ofuro: Japanese soaking tubs

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pictured above: a beautiful custom wooden ofuro designed & built by Bartok Design

A few years ago, I remodeled my bathroom, and removed a traditional shower/tub combo. In replacing it with a tiled shower stall and a tub, I faced a dilemma: how to fit these two new items in the same space? Luckily, my solution was Kohler's Greek Soaking Tub, substantially deeper, wider and shorter than their traditional tubs. However, I originally investigated building a custom Japanese soaking tub - or ofuro - before discarding that idea in favor of my lower-cost Kohler alternative.

My father is facing a similar project: he wants to turn the upstairs in his 1917 Craftsman home into a small apartment, with the 1/2 bath currently there becoming a full, albeit tiny, bathroom. Being that the entire upstairs of his house is finished in rich rough wood - mostly raw redwood planks and other woods - he wants the bath to be similarly subtle and consistent, so I recommended an ofuro.

One of the best resources on the subject is Bruce Smith & Yoshiko Yamamoto's Japanese Baths book - lots of eyecandy and ideas in it. But here are some other resources that may be useful.

  • Hydro Systems' 4040 round/square soaking tub
  • Neo-Metro's luxury baths
  • THG's Yoko
  • Neptune makes some larger whirlpools in a vaguely Japanese style
  • MTI has a huge line of luxury baths, including several space-saving corner models and a few deep soakers
  • online retailer Signature Hardware has a nice consolidated listing for several different makers of unorthodox bath & soaking tubs
  • I saw a Cabuchon tub recently installed in Portland, Oregon; it looked great but I couldn't exactly strip down and take a bath at the cocktail party where I saw it
  • Bathpro's Yubune are short and deep
  • TeakTubs look gorgeous but I'm not sure how safe they'd be on a second story, but as long as they're sealed well, I know teak shouldn't split or swell, so maybe they're fine
  • Robert's Hot Tubs makes some really nice tubs, several of which are bathroom-sized
  • Bartok Design's custom Japanese tubs are beautiful and minimalist
  • Driftwood Design also makes custom wooden baths
  • master carpenter Hiroshi Sakaguchi also makes custom tubs, all of which are absolutely gorgeous
  • of course, if the floor is strong enough, you can always frame & pour your own concrete tub to fit any possible shape or space
  • for less than $900, you can have a portable ofuro that will fit in a large shower stall or which can be placed above a drain on a tiled floor - something you can take with you, and one of the simplest solutions to this sort of problem. No reason you can't use a flexible filler, with a hook on the wall above it to turn it into a shower!

new materials for kitchen and bath

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While most of these lend themselves more to a modern kitchen or bath, it's certainly possible to take advantage of advances in materials science in a more traditional remodel as well. For example, I've seen several new Craftsman kitchens using pre-cast and cast-on-site concrete for countertops, and what looks industrial in a modern setting can look warm and complementary in a classic wooden kitchen. Further, now that dyes and inclusions can be added to concrete to give it a bit more character, it's a much more flexible product than it was when it first became popular as a countertop material several years ago.

Recycled glass and wood, blocks of pressed fibers, resins and other manufactured materials and even more arcane products are being repurposed as countertop, tile, flooring and more. Take a look at a few products and manufacturers I've discovered in the last few months:

tile / glass / stone

  • Una Terra sells interesting, unique tiles made all over the world - from Italian specialty glass mosaics to American-made stone, they've got some really neat stuff (as well as high-resolution PDFs so you can see the tile up close, something I wish more vendors offered).
  • Marazzi sells porcelain, glass, ceramic and metal-glaz tiles in a small range of basic shades and tones.
  • Bisazza is the American vendor for a large Italian glass and porcelain mosaic tilemaker.
  • Hakatai are my favorite American tilemakers & sellers. Based in Oregon, they produce hundreds of mosaic tiles in glass and other materials for pools, walls, counters, floors, murals and any other flat surface you can imagine. Well, almost.
  • Sonoma Cast Stone sells concrete, kitchen and bath surrounds, tiles & pavers and other items and materials in a wide array of colors.
  • Concrete Network is not a seller, but rather a sourcing site for folks looking for a concrete contractor. The website also includes a big gallery of photos of concrete in use - as countertops, fireplace surrounds, flooring, furniture, sinks and more.
  • IceStone is made from recycled glass and concrete, and comes in a 24-standard color palette with an infinite number of custom options.

wood

  • Ebony & Co sell hardwood, antique / salvaged, old-growth pine and bespoke wooden parquetry floors in a huge range of woods and finishes. They are also one of the few wood floring vendors who sell specific grades to be used in conjunction with underfloor heating installations.
  • Bamboo Hardwoods has sold sheets of pressed bamboo lumber for flooring, furniture and other products since 1995. They also have a line of custom bamboo cabinetry for kitchen & bath.
  • Teragren sells bamboo flooring, panels designed for cabinetry and furniture, and veneers.
  • Windfall Lumber sells "sustainably harvested wood products," including flooring, mouldings, countertops, decking and whole timbers.
  • New York City's Habitus sells tile, stone, cement, Japanese stucco, porcelain and more, but what they are known for are their cork products: mosaic tiles, floor and wall panels, fabrics, and more. High resolution PDFs are available for download.
  • Treefrog makes and sells exotic wood laminates in interesting patterns and textures
  • Plyboo is a flexible plywood made from bamboo, and is often used for cabinetry and furnituremaking.

