is in your current budget, what expenses might be on the chopping block and the space you have for additional home and mortgage expenses when buying a home.

Consider the potential costs of being a homeowner

While rent payments are generally straightforward and predictable, the same can’t always be said for homeownership costs. Your situation can vary depending on a variety of factors, but here are a few things you might need to prepare your budget for.

Property taxes: The amount you pay will depend on the area in which you are purchasing a home. This amount can be subject to annual adjustment by the municipality or local taxing authority.

Homeowners insurance: Lenders will require you to provide proof of coverage before closing. The amount you pay will depend on your level of coverage, your property and the location. Insurance costs can increase from time to time.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) or mortgage insurance premiums (MIP): If your down payment is less than 20 percent on a conventional mortgage, your lender will require you to carry private mortgage insurance. If you have an FHA loan, you’ll be required to pay mortgage insurance premiums throughout the life of the loan.

Home ownership assistance: A company like Unison Home Ownership Investors can strengthen your down payment overnight and eliminate the need for private mortgage insurance (see their Unison HomeBuyer program). Using this method will typically save you between 15 and 20 percent per month on your mortgage payment, but you could owe a portion of the appreciation on the home when you sell.

Homeowners association fees: Fortunately, not all homes have a homeowners association to pay into. Purchasing a home with HOA-covered amenities could cost, on average, an additional $200-$400 per month.

Maintenance fees: Ah, the pitfalls of being a homeowner. The costs that would normally fall to a landlord, like fixing broken plumbing or a heater on the fritz, will now fall on your shoulders. Some suggest saving one percent of your home’s value annually for maintenance.

Utility costs: Unless your rent has included the cost of utilities, this is probably already an expense you’re used to. However, if you’re moving into a bigger home with less energy efficient appliances, you should be prepared to see an uptick.

Start living like a homeowner

If you want to avoid experiencing sticker shock after your home purchase is complete, start living like a homeowner now.

Consider your current rental or home-ownership costs and compare them to the costs for a home in your target price point. Can your current budget handle the difference? Are you still able to pay for your necessities plus shore up your financial future through short- and long-term savings? Or do you find yourself feeling desperate by the end of the month?

Not only will this allow you to get used to the change before the stakes are higher, but it can also help you save more money to put toward unexpected costs for your future home purchase.

Determine where to make adjustments

Does living like a homeowner make you a little wary for what’s next? Now is the perfect time to create space in your budget by cutting back expenses and paying down debt.

Now that you know where your money is going, determine the unnecessary leaks. Maybe your monthly food bill is exorbitantly high. Or maybe your subscription services have gotten out of hand. If your priority is purchasing a home — and being financially comfortable in that home — work to cut expenses that are contradictory to that goal.

Next, tackle your debt. There are two big benefits to beefing up your debt repayments now: You can lower your monthly obligation and improve your chances of getting approved for a loan. It’s a win-win.



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5 hot trends for the home

(BPT) - Home safety is one of the top priorities of homeowners and renters alike. Your home should be a place to relax, play and enjoy spending time with family and friends.

Here are a few of the latest trends in home security so that you can make yours a home sweet home that's equally safe.

Home automation and controls

Home automation and controls is exactly what it sounds like: automating the ability to control items around the house — from window shades to pet feeders — with a simple push of a button or voice command. Homeowners now have the ability to make sure they really did lock the back door or turn off the lights. This trend is taking a security system and turning it into a smart home device, and consumers are loving it.

Solatube Daylighting System with Integrated NightLight

Solatube Daylighting Systems have gotten even more innovative. They harvest sunlight on the roof and shoot it down a tube of the most highly reflective material made and into the home environment. Not only do the residents experience natural light during the day, with the NightLight they get the soft glow of the moon at night. Solatube integrated a small solar-electric system that collects the sun's energy by day to power a NightLight that automatically comes on at dark. You won’t have to turn on lights for trips to the bathroom or navigate dark hallways any longer.

Video monitoring

Having a good indoor security camera is now the cornerstone of any good home security system. This allows homeowners to watch live video footage of their home from their smartphone anytime, anywhere. It also takes the stress away when leaving pets at home for any amount of time. Owners can monitor and speak to their animals while they are away. This trend is convenient, offers peace of mind and may deter burglars.

Geofencing

You can think of geofencing like an invisible fence serving as a virtual perimeter. With it, homeowners can draw around any location on a map and trigger actions from their smartphone when they enter that location through an app. A great example would be an electronic notification sent to Mom’s or Dad’s cell phone when their child arrives home from school, triggered by the child’s cell phone. This technology also allows parents to establish a “safety” zone outside of which their child is not allowed to venture. The geofence sends mobile alerts the moment their loved ones enter or exit the area established, tracking their children’s whereabouts. Overall, this trend is making homes safer, smarter and more efficient.

Home automation with GPS

Home automation with GPS is less of a safety feature and more of an added convenience for homeowners. Home automation uses GPS in smartphones to trigger assigned actions. For example, when a homeowner pulls into his or her driveway, the home alarm is deactivated and the front door lights turn on. This trend simplifies consumers’ daily routines by putting the house to work.



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5 ways to keep your cottage comfortable this...

(BPT) - Although it’s officially summer, the fluctuations in temperatures, sporadic downpours and tornado-inciting weather would make you think otherwise. While many of us take the opportunity to hit the beach, lake or ranch during the summer for some rest and relaxation, cottage home improvements are often the furthest thing from our mind.

More often than not, cottages aren’t built to last as long as homes, because they are used only for a short time of the year. Yet, with newly changing weather patterns and humidity affecting the structure of a cottage home, homeowners can seek ways to keep their cottages comfortable well after summer has ended and the crowds of day-trippers have left.

Extending the usability of your summer home can also increase its market value, should you ever decide to sell. If you’re unfamiliar with how exactly to go about improving your summer home’s comfort, here are five quick tips to get you started:

* Plant shade-giving trees and shrubs to reduce how much heat your cottage absorbs from direct sunlight. Not only will these plants add ambiance and character, but they will help contribute to keeping the cottage cooler.

* Consider upgrading your cottage’s small and large appliances to ENERGY STAR-rated appliances that can run on very low energy during the low season.

* Consider having an independent contractor perform a home energy audit, to determine where your home could improve its energy efficiency. This is obviously the most straightforward approach, and the one that will give you the most tangible objectives to aim for moving forward.

* Take advantage of local tax incentives to upgrade your cottage to be more energy efficient.

* Replace your home’s existing insulation with a high-performance spray foam insulation like Icynene, which can help to reduce air leakage, thereby reducing the amount of work your HVAC unit has to do to keep your home heated or cooled.

Air leakage forces your air conditioner unit to work overtime to cool the warm air that enters your home through leaks, increasing energy usage and increasing your utility bill at the end of the month.

Spray foam insulation is a wise investment for cottage owners who want to make energy-efficient improvements and extend the livability of the cottage beyond just summer. Able to perform in all climates, spray foam insulation allows homeowners to adjust air conditioning use throughout summer and their furnaces during winter. This modern insulation material helps effectively control a cottage’s indoor environment, letting you and your family stay cool all summer long while also helping to minimize the entry of pollen and allergens that enter the space, making it ideal for allergy sufferers.

An energy-efficient and modern investment, spray foam insulation expands rapidly to completely seal a cottage’s walls, floors and ceilings to prevent air leakage. Experts note that insulation can noticeably reduce monthly cooling and heating costs due to its ability to seal the home, a great bonus when considering that cottages and summer homes are typically only used for a limited period of time. More information on how spray foam insulation can help homeowners minimize air leakage and transform their city home or their summer home into an energy-efficient one is available online at www.icynene.com.



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How to perfectly light a bathroom for beauty,...