other stuff

  • Yemm & Hart makes decorative polyethylene sheeting and flooring made from recycled tires, just like the stuff that was under the monkey bars when you were a kid - but colorful, stronger, and it won't break up and track all over the place.
  • Lumicor seems all over the news lately. The product is essentially a type of architectural resin which is strong enough to be used as structural material and interesting enough to be decorative. It can be cast thick or thin, and is sometimes used for countertop and tabletop material. It is often cast with various types of fibers embedded, and can be made in an enormous range of colors, textures and opacities. Their portfolio shows several dozen different uses - in homes, retail settings, office space and elsewhere.
  • Paperstone is what it sounds like: a solid surface material, great for countertops, made from recycled paper that has been transformed under enormous pressure.
  • Richlite is another popular product made from a paper fiber-based composite. It was originally distributed as a surface for commercial kitchens and baths in the 1950s, but is enjoying a resurgence as a domestic surface. It is also used for skateboard parks, of all things! It's generally considered a green alternative to Corian and manufactured granite, as it can very closely resemble those materials.
  • Brooklyn's Bettencourt Green Building Supplies sells many of these items, including Richlite, Paperstone, Plyboo bamboo butcherblock, Durapalm coconut flooring, cork, Kirei board, wheatboard and lots more.

Additionally, Green Home Guide, which can usually be counted on for good and unbiased advice on building materials, has a guide to choosing countertop material; they also have a buyers' guide to green flooring materials, which should give you some general budget information.

Finally, don't discount the reliable standbys: Corian kitchen worktops are affordable, last forever, quick to fab and install, and look absolutely fantastic. Many contractors are happy to use something tried and true, rather than playing with new materials they've never encountered before. In the UK, we strongly recommend Unique Fabrications in Milton Keynes, who can take on any job, from complex industrial and commercial spaces to residential kitchens and baths.

cc-licensed image by sierravalleygirl


5 Tips on Water Damage Repair

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. CC-licensed image by Jo Naylor.

 

Water damage can wreak havoc in any home that it decides to hit. This is something that you might not want to deal with, but when the time comes, you have to know what to do. When the water ruins everything that it touches, including the home that you’re living in, then you’re going to have a problem when the time comes. There are many ways to go about removing the water and moisture from the home and the air so you can get back on track to living.

  1. Dehumidifiers are able to provide the home with less moisture. These machines essentially pull the water from the air and collect it inside a reservoir. It will need to be dumped out, but can continue to pull the water around it, inside it.
  2. Using an air mover can also dry out the many items that have been water damaged. This is because the air mover works like a fan, but on a much bigger scale. You’re able to move the air around the area, and with the help of a dehumidifier, the room can feel much more dryer.
  3. Water damage restoration can be done through professionals, though they might charge a bit more than you’d like to pay, depending on your budget.
  4. Removing the soaked and damaged items from the area can help with the cleaning up, and drying out of the area. You want to ensure that everything that has been ruined is properly disposed of so the foundation of the home can be worked on next.
  5. The small cracks, breaks and other areas of the home that became wet should be cleaned out and dried completely to ensure that this water does not seep into any other areas of the foundation, and cause further problems and damage to the home.

For more information about water damage restoration, contact Aer Industries for both residential and wholesale sales.


The Best Remodels You Should do in The Winter

Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. 

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Generally speaking, summertime is the best season for outdoors projects. Painting the exterior of your home, adding a new room, or major lawn design should all be done when it’s bright and sunny out. But there are numerous tasks that can be performed in the colder months. If they aren’t outright remodeling jobs, then they’re planning those jobs.

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Remodeling the basement

One of the first areas to start is down below. The immediate benefit of basement remodeling is that it’s all indoors. Consider your different options. Add a bar to your house. Throw in a wooden room to establish as a man cave. Waterproof the cement. Whatever your goals for the basement could be, you can be sure to achieve. You won’t have to worry about the biting cold unless your basement isn’t properly insulated, which brings us to the next project.

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Insulate your home for the cold

Weatherization can sometimes be an overlooked part of homeownership, especially with older homes. There’s no better way to get the money spent on home improvement back than with energy efficient features that pay for themselves in a few years. Start with the attic and work outwards. The attic is important because the top of your home is where all the heat ends up traveling. To keep the warm air downstairs where you live, most homes use rolled batts as insulation. Bare in mind that energy approved windows and doors are equally as important. An energy efficient home is a real saver on the monthly bills.

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Install that hardwood flooring

If you were thinking about getting new hardwood flooring in your room, winter is the perfect time to do so. Not only is it indoor work that won’t involve the cold, the climate is ideal for hardwood installation. Dry winter air helps cut down on boards with a tendency to gape apart. Also, a lack of humidity means that water damage won’t occur. All in all, the drying time for the board adhesives used will be cut down significantly. So the winter weather is really a bonus when it comes to hardwood.

So don’t let them tell you that nothing can get done in the snowy seasons. There still plenty that you can accomplish. It just a matter of figuring out your budget and what you want to do with your home. If time if a factor, keep in mind you have all winter. So get motivated this winter season.

Article written by Sean Mahan, also a writer for homeyou.com, a company that connects homeowners to reliable, affordable and professional contractors for their home improvement projects. Check more on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.


Domestic Building Work You Need to Get Right the First Time

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. CC-licensed image by tpsdave.

Any type of domestic building work is expensive. You have to pay for services, materials and other expenses that mount up during the lifetime of a construction project. There are certain parts of a construction project that are more important than others. Once you’ve identified them, it’s vital to ensure that high quality materials are used and the standard of workmanship is top notch. If not, serious problems can occur in the future. These are some of the most important construction-related tasks you need to get right first time.

Foundation

The ground beneath a new building, extension or renovation project has to be solid and secure. If it’s not, the whole building you construct can be affected and result in a wide range of structural problems down the line. The creation of a foundation of any building should be supervised by an expert such as an engineer. The materials used to create a foundation should be of a high quality, so that the building created is as sturdy and secure and possible.

Roof

The roof of most homes is one of the most important features. It’s even more important in places that experience extreme weather conditions. For example, if the place you live in gets heavy rainfall, you want to be certain your roof does not leak and let water into your home. Roofing a home is an extremely specialized skill, learned over many years. This means you should only use the services of established, reputable roofing companies who will ensure that there are no problems in the future.

Electrics

Most homeowners take electricity for granted. However, this is an important feature in the majority of modern homes. Electrical faults can have devastating consequences for everyone in a home. This is why it’s important to hire an electrician or electrical company who will safely and professionally wire your home.

Plumbing and Heating

One of the biggest concerns in homes is problems with plumbing. Burst pipes, broken heating systems and leaks are just some of the problems homeowners face. Calling out a plumber on a regular basis is expensive. Poor quality plumbing during the initial construction of a property is often the cause of these issues. Once again, hiring a plumber or plumbing company that provides a top quality service will prevent problems in the future.

Windows and Doors

Windows and doors serve many important purposes. They provide security, make a home more comfortable, let in light and increase the energy-efficiency of a home. However, not all windows and doors achieve all of these things. Some are made from substandard materials or they’re poorly constructed. In other situations, windows and doors are fitted badly which compounds the problems associated with these features of a home. Choosing high quality window and door manufacturers and installers ensures that these features will remain in your home for a long time to come.

The features above are the main parts of a home you need to get right first time when you’re constructing a building. Once these features are dealt with, you can start to address the other features in a building.


Better Heating in Winter

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. CC-licensed photo by Keka Marzagao.

Heating and cooling is the largest contributor to the cost of housing or running a brick and mortar business. The structure itself might have a loan, but heating and cooling tend to consume the most energy. Unlike a fixed loan, the energy demands of heating in winter is adjustable. While the simplest solution might seem to be to set the thermostat lower, most HVAC units can be maintained to improve efficiency.

Residents should study their energy bill every year. A variation from the norm means either an unusually cold winter or a loss of efficiency. HVAC units should be checked every year, and the rewards of maintenance are efficiency and longer unit life. Large structures have mechanics that examine kilowatt hours and clean the system to reduce its load.

A common problem is lost refrigerant. Pressure drops as refrigerant leaks, and less viscous refrigerant does not transfer heat as effectively. The HVAC unit must run longer and harder, which both consumes power and wears the motor. Refrigerant slowly leaks from all systems, and this is one reason why HVAC units should be examined once a year by a professional heating and cooling service, such as All Weather Heating and Air Conditioning. Replacing and cleaning refrigerant is standard practice.

Another common problem is blocked vents and air ducts. Large cooling units have a complicated set of parts, including chilling towers that use water vapor to cool refrigerant. Any surface that transfers heat should be free of debris, and vents must be cleaned to allow air to circulate. Blockage is commonly provided by fall leaves and dust.

Residential HVAC units can also become blocked by leaves and even snow. Circulating air can allow lint to accumulate on interior parts, and these must be cleaned periodically. The key is easy air circulation and thermal transfer. Lint, grime, and other obstructions act as insulation and reduce the system efficiency.

Other problems lay with the duct work. Damaged insulation, leaks, and blockage all reduce heating efficiency. Leaks spew conditioned air into the crawlspace underneath a house and also reduce pressure. Blockage reduces air flow at the far end of the system and overworks the air conditioner. Regular maintenance clears all these problems.


Pros & Cons of Oil-to-Gas Heating Conversion

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. CC-Licensed photographs by Gnomedude and Joanna Poe.

Oil heaters store a light petroleum in a tank and use it to fire a hot water tank or a household furnace. The advantages of oil is that it can be transported by a vehicle and many oil heater can function without electricity. This is convenient in rural areas, but there might be a better option for heating and cooling Tucson city residents might want to consider.

City homes with oil heaters can convert to natural gas. While petroleum products can vary in price, natural gas is more stable. The average cost of heating a home during the 2008 winter was $1700 with oil while heating with natural gas cost only $900.