(BPT) - Good lighting is important throughout a home, and each room has different lighting needs. Kitchens require overhead and task lighting, while bedrooms and dining rooms can benefit from variable illumination. However, no room in the house requires more layers and nuances of lighting than the bathroom, where lighting directly influences the room’s efficiency, utility, safety and beauty.

Upgrading lighting in a bathroom can give the room a whole new look and improve its functionality for a fraction of the cost of a full renovation. As you’re planning your bathroom enlightenment, keep in mind the multiple purposes lighting plays in a bathroom, including:

* Safety — Bathrooms are a prime spot for falls and injuries. A well-lit room can decrease the risk of someone stumbling or slipping.

* Tasks — Whether you’re applying makeup or shaving, task lighting can provide the illumination you need to do the job well.

* Visibility — Ambient lighting provides whole-room illumination that makes the space usable at any time of day.

* Decorative — Lighting can minimize glare from shiny surfaces such as porcelain, glass or ceramic tile, and enhance the appearance of colors, fixtures and accessories.

Here are tips for creating effective, attractive lighting for the bathroom:

Safety

Bathroom lighting affects safety the most during nighttime hours. A completely dark bathroom could lead to falls, as could the temporary blindness caused by switching on a light when your eyes are acclimated for darkness. A brightly lit space can also make it difficult for you to go back to sleep after using the bathroom.

Dimmable bathroom lighting, which can be set for less illumination at night, and strategically positioned nightlights can help users safely navigate the room at night. Equip low-wattage light sources that turn on with a motion sensor, so that soft illumination comes on when you enter the dark bathroom.

Tasks

The bathroom vanity is a hub of activity, where people shave, brush their teeth, fix their hair, apply makeup and generally get ready for the day. The lighting above your vanity or sink area is critical to how well the space functions.

Lights above the bathroom mirror, or to either side of it, can create glare and shadow. A better alternative can be to use a lighted mirror or medicine cabinet like the Verdera collection by Kohler. Lighted mirrors and medicine cabinets eliminate harsh shadows and light “hot spots” that can come from overhead lighting.

What’s more, Verdera lighted medicine cabinets feature a convenient built-in electrical outlet to allow you to use your favorite grooming accessory. LED lights make the mirrors and cabinets energy-efficient, and all are compatible with LED dimmers, giving you even more control over task illumination. Visit www.us.kohler.com to learn more.

Visibility

Certain areas in the bathroom require basic visibility at all times, including showers and water closets. In these areas, overhead lighting can provide the ambient illumination you need. You can opt for a basic light fixture, a fan/light combination that also provides ventilation, or even a skylight for natural daylighting.

Uplighting is also becoming a popular form of ambient light in bathrooms. Lights set beneath countertops or around the base of shower stalls provide soft illumination and character.

Decorative

Decorative bathroom lighting is your chance to have some fun. These lights may enhance ambient lighting or support task lighting, but their ultimate purpose is to add visual interest to the bathroom.

Depending on the size and style of your bathroom, you can choose decorative lighting options like chandeliers, wall sconces, pendant lights, recessed lighting and more.

Finally, be sure that every layer of light in your bathroom is as energy efficient as possible. Replace any incandescent bulbs with LEDs or CFLs, which use a fraction of the energy to produce a comparable amount of light, while lasting far longer.



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Latest deck trend: 'Monster' size,...

(BPT) - Move over mini — the new trend in decking is anything but small.

When it comes to the size of their decks, the majority of Americans feel bigger is better — as multiple surveys indicate decks are getting larger and more luxurious, RealtorMag reports.

Today’s decks dwarf the outdoor spaces of decades ago, and blur the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces with features like full kitchens, dining and entertainment areas, says Kim Katwijk, owner of Deck Builders Inc. in Olympia, Washington. Katwijk is a 20-year veteran of the deck-building business, and co-producer of the upcoming web series Outdoors Outdone.

Sizable changes

Katwijk says the intersection of two major home trends is driving the growth of “monster” decks: homes are getting larger and outdoor living has reached mainstream status.

Last year, more than half of all new homes were 2,400 square feet or larger, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Characteristics of New Housing” report. In 1973, the average home size was 1,660 square feet. As homes grew, deck sizes have, too. RealtorMag reports one survey found that since 2014, the average deck size grew by 53 percent in the Northeast, to 406 square feet.

The making of a ‘monster’ deck

So what makes a deck project “monster”? Size, design, materials and amenities all combine in this nationwide trend.

Size — “Monster” decks are big — really big. Mark Kalady, a decking sales manager for TAMKO Building Products, Inc., says he’s recently seen residential decks grow to 3,000 square feet. Depending on the amenities included, a deck 1,600-1,800 square feet could also be considered “monster.”

Kitchens/dining — Cooking and dining areas are among the most requested luxury features, deck builders say. Luxury grills, built-in pizza ovens and full-cook stoves and sinks are becoming more common.

Water/fire — Fire and water features such as hot tubs, lap pools, fireplaces and fire pits are part of the trend of bringing the indoors out. These focal points serve as relaxation, exercise and entertaining stations.

Seating — Katwijk says “conversational pits” designed specifically for extended entertaining allow deck-users to enjoy time together away from the cooking and dining areas.

Multi-story — “Monster” decks often include multiple levels, with each level serving a different theme or intended use, such as dining, conversation, swimming, etc.

Technology — Many of today’s larger decks include living room areas equipped with big-screen TVs, wireless speakers and gaming systems. But the technology used on monster decks can extend to retractable glass walls and skylights, and even the deck boards themselves. Katwijk says the technology behind man-made decking products like Envision composite lumber offers the luxury appearance of exotic woods, but with minimal annual maintenance.

“People want an environment where they can be outdoors, yet have all the creature comforts of their home — essentially creating a space where they can do all the things that they love,” Katwijk says.



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Repair or replace? What to do with a worn-out...

(BPT) - Sooner or later, every homeowner will face the same tough decision: Can you repair that malfunctioning system or appliance one more time, or is it finally time to replace it? Summer temperatures can heat up the repair-or-replace debate for homeowners living with an older cooling system.

To arrive at an answer, you must weigh numerous factors, including which option is more cost-effective over both the long- and short-term, how the existing or new system will affect the air quality of your home, and just how much reliability you require. Your decision can affect your wallet and the comfort of your home for years to come.

The heating and cooling systems experts at Champion(R) offer some guidelines for knowing whether you should repair or replace your cooling system:

When you can still repair

Sometimes, it may be preferable to repair a minor problem than to replace a system. Your cooling system might still be a candidate for repair if:

* It’s less than 10 years old and/or is a high-quality, energy-efficient model.

* The repair is still covered under warranty, or you will be able to pay for the repair without financing the cost.

* The cost of the repair will be far less than the cost of replacement.

* You can reasonably expect the repair to solve your problem.

* Repairing the problem means that specific issue isn’t likely to reoccur throughout the system’s remaining lifespan.

When it’s time to replace

It can be much easier to recognize the signs that it’s time to replace a worn-out cooling system. They can include:

* A system that is 10 or more years old.

* Frequent and repeated repairs that are adding up to be very costly.

* Even after repairs and/or maintenance, the system still doesn’t adequately cool your home.

* Very high energy bills. Modern cooling systems are significantly more energy-efficient than older units.

* You can afford to finance a replacement, but can no longer afford to pay cash for repairs.

* The unreliability of the worn-out cooling system is affecting the comfort of your home and causing you to feel stress.

Replacing a cooling system

When you decide replacing a cooling system makes the most sense for your needs, you’ll need to start looking for a new system. Here are some points to keep in mind:

* Choosing an energy-efficient unit like the Champion(R) Momentum(TM) Variable Capacity Air Conditioner can greatly reduce energy bills while improving the comfort of your home. Refer to the system's Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) to get an idea of how much more energy-efficient the new unit is. Modern air-conditioning systems can be over 50 percent more efficient than ones manufactured a decade ago.