There is a direct relation between the price of unrefined petroleum and oil heating. Petroleum is the base price of all derived products, ranging from gasoline to plastic to kerosene and house heating oil. While petroleum prices are currently low in the United States, this might change in a decade.

One advantage of oil is that it has a flash point of 52 degrees Celsius. This means that it does not form a combustible vapor at room temperature. While heating oil can be stored securely, it does require a storage tank. Natural gas pipes are well out of sight.

Natural gas risks an explosion if it leaks at a high enough concentration. The good news is that new installations have many safety features that minimize leaks. If gas does leak, aeration will remove it from a home. Oil is much more damaging if it spills, because it saturates surfaces and is difficult to remove.

Natural gas is better for the environment than burning oil, wood, or coal. It does not leave soot or a residue, and the only byproducts are carbon dioxide and water vapor. Natural gas is safe enough that gas stoves and fire places can be installed into a home without chimneys.

Because natural gas is delivered from an external source, there is no need to have a home inspected for fire safety every year. Oil and wood burning might increase the cost of insurance, while natural gas impacts insurance costs less. It might cost $2000 to install a gas line, but savings in annual heating might repay a family in only a few years.


The Top 5 Home Remodeling Ideas That Will Improve Your Life

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Your home is your castle, so it only makes sense that you’d want to improve the way you live your life at home. Remodeling projects can be as cheap as buying a bucket of paint, or as pricey as doing a full home makeover. Luckily, there’s an awesome project for just about every budget and lifestyle you can imagine. Here are our top five picks for remodeling projects that actually work to improve the quality of your life.

  1. Get a hot tub or Jacuzzi installed. There’s something oh, so relaxing about being able to kick back in your very own home spa. Studies have shown that regular use of a hot tub can soothe sore muscles, improve flexibility, and also lower stress. This kind of bathroom remodeling project can easily run upwards of $10,000, so it’s definitely a project that requires a higher budget.
  2. Install new appliances. This can be both a kitchen and a laundry room upgrade, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Though it’s not a full remodeling project, the fact is that upgraded dishwashers, stoves, and washing machines can make a huge difference in the quality of your life as well as the amount of time that you spend cleaning. This remodeling project can greatly vary in price, but in general, you can expect to spend around $500 per appliance, at the very least.
  3. Add an extra room. If you have upwards of $15,000, adding a new bedroom or living room to your house is a good way to improve your overall quality of life. Another room can make the perfect location for entertaining guests, or could be used at add a little more privacy for families that feel cramped in their current situation. It’s also worth noting that an extra room can provide a serious return on investment.
  4. Get better ventilation. Many people seriously underestimate the huge impact a well ventilated room can have on a person’s wellbeing. If you have allergies, or are prone to falling ill during certain times of year, a room with cleaner air can make all the difference. Getting a good medical grade air filter can actually be quite affordable, depending on the size of your house. Besides, a good air filter for your home also can make it easier to clear out foul odors that tend to linger.
  5. Install a pool in your back yard. Pools are often the home improvement choice of people who want to become the “fun house” of their block.

    Author bio: A parenting writer and home improvement aficianado, Regina empowers women through her writing and parenting tips. If she’s not writing or walking her dog, you can catch her surfing the web for what’s new at VentisNote: partered post • CC-Licensed photograph by Jeremy Levine Design

 


7 Improvement & Remodeling Ideas to Increase Home Value

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Thinking about updating your own kitchen? Check out this Kitchen Visualizer Tool – it's a great resource!

1. Remodeling the Kitchen

Most people consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home, and because of this, updates in this room pay off. According to HGTV, you can expect to recoup 60%-120% of your investment on a kitchen remodel, as long as you don’t go overboard. You should never make your kitchen fancier than the rest of the house, or the neighborhood.

2. Bathroom Addition

If your home only has one bathroom, you can recoup a large chunk of your investment by adding another one. HGTV estimates that you can recoup 80%-130% of whatever you spend adding a bathroom.

read the rest of these 7 remodeling ideas here

Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication.


10 De-Cluttering Tips from the Professional Space Savers

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. Creative Commons-licensed photograph by Rubbermaid.

Keeping your home tidy and free of clutter can seem like a challenging task in the beginning but it is important to push past your doubts and defeat the clutter bug. These simple tips will ensure that you de-clutter your home in no time.

1. Donate to Charity

Throw out the torn and worn clothes but give those that remain in good condition to someone in need. There are hundreds of charities that accept donated clothes such as Oxfam. You will be doing a good deed and freeing some space in the closet at the same time.

2. Storage

If you have a lot of items around the house that you have no room for but are reluctant to just throw out, consider keeping them in self storage. This is a convenient way to de-clutter your home and you can rent the unit for as long as you like.

3. Only keep what you need

According to The Guardian, the focus of de-cluttering should be on what to keep instead of deciding what to get rid of. This will give you a clearer perspective on what is expendable and what is irreplaceable.  

4. Install Extra Shelves

Make the most of your wall space by installing some useful shelves to store books, photo albums, toys and other things that tend to clutter the house. You can get a little more creative and paint the shelves a colour that matches the rest of the room to add a touch of personalisation.