* It’s important to right-size your new cooling system. A system that is too small for your home won’t be able to deliver the desired comfort level, and will use more energy working harder at maintaining cool temperatures. A system that is too large will also use more energy and may result in uneven cooling throughout the house. Your Champion dealer can provide a load calculation and energy analysis to help you determine the right-size system for your home.

* Depending on the age of your home and your cooling system, you may have to repair or replace other elements, too. Have your home’s ductwork, insulation, refrigerant piping, electrical service, wiring, thermostat and other cooling system components inspected, too. Ensuring all the parts of the system are in top working order will help your new air-conditioning unit work at its best, too.

To learn more about the advantages of replacing a worn-out cooling system, what you should look for in a new system and where to find a dealer near you, visit www.championhomecomfort.com/repair.



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Rethinking bathroom design

(BPT) - As homeowners begin to dream up plans to update their kitchens and bathrooms, they can spend hours searching for inspiration on the web or one of the many home renovation television shows. There’s no shortage of beautiful ideas and designs out there, but before you make any decision, you should start with the crucial question: What is it I really want?

A recent study conducted by the home design website Houzz found that the two things homeowners want most for their bathroom are style and ease of cleaning. In effect, people want their bathrooms to exhibit both function and design.

Of course, there are the conventional bathroom remodel options, such as a new faucet, countertop or shower fixture, all of which can be stunning and transform not just your bathroom but your house. But the most commonly used bathroom component is often the most overlooked: the toilet.

Eighty-three percent of Americans claim there’s something they want to improve upon with their toilets, according to a survey by Kohler. The question is what.

This statistic should give homeowners pause and invite them to think beyond the conventional bathroom remodeling ideas and re-imagine the possibilities.

Comfort, hygiene and style

Travelers returning from Italy, Spain, Argentina and Japan often rave about the unexpected luxury of using a bidet. While popular in many other countries, bidets are only just now catching on in the United States, moving from high-end luxury bathrooms and hospitals (where they’re used for their superior hygiene) into household bathrooms across America.

As the leading manufacturer of modern bidets, Kohler has been working to incorporate the trifecta of comfort, hygiene and style into their intelligent toilets.

Built directly into an ergonomically shaped toilet seat, a stainless-steel bidet wand offers adjustable water temperature, pressure, position and shape, along with pulsating and oscillating functions to maximize the comfort of the experience.

But that’s not all. To better introduce Americans to the international phenomenon of bidets, Kohler’s intelligent toilets feature a heated seat, warm air dryer and added sanitary features such as hands-free flushing and a deodorizing seat.

A redefined bathroom

Equipped with smart technology that allows a person to fully customize their experience, such ultra-modern bidets may change how Americans go to the bathroom — but only if the look is right.

Consumers are not willing to sacrifice design for functionality; they want it all. For anyone who has used or seen a Veil Intelligent Toilet, it’s evident that the same exacting standards it brings to cleanliness and hygiene go into its crisp, clean look.

A recent survey by Kohler suggests 33 percent of homeowners would be excited to upgrade their toilets. With this latest generation of toilets and bidets, it’s likely that more people will want to redefine their bathroom with these stunning new options.



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A room-by-room guide to decluttering your home

(BPT) - Controlling clutter in your home can be a challenge; 48 percent of Americans say their houses are cluttered with stuff they don’t use anymore, according to a survey by ClearVoice Research. Multiple studies have found a cluttered home can negatively affect your mental and physical health, while a cleaner home can make you feel happier and healthier.

A UCLA study found mothers in cluttered homes had higher stress levels while dealing with their stuff, while an Indiana University study found people with clean houses are healthier than those living in cluttered homes. You may realize clutter isn’t good for you, but it’s not always easy to get organized. To help you get started, here is a room-by-room guide to cutting the clutter:

Entryway

Basic tactics:

* Decide what belongs in your entryway and what doesn’t. The size of the space will influence this decision. If your entryway is a spacious mudroom, you might choose to store shoes, boots, umbrellas and backpacks there. If you have a modest foyer, you may decide you only have room for car keys. Remove anything from the space that doesn’t help it serve its purpose in your home.

* Add storage/organization that helps the space meet its purpose. Wall-hung key racks can keep important keys at your fingertips. Shoe racks are available in a variety of sizes and styles to fit your space and décor while keeping footwear organized and off the floor.

A step up:

* If space allows, adding built-in storage such as cabinets and shelves can help keep an entry space organized and visually appealing.

Family room

Basic tactics:

* Assess the kind of clutter that builds up in your family room. Perhaps your clutter consists of children’s toys, magazines and newspapers, or multiple remote controls for entertainment components. Once you know what kind of clutter you’re collecting, decide if it belongs and must be accommodated, or doesn’t and should go.

* Add storage solutions specific to your needs. For example, storage ottomans can double as extra seating and a place to store frequently used toys. A caddy can keep remote controls organized and at hand.

A step up:

* Sometimes furniture that’s too large for a space can add to the feeling of a cluttered and congested room. Assess your family room furniture. Is it the right size for the space, or is it overwhelming the area? Replace overly large furnishings with ones that better fit the room.

* If you have the room for it, a large shelving or cabinet unit can help contain clutter. Add decorative containers to help keep everyday items like toys, magazines and other frequently used items organized on shelves.

Bathroom

Basic tactics:

* Tackle the linen closet and trash any partial bottles of shampoo, tubes of toothpaste and towels that have seen better days. Be brutal. If you haven’t used that half bottle of body wash so far, chances are you never will.

* Clean out your medicine cabinet. Discarding expired prescription medicines can help reduce the risk of someone accidentally taking the wrong medication.

A step up:

* Showers can be among the most cluttered spots in a bathroom. If you’re ready to take your bathroom organization to the next level, ditch the rack hanging from your showerhead and the precarious corner shelving and upgrade your shower to one with built-in organization, like Sterling Store+ shower. The showers feature built-in recesses and tracks where you can snap in a variety of storage accessories and shelves, such as a soap dish, storage bin, towel bar or shower hook. The storage is fully customizable, and all accessories are removable and dishwasher safe. Visit www.sterlingplumbing.com to learn more.

Kitchen

Basic tactics:

* Countertops frequently host a wealth of kitchen-related clutter, from the mail you brought in yesterday and forgot to go through to small appliances you use once or twice a year. Clearing off countertops can make a kitchen feel visually more appealing, look bigger and function better. Remove and store rarely used small appliances, ditch the ceramic container of utensils and store those items in drawers instead.

* Pantries and cabinets can be nearly as cluttered as countertops. Adding shelving and storage units within cabinets can help keep pots, pans, lids and dishware better organized and more easily accessible.

A step up:

* Some people need a bit of extra incentive to stay organized. If that’s you, consider replacing solid cabinet doors with glass ones that reveal what’s inside. Knowing the contents of your cabinets are always on display can help inspire you to keep them tidy and organized. Plus, glass-front cabinets are an opportunity to create an appealing visual display.



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6 must-know kitchen and bathroom design trends

(BPT) - Many homeowners today wonder how they can turn their bathrooms or kitchens into something worthy of making the rounds on Pinterest or Instagram. As more people want to give their home a personal and stylish touch, home decorating and interior design is hotter than ever, and the possibilities are seemingly limitless.

The only problem is that making up your mind can be overwhelming. If you’ve ever tried to pick what shade of blue or tint of gray to paint a wall, you know that sometimes there are too many choices.

With over 140 years of designing kitchen and bathroom products, Kohler Kitchen & Bath tapped into a large brain trust of designers and product experts to identify the six leading kitchen and bath design trends for 2017.