5. Tackle One Room at a Time

Try not to take on such a mammoth task all at once. Instead, clean and sort out one room at a time. This will make the process so much easier. If you can’t find a place for a certain item then throw it out or donate it.

6. Label Boxes

Save yourself a lot of time and effort by labelling the boxes that you fill as you de-clutter your home. Labels will help to keep your things organized and will make finding them again so much easier.

7. Use Cereal Boxes as Dividers

For those items that are often difficult to place, use cereal boxes as drawer dividers. According to www.realsimple.com, you can keep better track of items such as candles by corralling them with a ‘grid of interlocking inserts tailored to the contents—whether that’s candles, batteries, or cosmetics.’

8. Sort out Documents

Homes tend to have a lot of old letters, school documents and old paperwork lying about which can make a home look messy. Decide which papers can be thrown out and then create separate files to store the important documents to help you to keep track of them.

9. Use a Shoe Rack

Encourage your family to store their shoes on a handy shoe rack. This will keep the shoes in one place and provide a handy storage solution for all of the many pairs of shoes in your house.

10. Basket Storage

Baskets can be hung behind doors, on walls or under the stairs to store smaller items such as scarves, socks, bathroom essentials and toys, etc.


How does underfloor heating work?

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. Creative Commons-licensed photograph by Martin Pettitt.

Whether you are buying your underfloor heating from a specialist such as The Underfloor Heating Store or picking up a budget kit from your local DIY store, all underfloor heating essentially works the same way; to ensure your home is free from cold spots, is heated efficiently and looks great because it eliminates the need for ugly radiators from your home.

Research, conducted in 2014 by Continental Underfloor, confirmed that 75% of installers believe underfloor heating will be key in 2015 as people look for alternatives to traditional systems. There are two underfloor heating solutions available, electric and wet. Both work by using either electricity or warm water to heat your floor evenly, throughout the room.

Electric underfloor heating is the simplest to install out of the two and usually consists of heating mats, packed with electric wires that heat up once connected to the mains electricity supply.

Electric underfloor heating is best for smaller rooms that might have awkward corners. The mats (which come in tile form or on a roll) are laid beneath your flooring (which could be tiles, vinyl, laminate or even carpet, if it is not too thick), then a layer of screed and floor insulation is placed on top before the actual floor is finally laid. You will need to call in an electrician to hook the heat mat system up to the mains electric supply and thermostat but you can do most of the work yourself.

Wet underfloor heating is a little more costly to install but cheaper to run than its electric counterpart. Wet underfloor heating works using plastic pipes, fitted beneath the floor, which are then heated using warm water from the central heating system and work better in larger spaces. These plastic pipes are carefully connected and laid in a sand and cement screed with flooring then laid on top.

Wet underfloor heating is a little trickier to install yourself and you will need a plumber to hook up the system to either your boiler or a heat pump, so we recommend that you hire a professional to install the system so there are no issues later. Paying for professional help at this point should prevent you running into issues later and compared with having to rip up the whole floor, will be much less costly.

Underfloor heating is much more energy efficient than a radiator central heating system, it acts essentially as a whole room radiator that runs constantly in the background (simply because it takes longer to warm up to its highest temperature) but requires a much lower boiler temperature to actually heat up the water. Most radiator systems require the water temperature to be around 80°C, whereas underfloor heating only needs the water to be 40°C - 65°C to achieve a floor temperature of between 23°C and 32°C!

Underfloor heating is the definition of luxury but is quickly becoming a popular and affordable alternative to traditional central heating systems and with energy efficiency, even temperature throughout the room and quick installation times it’s easy to see why. 


DIY Friday: How to Repair or Replace Cracked Tiles

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication.

Tiles can crack for a variety of reasons, from heavy furniture to constant foot traffic from passers-by. Whether your tiles are ceramic or made from natural stone, cracks and chips can quickly ruin the appearance of your walls or flooring.

While cracked tiles might seem impossible to repair, it’s surprisingly easy to fix thin cracks or, in cases where your tiles are severely damaged, replace them without any damage to the rest of your floor or wall.

In this guide written by the experts at Tile Depot we’ll share some simple tips and techniques that you can use to repair or replace cracked tiles and conceal damage with ease.

When you’re installing tiles, keep a set spare

No matter how carefully you care for your tiles, sudden pressure from furniture or foot traffic can cause them to crack. Keeping a set of 5-10 spare tiles around makes replacing cracked tiles easy and saves you an extra trip to the shop or online order.

When you’re installing tiles, keep a spare 5-10 to use for repairs and replacements per room. If you’re installing tiles outside or in an area with lots of foot traffic, keep 10+ spare tiles to deal with the higher likelihood of tiles cracking over time.

Ceramic tiles installed in sunny areas such as balconies or garden paths might fade because of sun exposure. Keep your spare tiles outside in the same area so that they match your existing tiles even after the sun’s caused their colour to lighten.

How to repair small cracks and imperfections

While tiles that are severely cracked need to be replaced, small cracks can be fixed (or at worst, concealed) relatively easily. By using paint that’s the same colour as a tile, you can cover cracks in its surface and return it to its original look.

Repairing a hairline crack in a tile is surprisingly quick and easy. You’ll need some oil-based paint and primer to match the tile, a paintbrush, some marine epoxy and some soapy water.