  1. All in the mix. We all know patterns play a big role in how large a room appears and what features are accented or emphasized. For all the importance people place on patterns, many are inherently afraid of blending — or mixing — patterns. Be bold! When done right, this can create a vibrant, energetic space that does more for your room than if you were to play it safe.
  2. Perfect pairs. Two of the most striking colors to appear in kitchens and bathrooms these days are velvety blues and vivid greens. Blues are timeless and can work well by themselves in most situations, but add a small dose of blood orange and you’ve created an infectious vibe to the room. Nothing makes as dramatic a statement as pairing two complementary colors.
  3. A softer white. A traditional color for bathrooms and kitchens, white gives off a clean, bright aura. Nonetheless, the look can be a bit clinical. Once way around this problem is to warm up the whites with tones of brass, gold or bronze. Subtle touches on the cabinets or backsplash can create a warm ambiance that softens the look of an all-white space.
  4. Keep it neutral. If you’re looking for fun, vibrant colors but aren’t ready to go all in, consider neutral shades such as icy blue, blush sand and other straight-from-nature shades. These are a lot more refreshing than the standard beige! Such transparent neutrals beautifully diffuse light and lend themselves to contrasting elements.
  5. Amber glow. The living room has expanded. Kitchens aren’t just for preparing food and bathrooms aren’t just for getting ready. People want a cozier, at-home feel for both these rooms. Top designers do this by adding a range of metallic fixtures coupled with smoky grays, a combination that creates a dramatic and welcoming room.
  6. Noir. With the debut of black stainless steel appliances, black has made its way back to being a staple color in kitchens and bathrooms. Of late, the emphatic pairing of black and white has become the real showstopper. The idea here is to work with high contrast: think strong color-blocking patterns and heavy stripes. Two timeless colors will join to create a perfectly modern mixture.

To discover more ideas for your home visit ideas.kohler.com. Here you’ll find invaluable advice and inspiring fixtures to transform your bathroom into the room of your dreams.



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Cypress siding: It's what the pros choose

(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.



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Natural selection: Live-edge wood in home design

(BPT) - Live-edge hardwood, in which the sides of the slab are left unmilled to retain the natural profile of the tree trunk, is an increasingly popular decorative trend in today’s residential interiors. The technique is not only used for pieces of standalone furniture such as tables and benches but also for built-in elements like shelving, mantles, counter tops, bars and kitchen islands.

“Most mills cut off the rough tree edges, turning the raw timber into neat boards,” says Linda Jovanovich, of the American Hardwood Information Center at www.HardwoodInfo.com. “But the current demand for live-edge slabs has led to a small but vigorous subset of producers who specialize in the category.” These are often boutique businesses that source, dry and mill limited batches of timber for use in furniture of their own design and manufacture.

“Some larger sawmills sell live-edge slabs to the public,” Jovanovich continues. “You visit their showroom and pick your own one-of-a-kind piece of ash, cherry, red oak, walnut or whatever other hardwood species they have in stock. A cabinetmaker can then custom-make a piece of furniture or a built-in feature to your exact specifications.”

Sustainability-minded entrepreneurs are responsible for another niche in the live-edge hardwood market: small urban suppliers that source culled or fallen trees from the backyards of private homes, public parks, graveyards and other leafy locations in their city and its immediate environs. One such enterprise, RE-CO BKLYN in Brooklyn, New York, recently harvested four 12,000-pound logs from a 150-year-old storm-felled elm in nearby Prospect Park. The logs were taken to an upstate mill to be sawn into live-edge slabs and dried before being shipped back to Brooklyn, where they were either sold or used by RE-CO for tables, desks, bar counters, shelves, headboards and other beautiful custom-made pieces it produces.

“It was George Nakashima, the legendary Japanese-American mid-century furniture maker, who pioneered the use of live-edge slabs in refined residential settings,” says New York–based designer Glenn Gissler. “Previously, untrimmed wood planks, sometimes with the bark still intact, were used for rustic, log-cabin or ranch-house effects — elements that referenced the traditions, myths and aesthetics of the American Old West. With his gorgeous large-scale pieces, comprising multiple slabs of characterful woods like walnut and cherry connected with butterfly joints, Nakashima showed us how unfinished natural edges and richly figured knotted surfaces fit perfectly into even the most sophisticated urban interiors.”

Today, original Nakashima pieces are highly collectible and command high prices at auction. But his free-edge aesthetic is more influential than ever as homeowners discover the ability of live-edge furniture to work with almost any decorative style. Paired with blackened-steel legs, for example, a live-edge slab of burled walnut creates a dining table with loft-worthy industrial chic. Fixed to the bedroom wall, a free-form expanse of warm-toned cherry provides a romantic headboard. Or a hefty live-edge slab of oak, supported on an equally hefty oak-slab base, makes for a monumental console with the presence of a piece of archaic sculpture. New York–based designer Laura Bohn has even used the chainsawed cross-section of an elm trunk — complete with its bark — as a counter top on which to mount a stainless steel powder-room sink. “It introduces a decidedly rustic note into a thoroughly modern space,” she says. “And yet it looks perfectly natural, as if it had just grown there of its own accord.”

Visit www.HardwoodInfo.com for more about residential design trends and other applications and products using American hardwoods.



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Increase comfort and lower energy bills for the...

(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.



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How to use your home equity in retirement

(BPT) - Most of us save and plan for decades to enjoy the period of our life when we no longer need to go into the office and work an eight-hour day for a paycheck.

But even with those decades of hard work, it can be tough to save up enough cash to cover all your costs in retirement. Many soon-to-be-retirees face a shortage between what they saved for retirement and what they actually need to live on.

For homeowners, that may be a problem that’s relatively easy to solve. Tapping into the equity in your home can help you stretch your nest egg quite a bit further.

Use a home equity loan or line of credit

You can tap the equity in your home with a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (known as a HELOC). A home equity loan works like most other loans: you agree to borrow a set amount of money, receive a lump sum, and pay that back with interest and in installments each month.

A HELOC works a little differently, because it’s not a loan with pre-determined monthly payments. Instead, it’s a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card. You usually have between five and 25 years to borrow against a certain amount of equity and repay (with interest) whatever you take out.

The time during which you can use the HELOC is called the draw period. The line of credit revolves during this period, so you can borrow and repay the balance multiple times. The total amount is due back in full with interest at the end of the draw period. Any time you have an amount outstanding, you will make monthly payments.

You can use a HELOC or home equity loan during retirement, but remember that you will need to pay the money back. You should have a plan in place for how to repay the funds — and the interest — before you agree to take a loan or a line of credit on your home.

Use a home ownership investment

A home ownership investment is a powerful way to unlock some of the equity in your home without taking out a loan.

The Unison HomeOwner program can unlock up to $500,000 of your home equity and the money can be used for anything you want — including paying monthly expenses, paying off debt or making home improvements. Because it’s a home ownership investment, not a loan, there are no monthly payments and no interest charges. Learn more at www.unison.com/homeowner.

Unison invests in the home alongside you. In return for the company’s investment in your home, they receive a portion of the future change in the value of your home. Unison shares both the upside and downside risk with you. When you choose to sell your home, up to 30 years later, if the home value rises, both you and Unison share in the appreciation. If the home value falls, both you and Unison share the loss.

Consider a reverse mortgage

A reverse mortgage can allow homeowners 62 years or older to turn equity in their homes into cash in a way that provides them with the income they need through retirement. You can get your cash in a lump sum or in monthly payments, or in a line of credit.

But it’s important to remember that a reverse mortgage is still a loan that comes with origination fees and interest charges. It requires that you have no other debt on your property, so if you have an existing mortgage loan, you will have to repay that in full from the reverse mortgage proceeds. You will also need to pay the reverse mortgage loan back when you move out of the home, sell it or pass away.

A reverse mortgage can give you income in retirement and whenever the home is sold, the money is used to pay off the loan. However, reverse mortgages can cause a lot of trouble if you’re not careful, and the high fees that you incur when you sell the home can leave you in a worse financial position than if you skipped the reverse mortgage altogether.