You’ll also need a towel to use for cleaning up, a cloth that you don’t mind throwing away afterwards and, believe it or not, a hair dryer. You’ll use the hair dryer at the end to quickly dry the paint without getting any moisture stuck in the tile.

Let’s start by cleaning the tile. Dip your cloth in soapy water and scrub away at the tile until it’s completely clean. You’ll need to scrub quite firmly to remove any dirt that’s gotten stuck in the tile since it cracked.

Once you’ve cleaned away dirt and dust, gently rinse away extra soap. Switch on the hair dryer and point it at the crack in the tile to apply heat until the tile is completely dry.

After the tile has dried out, apply some primer to your paintbrush and gently brush it onto the crack. You only need to paint over the crack – the rest of the tile doesn’t have any gaps and thus can’t let any water in.

Let the primer dry naturally. This usually takes two to three hours. Once the primer is completely dry, apply some paint to your paintbrush and paint along the crack. It will take several hours for the paint to dry, so leave your tile overnight.

After your paint has dried, it’s time to seal the crack using epoxy. Use a very small paintbrush to apply the epoxy. Keep brushing gently until the crack is exactly level with the surface of the tile.

Epoxy takes several hours to dry, so leave your tile for two to three hours before returning. Avoid applying any pressure to the cracked tile for 24+ hours to let the epoxy completely set in place and prevent the tile from cracking again.

How to replace severely cracked and damaged tiles

Not all tiles can be repaired. If your tile has a large crack that goes from one end to the other, or it has several small cracks that meet and separate the tile into several parts, you’ll need to remove it and replace it with a new one.

Removing a damaged tile is simple. The first step is to smash the tile into smaller pieces, which can then be removed one by one. Use a cloth to cover the surface of the tile and use a hammer to smash it into smaller pieces.

For smaller tiles, a hammer often isn’t appropriate. If you’re worried about hitting the surrounding tiles, you can instead cut into the tile and split it into four triangle-shaped pieces to remove manually.

Once you’ve smashed the tile, carefully remove each piece with your hands. Some edges could be sharp, so be extremely careful when removing the tile and ensure you don’t touch any sharp edges. You can use a chisel to remove small pieces.

After the tile is removed, brush away any dust from the space left in the floor. You now need to apply adhesive to fix the replacement tile in place. Use a notched tile trowel to spread tile adhesive and gently insert the replacement tile into the floor.  

If you’re worried about uneven spacing between tiles, use tile spacers to make sure your new tile is equidistant from all the surrounding tiles. The tile adhesive will take several hours to set before you can apply tile grout and finish the job.

Once the adhesive is dry, carefully about tile grout around the edges of the tile. Give the grout plenty of time to dry before you clean the surface of the tile using a moist cloth. Let the tile’s surface dry, then brush away any remaining dust and tile grout.

Take care of your tiles to avoid cracks, chips and imperfections

The key to extending the lifespan of your tiles is installing them carefully. Uneven tiles, which are a common side effect of rushed installation, face different levels of pressure, which can often lead to cracks developing over time.

Take care of your tiles, not just by keeping them clean, but by making sure they’re installed correctly. This way, you’ll deal with far fewer cracks over the life of your tiles. 


Caesar Stone Quartz Countertops: Customized Countertops For Your Kitchen Space

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication.

A kitchen is a place where all the action happens. Countertops definitely see a lot of action in the kitchen space. Because of this specific reason, they should be properly maintained, cleaned and protected. Just like any other surface, these high traffic areas should be cleaned in a proper way depending on the kind of material you have used. Keep reading this post to learn about Caesarstone’s quartz countertops.

Granite & Quartz: What’s The Speciality?

A quartz granite countertop is a very popular choice among people who love the appearance of granite but are a little worried about the stones short falls. In simple words, granite is a porous natural stone which can quickly absorb liquids; it can easily soak up any kind of cooking oils and the best thing is that it can be easily etched by acids which are found in any household items i.e. hairspray.

The reason why Caesarstone quartz countertops have gained popularity among the modern homeowners is because they are not affected by any of the hazards. When it comes to the colour or pattern of granite, it is something very unpredictable, and this sometimes will make things a little difficult for you as you won’t be able to make the right choice. They are even in their colour, pattern and texture.

Top Benefits Of Quartz Kitchen Countertops

One of the major benefits of quartz kitchen countertops is that they have some of the best qualities of natural stone i.e. when it comes to the durability and appearance of the countertops. The best thing is that they don’t have any as such cons and you can also get it at a very affordable price if you buy it from a reputed online store.

Of course, you must be very well aware of the fact that they are man-made. The process of manufacturing usually involves raw quartz crystals which is one of the hardest substances available in the market. After it has been selected and the ground procedure is done, it’s the resin and crystals which are combined together along with resin and different colours.

Once they all are mixed together, all the components are then heated and then they are vibro-compacted which creates an impenetrable surface. It’s around 95% quartz components which are used in the manufacturing process of quartz countertops or it won’t be durable. The final product is non-porous, strong and has excellent durability in comparison to granite.

Colours: What Options Do You Have?

If you have decided to choose engineered quartz countertops, you will be happy to know that they are available in a huge range of colours that cannot be easily found because dye is combined with crushed stone. They are very versatile and appealing. It is the appearance of the countertops which can dazzle the eyes.

The installation process of Caesarstone’s quartz countertops is definitely a do-it-yourself project. It is advisable to hire a professional who can carry out the task for you. You should do a complete background check of the professional before hiring them for the task.


Asilomar restored!

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Celebrated as Monterey Peninsula's "Refuge by the Sea," Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds has been restored to its former glory. Preservation architecture firm, Page & Turnbull, played an important role in the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Social Hall and the Mary Ann Crocker Dining Hall. 

Phoebe Apperson Hearst Social Hall

In this building, Page & Turnbull removed alterations that were not agreeable to the original design and restored the configuration of spaces in the building to be as close as possible to Morgan’s original layout, while improving its functionality. Restoring the Registration Area and rebuilding the hall’s historic Tearoom returned a sense of harmony and order to the Social Hall. In replacing the non-original existing flooring in the Social Hall, the size and grain pattern were matched to the original oak strip floors. Highlighting the ceiling structure and illuminating the room’s beautiful redwood trusses are replicas of the original wall sconces and historical chandeliers produced with a lighting manufacturer. Stains and varnishes were tested on the new redwood boards in the walls and, where possible, many of the existing boards were reused and salvaged. 

Crocker Dining Hall

In this building, a visual connection was created between the historic dining hall and the servery, and the building’s commercial kitchen was completely renovated. 

Asilomar Background

The Pacific Grove retreat was originally designed by Julia Morgan, the first female architect to be licensed in the State of California. The grounds were founded by the YWCA as a young women’s leadership summer camp in 1913 and has been part of the California State Parks system since 1956. A National Historical Landmark, the 100-year-old site features the largest collection of buildings designed by architect Julia Morgan, who embraced the Arts and Crafts Movement. 

You can learn more and book a room at Asilomar online.


How Underfloor Heating Can Save You Money

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. Creative Commons-licensed photograph by Martin Pettitt.

Underfloor heating provides a high spec and luxury alternative to the traditional radiator system that many households use, and its benefits are well-known throughout the industry. However, the installation of underfloor heaters equates to more than just an aesthetically pleasing finish, in fact an underfloor system could just work wonders for your bank balance too!

Check out our essential guide to how an underfloor heating system can save you money, and even make you money in the long run, especially during the cooler months when energy costs tend to spiral out of control.

Heat your home efficiently all year round

In comparison to radiators, an underfloor system is a much more efficient and effective way of heating your home, whether you are looking for a consistent temperature throughout your property during the warmer months or want to maintain a warm and cosy environment during Autumn and Winter.

Radiators operate by rapidly heating surrounding areas, however, as heat rises, the warmth is slowly distributed throughout the wider room, which can cause cold spots and inconsistent temperatures. Larger rooms in particular are more difficult to heat using a radiator system, especially if the room is not sufficiently insulated and energy is lost through walls, doors and windows. The installation of underfloor heating ensures heat is distributed evenly throughout the room so you can turn down your thermostat, cut your carbon footprint, save money on your energy bills and enjoy a constant and comfortable temperature throughout your home.

Increase your home’s value

According to a recent study conducted by Nationwide Building Society, inefficient central heating is a major issue for buyers and can actually decrease a home’s value by around 9%. The installation of underfloor heating is becoming an increasingly popular feature on the average buyer’s most wanted list and is an excellent selling point if you are looking to sell your home in the near future.

Teamed with good quality insulation, the luxury that consistent temperatures offer and the prospect of lower energy bills can in fact push your resale value up and ensure you get the best possible price for your home. Whilst underfloor heating can be an expensive addition, this eco-friendly home improvement is certain to pay dividends when you put your home on the property market.

The ultimate energy saver

As we’ve mentioned the use of radiator-based central heating systems can result in rooms taking much longer to warm up and lead you to cranking up the temperature on your thermostat to create the warm home environment you are looking for.

Radiators require water to be heated to at least 70˚C, whilst an underfloor system is heated to between 30˚C to 50˚C. The large surface area covered by underfloor heating and consistently low operating temperatures ensure you, your household and your purse strings benefit from lower and more manageable heating bills. The installation of underfloor heating can actually reduce your heating bills by up to 30%, offering the ultimate energy and money saving solution for properties of all shapes and sizes.


Things You Have to Know About Demolition

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There is absolutely no way to deny the fact that demolition is exciting and a really fast part of the construction places. The home can be removed entirely even in 2 days when working with a professional and in thorough remodeling jobs, everything will usually last for around 7 days.

While demolition is usually messy and fast, it is something that is a lot more complicated than what many think at first glance. You cannot simply put some explosives and expect the building to come down properly. You need a strategy or you would end up with so many different problems.

In order to help you make a correct decision, let us share some things that need to be known about all demolitions.

  1. Never Do It Alone!

While many of the home remodeling jobs can be done alone, whenever referring to a demolition, it is something that you should never try alone. It would be as if going into a heart surgery and playing the doctor. You need the help of experienced professionals that would keep the entire process safe. Most people do not know anything about demolitions so it should come as no surprise that help is necessary.