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Garage door industry issues consumer alert

(BPT) - A nationwide garage door repair scam has prompted the garage door industry to issue a national consumer alert. The industry’s warning includes four short videos that describe the scam.

“We believe that hundreds of garage door and opener customers are victimized by these scammers every single day in America,” said Bearge Miller, president of the Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA).

He said consumers who have a broken garage door spring are particularly vulnerable. The scam artists typically perform unnecessary repairs and charge extremely high fees, racking up a bill for hundreds of dollars more than necessary.

Metro areas are targeted

“These scammers primarily operate in metropolitan areas,” added Randy Oliver, the president of the International Door Association (IDA). “When they scam 100 people in a population of a million, hundreds of thousands of people are still unaware of their tactics.”

Oliver runs a garage door dealership in San Antonio, an area that has had its share of scammers. He said the scam is now operating in dozens of metro areas from coast to coast.

Four online videos

To warn the public, the garage door industry has produced a series of four short videos that provide advice for consumers, including how to detect a scammer and how to fix minor problems.

To see the videos, click on the “Consumer Alert” tab at www.garagewownow.com. This is a non-commercial site that also includes a Dealer Locator to help homeowners find a qualified professional door dealer.

The videos were produced and approved by IDA, which represents garage door dealers, and DASMA, which represents the industry’s manufacturers.



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Smaller metros take action to draw millennials...

(BPT) - Are millennials getting ready to leave big cities in droves? Some experts in demographics, economics and real estate have predicted the millennial exodus from huge urban areas has already begun. If true, the question remains: where will they go?

Some may head to the suburbs, like their parents and grandparents did before them, but many will look for a different lifestyle, one that combines the advantages of suburban living with the best features of city life. Some smaller metro areas, like Wausau, Wisconsin, are banking they have the blend of economic opportunity, urban elements, affordability and lifestyle that will attract migrating millennials.

The draw

“Economy has always been a factor in generational migrations, and while the nature of work has changed, economic opportunity is still key to where people want to live,” says Christian Schock, director of planning, community and economic development for the City of Wausau. “Everyone wants to find a place with the winning formula of urban activities, affordability and lifestyle. Businesses want to put down roots in that environment, too, knowing it will draw a bigger pool of skilled workers.”

In recent years, the City of Wausau has made concerted efforts to position itself with both big city amenities and small town assets. By many accounts, the efforts are paying off. In a 2016 Pew Research Trust analysis of income equality nationwide, Wausau ranked first in the nation, with the middle class constituting 67 percent of the city’s total population. Wausau also ranked highest in Wisconsin and eighth nationally on Area Development magazine’s list of hot spots for new and expanding businesses.

The formula

Small to mid-size metro areas that want to attract millennials, as well as businesses and investors, need to address key areas, including:

* Urbanity

In addition to the recreational and entertainment amenities often highlighted when discussing millennials, many mid-sized metros lack the diversity of housing types that can be found in a larger city which millennials might be accustomed to.

One strategy Wausau has focused on specifically is diversifying housing product. The City funded local architects to design an urban rowhouse — a housing style which did not previously exist. For over a decade, leaders proactively assembled parcels for new riverfront apartments, and continually worked with developers to seek tax credits which could be applied to renovating historic properties into unique multifamily offerings.

* Affordability

Rising real estate costs are among the factors that kept many millennials living in cities longer than they might have liked, experts say. Mid-sized metros have an edge in making home buying more affordable for millennials — and homebuyers of all generations.

Recognized as a leader in economic development homesteading, Wausau's Live It Up program is a partnership between local employers and the city to provide employees with a no-interest down payment assistance loan for the purchase of a home. In the last two years, the program has allocated more than $200,000 in no-interest loans to local employees.

* Place

Millennials who came of age in urban environments have a strong affinity for multifunctional spaces, and are drawn to communities that are a walkable mix of business, retail, industry and residential. While the specific physical space needs may change, their own strong sense of identity makes them inclined to seek a region that has its own established sense of self.

Wausau has leveraged more than $100 million in new downtown development over the past decade and currently has another $100 million under construction, emphasizing the city’s identity as a vibrant, growing core. Wausau’s Riverlife Village project is reclaiming more than 16 acres of urban waterfront along the Wisconsin River to house a new park, river wharf, mixed-use office space, biking paths, apartments and a family entertainment center.

Perhaps the greatest testament to a mid-sized metro’s success is the recommitment of historic businesses to local growth. Wausau Insurance was an early innovator in workers’ compensation insurance, which evolved out of the necessity for local lumber mills to share the risk of worker rehabilitation. Now part of Liberty Mutual, the company recently announced a $50 million regional facility expansion. Wausau Window and Wall Systems and Linetec, both in the building materials industry, also trace their roots to the lumber industry, and have completed over $60 million worth of expansion and doubled the size of their workforce within the past five years, providing a strong foundation for continued economic development.

“Any resident, millennial or not, is looking for ways to connect with their community. Both businesses and residents are discovering that smaller cities can even be more responsive and creative than larger metros,” says Robert Mielke, mayor of Wausau.

To learn more about how the City of Wausau is attracting residents from big cities, visit www.wausome.org.



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The new urban destination that has the web...

(BPT) - There was a time when cities like Paris, Berlin, New York or Tokyo were at the top of many travelers' lists. The glamour, the glitz and the history of these cities lured many, but times have changed and more people are eager to discover some of the lesser known gems. Cities that, though smaller and less renowned, are just as stunning and full of surprises.

One of these treasures is Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Also known as Mill City, the Mini-Apple, or the City of Lakes, Minneapolis is home to a vibrant music scene, miles of bike trails, a community of creative entrepreneurs and an energy that you just can't find anywhere else. It’s true that a lot of people shy away from the winters, which can be fierce, but those who go during the summer usually leave with plans to return. Here are five reasons why.

  1. The amazing music scene. With large venues such as Target Field and the U.S. Bank Stadium, big-name superstars regularly visit the city. But locals will tell you it’s the numerous smaller venues that make a night out in Minneapolis such an unforgettable experience. From the legendary First Avenue, where Prince began his career, to smaller settings like the Fine Line Music Café or Dakota Jazz Club, there’s live music for everyone.
  2. A new sports stadium. When the U.S. Bank Stadium opened last year, Minneapolis had a new home for the Minnesota Vikings and could brag about having one of the most state-of-the-art football stadiums in the country. But football is only part of the story. In this sports-crazed town you’re only ever a few miles away from world-class hockey, basketball, baseball, soccer and lacrosse.
  3. An innovative culture. With dozens of theater companies, art museums, galleries and creative agencies, Minneapolis has earned a reputation as a city oozing with creative energy. And it happens on all levels. Take the new Radisson Red Minneapolis. Located right in the heart of downtown, Radisson Red was designed to revolutionize the travel experience and enhances the stay experience through art, music and fashion. In addition to the stunning mural in the lobby by local artist Adam Turman, the re-energized rooms feature inspired designs. If guests get hungry, the OUIBar + KTCHN features freshly prepared local fare and an expert staff that can tell you all you need to know about the city.
  4. Food and brews. An epicenter of dining, Minneapolis has kept pace with the coastal dining scene and in many respects, has outpaced other cities due to the availability of local food from the surrounding area. And if you’re a beer lover, be sure to block off an afternoon or three to tour the many nationally recognized tap houses in town, including the funky Dangerous Man Brewing Co. and Young Joni, where the head chef Ann Kim was recently honored by the James Beard Foundation.
  5. A city that caters to the outdoor adventurer. Visitors are usually surprised by how many people they see biking around Minneapolis, and can enjoy the hundreds of miles of bike lanes and trails by renting a bike from one of the many kiosks around the city. If you want to mix things up a bit, numerous outfitters offer kayak tours of the Mississippi, or you can rent a stand-up paddle board at one of the many city lakes.

We could go on, but it might be more fun to make your own list of favorites by visiting Minneapolis yourself. Summer is here, so book a room at the new Radisson Red Minneapolis, stay in the heart of downtown, and discover one of America’s great cities.



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Home innovations that protect against moisture

(BPT) - There is an insidious enemy that every homeowner dreads: moisture and the damage and degradation it can cause if left unchecked. Luckily, home improvement manufacturers have discovered new ways to prevent moisture from penetrating the home in the first place. With new home product innovations, there is no reason to suffer the costly and damaging effects of rain, snow or ice.

Unique fasteners add longevity to decks

Innovative fastening methods can extend the life of your deck and provide a beautiful fastener-free surface that also stands up better to weather and moisture. Although there are several kinds of deck fasteners that conceal the fastener, edge fastening is the latest method. “With edge fastening, which delivers real screws into the edge of the deck boards with a series of unique guides and drill bits, fastener-related splitting and cracking can be eliminated,” said Greg Palmer, Director of Marketing at National Nail's CAMO Edge Fastening. “This can add to deck life because moisture is not seeping into those cracks and splits, causing accelerated degradation.” He adds that the company has also expanded its warranty to cover the deck boards, as well as the screws. “Edge fastening works great for composite, PVC and all types of wood decks and creates a safer, fastener-free surface.”

Exterior cladding that resists moisture

When searching for alternative exterior products that have beauty and curb appeal, make sure they repel moisture, especially near the foundation or near the gutters at the roof line. It is now possible to have the look of rich wood cedar shake or a variety of stone looks to cover foundations or to upgrade the ugly space under decks. New technology enables polymers to actually be stained or finished to be indistinguishable from the real thing. “There are new levels of realism in shakes that resemble true cedar,” said Ralph Bruno, president, Tando Building Products. “Beach House Shake" by Tando is an example of this superb realism — it installs easily and is impervious to moisture with little to no upkeep.” He adds that homeowners can keep moisture at bay and have luxurious exteriors without sacrificing beauty.

Protect your home in every season

As if heavy spring rains and winter’s melt-off didn’t threaten homeowners' properties enough, the hurricane season is expected to be more erratic than in years past — with a predicted early start and activity right into late fall. Thankfully, there are new, affordable technologies to quickly remove standing water from homeowners’ properties, keeping it away from their foundations. “Having both dependable sump pumps and multi-use pumps are the first lines of defense against storm damage,” said Jeremy Cantor, VP of Marketing for WAYNE Pumps. “One example is the innovative WaterBUG Submersible Water Removal Pump, which can remove large volumes of standing water quickly and easily from flat grassy yards, basement floors, and even tight spaces like window wells because it has both top and side water flow.” He emphasizes that having reliable multi-use and sump pumps in your home can save thousands of dollars in property damage and basement repairs.

Seal it or patch it to keep water out

Water damage doesn’t have to happen, and by having the right caulks, sealants and hand tools, homeowners can easily do the job themselves and save on contractor costs. And, if moisture gets ahead of you, there are ways to repair the damage and prevent it from happening in the future. After winter, check windows, under door frames, gutter lines, concrete and other vulnerable areas that need sealing or patching. Very often, the simple act of sealing these areas with the right type of caulk can make a big difference in keeping out moisture. “One of the most popular sealants on the market is LIFETIME Ultra, which is a perfect solution for outdoor fix-ups after winter’s damage,” said Alan Crupper, VP of Marketing, Red Devil, Inc. He added that premium acrylics like this work very well and are paintable, unlike silicones. “You need a caulk that has a tight seal, won’t sag or crack no matter the temperature and especially for outdoors, one that adheres well to any surface.”

No matter the season, moisture can put your home and valuables at risk, so don’t delay in taking preventative action or repairing damage where it starts. With innovative new technologies on the market, you can easily protect your home from nature’s wrath.



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5 steps that can improve your credit score in...

(BPT) - Low interest rates, a strong economy and the turn of the seasons are all causing the real estate market to heat up. More homes on the market bring more competition to buy the inventory that is out there. And one way to stand apart from other buyers who are vying for their dream home is to take steps to improve your credit score now.

"Preparing your finances is a must before the busy real estate season," says Barrett Burns, president and CEO of credit score model developer VantageScore Solutions. "Knowing your credit scores and making improvements is essential to getting the best loan at the best rates. This also makes you a more attractive home buyer, especially in a competitive market."

With limited time, you may think there's nothing you can do to improve your score. Burns says that's an incorrect assumption. While you can't make dramatic jumps in just a couple months, there are several steps you can take that may influence your score to increase enough to get you prequalified for the loan you want.

Keep in mind, lenders will pull your scores from all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), so it's wise to check your credit report from each of them. You can do so for free once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. For best results, monitor at least one credit score from each of the bureaus. You also can check your credit score for free through a large number of online services, such as CreditKarma.com, NerdWallet.com or Credit.com. Other sites offering free VantageScore credit scores can be found at VantageScore.com/free.

Once you have your reports in hand, you can take steps that may have a positive impact on your scores.

Step 1: Check for errors

A credit report gives a comprehensive list of your lines of credit and payment history. The first step is to review your credit report for errors and take steps to make corrections, including past and present names, loan amounts and credit cards in your name.

When checking your credit score, bear in mind that some differences in credit scores across bureaus is normal. But if one of the three credit scores is an extreme outlier, it could be worth double-checking your credit report from that bureau to make sure it doesn't reflect any questionable or erroneous activity.

Step 2: Don't miss a payment

Creditors are interested in seeing how you manage credit, and the consistency of behavior counts. You should always pay at least the minimum amount due on bills on time every month. An easy way to ensure you don't miss a payment is to sign up for automatic bill pay when available.

Step 3: Lower credit utilization levels

Credit utilization is the ratio of a credit card balance to the credit limit. If your balance is $5,000 and your credit limit is $10,000, then your credit utilization for that credit card is 50 percent. In general, a good credit utilization is less than 30 percent, so if you have a higher ratio, consider using your tax refund to pay down this debt.

Step 4: Don't close old credit cards

If you have a credit card that is no longer used but was previously paid off on time each month, don't close the account. Not only is this good for your credit utilization ratio, but it also is another indicator you're a responsible candidate for a loan.

Step 5: Don't apply for new credit

Avoid applying for any new credit, such as an auto loan or a new credit card account, between now and the time you will close on a home purchase. Lenders considering your loan application request your credit score from one or more credit bureaus. And these lender "inquiries" are recorded with one or more of the three national credit bureaus, which may lower your credit score by 10 to 20 points. The score decreases typically only last a few months, as long as you continue to make payments on time. But unless they're absolutely necessary, try to avoid additional inquiries until after you've secured your mortgage.

If you follow these five steps, you may see an increase in your score within a few months so you can get a loan and be an attractive buyer when it comes time to put in a bid for your dream home.

Keep in mind, the more you can put toward the down payment, the more instant equity you’ll have, the lower your monthly payment will be, and the better your chances are of not needing private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly payment.

Plus, if you’re able to put down more than a lender requires, a mortgage company may be willing to give you a pass on other issues on your application, such as a less-than-stellar credit score.



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Want to catch homebuyers' eyes? Follow 5...

(BPT) - When it comes to selling a home there are many different strategies and most of them focus on the home's interior. However, what many sellers fail to realize is that it's the exterior of the home that often makes or breaks a sale.

Curb appeal is necessary for that vital first impression. Much of a buyer's opinion about a property is formed before they even enter the front door. Research shows curb appeal not only speeds the sale but also increases offer prices.

One of the biggest influencing factors of curb appeal is the health of the lawn. Think about how much property space the lawn covers. A sparse lawn dotted with weeds lowers a buyer's opinion of the home, while a lush, green lawn elevates a home, and gives the impression it is well taken care of.

Lawn revitalization projects provide impressive return on investment. According to the 2016 Remodeling Impact: Outdoor Features report, lawn seeding earns the top spot for return on investment, recovering 417 percent of the project cost at resale. Implementing a standard lawn care program recovers 303 percent and updating a landscape with a sod lawn recovers 143 percent. Lawn revitalization projects offer much higher returns than many other home improvement projects, including kitchen remodels and deck additions.

Lawn revitalization projects are surprisingly easy to do, so whether you're selling your home or are staying put and just want to enjoy your property more, it's a worthwhile investment. The experts at Grass Seed USA, a coalition of grass seed farmers and academic turf specialists, offer the following five simple steps to achieving a lush lawn fast.

1. Aerate

When the soil under a lawn becomes too compacted, water, air and nutrients have a hard time reaching grass roots. Lawn aerators correct this problem by pulling small plugs of soil about 1/2 inch in diameter and 2 to 3 inches deep out of the ground. You can affordably rent an aerator for a day or hire a professional.

2. Reseed

If you have bare patches or your lawn looks thin, reseeding is an easy solution. Start by contacting a local turf specialist to determine the best seed or sod to purchase for your location and soil type. Then, rake the bare areas of your lawn and apply seed. Water lightly and regularly until new grass grows in. The spring and fall are good times to seed due to cooler weather, although it can be done any time of year.

3. Mow high

Never cut off more than 1/3 of the grass blade height at a time. If grass gets too long, raise the height on your mower. Recommended mowing heights vary by grass type, but an easy rule of thumb for the most common types of lawn is to mow to a 2-inch height when the grass blades reach 3 inches tall.

4. Fertilize

To keep your lawn healthy, aim to fertilize at least once a year; four times a year is ideal. Your local garden center can recommend the fertilizer best for your climate and grass type. Additionally, naturally fertilize your lawn by leaving grass clippings after you mow. As grass clippings break down, they enrich the soil with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the same nutrients found in fertilizer.

5. Irrigate

A thorough watering once or twice a week is better than lightly misting every day. Allowing the soil to dry before it is watered again encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil and can help the lawn become drought tolerant in the future. What's more, water during the early morning and evening hours to avoid excess evaporation. Watering during the heat of the day can actually scald and burn grass.

Learn more about quick, easy lawn improvement and maintenance tips at www.WeSeedAmerica.com or follow @WeSeedAmerica on Facebook and Twitter.



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3 easy ways to combat water damage in your...

(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.



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Easy DIY projects to prepare your home for sale

(BPT) - If you're looking to sell your home quickly and for more money, it's essential to make popular areas of the house look appealing to potential buyers. Fortunately, with a little DIY effort, you don't have to invest in expensive home repairs or real estate-staging services.

Consider these easy DIY projects that can help ensure your home is market ready when it's time to sell. If the property is particularly appealing, you may even start a bidding war.

Paint the front door – First impressions count when it comes to a home sale. You want your entryway to be inviting so homebuyers want to look further. An easy way to update an entryway is to paint the door with a new color that complements your home and surroundings. Simply remove the hardware, clean the surface, prime and topcoat with the new paint color. While you're at it, consider painting exterior accent features — such as shutters or window boxes — the same color for a cohesive look.

Repair and refresh walls – Painting is an easy and affordable way to freshen an entire home so that buyers take notice. However, cracks and holes in freshly painted walls can make a poor impression. For a DIY project that yields a professional result, repair walls before the first swipe of the paint brush. ALEX Plus and ALEX Flex Spackling provide unsurpassed performance and durability for filling holes and cracks on surfaces throughout the home. ALEX Plus Spackling is easy to apply, sands to a smooth finished surface, and creates the superior paintability needed to seamlessly blend with the surrounding area. ALEX Flex Spackling is perfect for eliminating those stubborn reoccurring cracks in drywall that appear as problem areas expand and contract with changes in weather and humidity.

Update kitchen and bath hardware – Do you have kitchen and bath hardware that’s decades old? If so, it may be worth your time to replace these dated details. Adding small features such as modern cabinet hardware can visually update a room, so explore affordable options at your local home improvement store. Once you select the style you like best, just get your screwdriver and swap out the old for new.

Re-caulk the kitchen and bathroom – Exposure to water and moisture over time can cause caulk to look dirty and unsightly. Potential buyers are sure to note mold, mildew, dirt, and stains on old caulk. For a clean appearance, remove the old caulk, thoroughly clean the area to remove any dirt or residue, then re-caulk with DAP Kwik Seal Ultra Sealant. Backed by a lifetime mold and mildew resistance guarantee, this premium siliconized kitchen and bath sealant repels water, liquids, soap scum, stains so the sealant stays looking clean, fresh and new. Plus, it is safe for all surfaces, even granite and marble.

Revisit lighting throughout the home – Proper illumination isn't just useful, it can open up a room and highlight beautiful architectural features. All lighting should be dusted, but for those fixtures that are old, outdated, or broken, consider inexpensive replacement options. Something as simple as replacing glass globes can add high-impact style. Adding task and accent lighting is another smart investment. For example, under-cabinet lights in the kitchen are easy to install and are likely to impress potential buyers.

Preparing a home for sale doesn't have to be a daunting process. With these five projects, you'll be well on your way to have a beautiful home ready for listing.



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4 reasons why black shingles are resurging in...

(BPT) - Grays, browns, taupes — after decades of neutral-colored shingles dominating entire neighborhoods, homeowners are turning to the dark side. Home improvement experts agree black roofs are making a comeback, offering a sleek alternative that boosts curb appeal and enhances design elements.

Decades ago black was the traditional color for asphalt roofs. Homeowners, seeking to mimic the look of expensive wood shake shingles, started to opt for brown and gray composite shingles. Black shingles began to fall out of popularity.

But today, homeowners are looking to stand out rather than fit in. A black roof breaks up the sea of sameness of entire city blocks in neutral roofing colors. This bold exterior choice makes a statement with an eye-catching, clean color that contrasts against neighboring homes.

“People today want their homes to be one of a kind,” says Brian Borgard, sales territory manager for TAMKO Building Products. “They want something bold, something to differentiate their homes from their neighbors’.”

Like many shingle manufacturers, Borgard says TAMKO’s best-selling color for many years has been a brown meant to emulate wood shake. “Weathered Wood was the ultimate color even five years ago, but people are looking for a change," he says. "They want something new, but still neutral.”

In fact, in 2016 TAMKO’s black-colored Heritage Laminated Asphalt Shingles were the most popular next to TAMKO’s Weathered Wood. This year, Borgard says it's possible black could eventually overtake the top spot as many contractors are switching all their shingle orders from brown to black.

Roofing contractor John Cotten can testify to the trend in his own business.

“I’ve seen a definite increase in the demand for black roofing,” says Cotten, owner of John Cotten Roofing in Joplin, Missouri, a TAMKO Pro Certified Contractor. “I think homeowners are tired of seeing the same shingles on all of the houses in their neighborhoods — they’re ready for a change.”

So, why are so many homeowners opting for black shingles? These four reasons prove it's a trend that won't be fading anytime soon:

Black is modern: A younger generation of homeowners wants a modern home profile. The natural wood-shake aesthetic is often perceived as too traditional or old fashioned.

Black matches everything: Unless the exterior of your house is navy blue or dark brown, a black roof will match and enhance the facade.

Black highlights: Rather than hiding or overpowering the features of your home, black tends to highlight architectural features and makes other colors appear brighter.

Black stands out: In a neighborhood of neutrals, black is sure to draw the eye of potential homebuyers or passersby.



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Changing weather patterns leave homeowners...

(BPT) - The U.S. has experienced significant shifts in the frequency, severity and locations of natural disasters — including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires — during the past decade.

As a result, more than 800 emergency or disaster declarations were made in the U.S. from 2005–2015, according to FEMA data. The insured losses stemming from natural catastrophes such as these average $24 billion annually.

Homeowners face severe risks from these disasters, yet many have not connected the dots between these shifts and the impact on their home insurance needs. A recent survey commissioned by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) found that fewer than 22 percent of homeowners view weather patterns or disasters as an important factor when updating their homeowners insurance policy. Missing these links can be costly.

“Changing weather patterns can dramatically impact what insurance should be carried on a property,” says Mike Consedine, NAIC chief executive officer. “When homeowners don’t regularly review their policies, important gaps in coverage can be missed. You should re-evaluate your risk profile at least once a year to ensure your existing homeowners policy provides the protection you need.”

Despite Consedine's recommendation, the survey revealed that 56 percent of homeowners have not reviewed their insurance policies in more than a year. Fourteen percent are unsure when — if ever — they last reviewed their policies.

If it’s been awhile since your last insurance review, there’s no better time than the present. When evaluating your policy, consider the following questions:

1. Am I now at risk? Are earthquakes, wildfires or other disasters now a threat in my state or region? If you live in Oklahoma, for example, the risk of earthquakes has significantly increased in the last decade. Do I need flood insurance? Some incidents such as floods are not covered by a typical homeowners policy, so you’ll need additional coverage.

2. What has changed in my home? If you’ve moved in with your significant other or an adult child has returned home, consider the impact their belongings will have on your coverage. Create a home inventory and update it annually. The NAIC’s MyHome Scr.App.book app (available for iPhone and Android) lets you quickly capture images and descriptions of your possessions. Keep in mind personal items like jewelry, antiques and artwork may require special insurance coverage.

3. Do I save my receipts? Take photos or save receipts from major purchases and store them in a safe place away from your house or apartment. Quick access to these receipts will make filing a claim much easier.

4. What home improvements have I made? Renovations and additions can change the value of your home. Make sure your homeowners insurance policy reflects your home’s current value. Some security or smart home features may qualify you for premium discounts.

5. How can I learn more about being prepared? Get educated about your insurance options now to avoid surprises later. Insure U’s new Disaster Prep Guides can help determine the best course of action before, during and after a disaster strikes. The guides include information and tips for tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and wildfires.

For unbiased information and resources to help you rethink insurance, visit insureuonline.org. For insurance information specific to where you live, contact your state insurance commissioner.



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How to use your home's equity to your...

(BPT) - Your most valuable asset is around you all the time. It’s above you, it’s below you and in many cases you don’t realize how much it can do for you.

According to the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., “Americans have a staggering amount of untapped equity in their homes.” How much? Altogether, $11,030,000,000,000. That’s 11 trillion, 30 billion dollars.

Yet despite this huge wealth possessed by homeowners, using it isn’t as simple as writing a check. You have to capitalize on your home’s equity.

What Is Home Equity?

Your home’s equity represents the difference between its current market value and the money that you owe on it.

Let’s say, for example, your home has a market value of $200,000, you made a down payment of $40,000 and you took out a $160,000 mortgage. At that point your equity is $40,000. You can always calculate this number by taking your home’s initial price and subtracting the amount you still owe.

Now, let’s say 10 years later you have paid off $60,000 of your $160,000 mortgage. At this point you still owe $100,000 on your home’s initial price of $200,000 so your equity is $100,000, assuming the home's value has remained the same.

A little at a time

Each month when you make a mortgage payment, some of your money goes toward interest, some goes toward real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance (if the lender is collecting for these and making the payments on your behalf), and some goes toward paying off the mortgage itself. This last portion grows your equity because it subtracts from the amount you still owe.

Your home equity can also grow if your home increases in value because the amount you still owe has not changed. A rise in value may be due to increased home prices in your area and/or improvements you make to the home.

Market home prices may rise and fall from one year to the next but given enough time, most real estate tends to increase in value. For example, current economic forecasts from CoreLogic project a 4.8 percent increase in home prices year over year in 2017.

Gaining access to your equity

Now that you understand what equity is and how much equity you have, your next question may be “How do I use it?”

Your first step is to contact a knowledgeable mortgage professional. They will be able to answer your questions as well as show you loans that use your home as collateral. You’ll want to do your research to determine which type of loan is best for you. You should also take the time to compare interest rates, offers and loan features.

And if you are age 62 or older, you are also eligible for additional home equity options such as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), which is an FHA-insured Reverse Mortgage loan. This loan may be taken as a lump sum, a line of credit, through fixed monthly payments or a combination and the loan can never be frozen or reduced.

The equity in your home empowers you with several financing options and the specifics of each loan may vary from lender to lender, so ask questions and do your own research. Once you understand all your options you’ll be able to determine which loan offering allows you to make the most of your most valuable asset.

To learn about HECM Reverse Mortgage loans and other special home-equity options available to homeowners 62 and older, visit www.reversemortgage.org/HomeEquity.



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5 green home improvements that can help sell...

(BPT) - Demand remains high for energy-efficient, eco-friendly home features, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders. In fact, the majority of builders now put energy-efficient windows, heating and cooling systems, thermostats and appliances in their construction, the survey says. If you’re selling your home and hope to compete with new construction — as well as set your house apart from other resales — making green improvements could significantly pay off.

“Updating your home with green features can attract more buyers and even increase your home's sale price,” says Geoff Lewis, president of RE/MAX, LLC. “Buyers are not only looking for cosmetic upgrades, they also want improvements that will help save them money for as long as they live in the home.”

Some green projects you can easily accomplish yourself, like replacing less efficient light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs or LEDs throughout the house, or installing a programmable thermostat. Other improvements may require professional expertise but can result in even bigger payoffs.

Here are five popular green home improvements that could help boost your home’s resale value, and save you money until you’re ready to sell:

* Windows: Replacing older windows with ENERGY STAR-rated high-efficiency windows could lower your annual energy bill as much as 12 percent, according to the United States Department of Energy. What’s more, ENERGY STAR-rated windows may qualify for a tax credit of 10 percent off the cost of the windows.

* Insulation: Most homes in the U.S. don’t have enough insulation, according to energystar.gov. Adding insulation and sealing air leaks could reduce annual energy bills by 10 percent. At the time of resale, adding fiberglass insulation in the attic could recoup 107 percent of the cost, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report.

*Front door: It’s a key part of your home’s curb appeal and the last exterior feature homebuyers see before entering your house. However, a front door needs to do more than look good. Replacing an older, wooden door with an energy-efficient, secure steel door recoups more than 90 percent of its cost when you sell your home, according to the Cost vs. Value report.

*Landscaping: With warm weather approaching, it’s a great time to think about landscaping that has green value as well as cosmetic appeal. Adding trees in addition to flowers can provide shade that will help keep the home’s interior cooler in summer months. In fact, according to the National Association of Landscape professionals, planting five shade trees can return up to 100 percent of the project cost when you sell your home.

*Water: Most water heaters last about 10 years, so if your home is older, a new water heater could be a big selling point. A tankless water heater could be even more appealing; because they only heat water when it’s needed, rather than consume energy to hold gallons of water at a set temperature for hours, tankless water heaters use far less energy. ENERGY STAR says a tankless water heater could save you up to $1,800 over its usable life — which is twice as long as the lifespan of traditional tank water heaters.

When you’re thinking of selling your home, you’ll probably invest a lot of time and energy into staging. Consider saving some additional budget for energy-efficient home improvements that may help boost your home’s value. A knowledgeable real estate agent can advise you on which green home improvements can get you the biggest return on investment. Visit www.remax.com to find a real estate agent near you.



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Articles last updated at Aug 17, 2017 15:56:44pm.
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