  1. Always Get The Permits

Even if you just plan to demolish one wall in your home, obtain the permits that are necessary. Neighbors will surely notice that there is a part of the house missing and if you end up inspected by a building inspector, you can even end up in jail. Permits show when it is safe to do some demolitions so you have to be careful.

  1. Talk With The Neighbors Before The Demolition

Everyone in the neighborhood should know when you plan something like this. A lot of noise will be heard and the mess will most likely be disturbing for a few days. You do need patience and understanding from the neighbors.

  1. Never Live In The Home During Demolition

It is quite surprising to see that some people actually do this. Make sure that you have a place to live in during the demolitions. A lot of dust will be present and this can definitely be hazardous and dangerous for your health.

  1. Asbestos Removal – Be Extremely Cautious

Nothing ends up shutting down projects like asbestos related violations. You need to do your homework. Make sure that you understand the many different regulations that need to be respected. You need to go through removal inspection and it is vital that you obtain extra security permits.

One way to go around the difficulties is to basically hire a company that is specialized in asbestos removal. They will know everything that needs to be done.

  1. Always Consider What Demolition Workers Tell You

Let’s face it! You do not know everything about demolition. The person that you call, at least for inspection purposes, will tell you some things. Make sure that you listen. You might receive some helpful pointers that you never actually knew anything about.

And if you're anywhere near London, whether clearing waste yourself or cleaning up after a large demo project, you'll need a reliable skip hire, such as Mackers Skip Hire in Essex, who have done this sort of thing for many years.

Article written for Hewn And Hammered by Focus Demolition, professionals in safe demolition work and asbestos removal.

partnered post • CC-licensed photograph by Dave Huehn


3 Home Improvements that Appeal to Modern-Day Buyers

partnered post • by Tali Wee of Zillow

Given the wide variety of home upgrades available today, house hunters are even pickier about what they are looking for in a potential home. Without the proper fittings, a standard home can get lost among those with voice-activated garage doors and state-of-the-art wine cellars. A Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate study found that 77 percent of young to middle-age homebuyers expect properties to reflect the technologies and upgrades seen in mass media.

In order to keep up with high expectations, consider these three home upgrades to attract home shoppers in the ever-growing real estate market.

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It seems as though more entrepreneurs, web developers and professional bloggers are entering the workforce each day. Sellers who implement organizational tools and work-related technologies – like charging stations for electronics – into their homes help professionals envision living and working in the space. Consider converting unused square footage into a home office with built-in shelving, a new desk with ample storage and décor to inspire creativity and productivity.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value 2013 Report, a home office remodel typically costs around $27,292. While expensive, the potential return on the investment is $11,911. Homeowners concerned about taking away a spare bedroom and potentially reducing the number of interested parties should install temporary home office essentials such as a lightweight desk and rolling chair. This way, the room can be transitioned back into an extra bedroom to suit the needs of future homeowners.

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Wall-to-wall carpeting was popular decades ago because of its heating qualities and comfortable design. However, today’s homebuyers aren’t interested in purchasing a home with used carpet. Plus, hardwood floors are much more aesthetically pleasing as a modern design trend. If a home has carpeting, it may be worth investigating the material underneath. With refinishing, the original hardwood floors can look as good as new. However, homes built in the latter half of the 20th century may not have hardwood floors underneath, making this project slightly more labor-intensive for homeowners. Pre-finished wood floors cost $8-12 per square foot after installation. The National Wood Flooring Association conducted a national survey amongst real estate agents and 90 percent of those agents stated homes with wood floors sold faster. Regardless of refinishing flooring or fitting brand new planks, sleek and modern hardwood floors impress house hunters.

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Technology-Equipped Rooms

Media rooms have been popular in the housing market for more than a decade. However, technology has come so far that standard home theatres just don’t cut it anymore. Automated locks, HVAC touch screen controls, bowling alleys, webcams and home audio systems are just some of the newer features homeowners should consider installing. Companies like Smarthome feature a variety of home automation gadgets, from wireless plant sensors that regulate garden health to hidden security cameras monitored via homeowners’ smart phones. It seems like a risky investment considering how quickly technology changes over time, but incorporating some of these features help homes stand out in today’s competitive market.

Depending on how intricate the office is, the type of hardwood floors used and the number of tech gadgets installed in the home, these upgrades can range from low cost to extremely pricey. However, even the slightest improvements can leave lasting impressions on home shoppers.


How to Maximise Your Living Space on a Budget

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication.

Decorating a small home or cosy apartment is never easy. From tight corners to tiny hallways, choosing furniture and accessories that make your home feel bigger than it really is requires a creative mind and an eye for detail.

From carefully placed mirrors to intelligent furniture selection, read on to learn four tips that will help you get more living from less space when decorating your home.

Using mirrors to your advantage

While mirrors obviously can’t make a room physically larger, than can be used as a helpful tool to increase the amount of visual space inside a room. Interior designers have long used mirrors to ‘expand’ small rooms – now, you can too.

In a living room, mirrors should be placed on a wall that is perpendicular to your TV or digital display. In a bedroom, they’re best installed on the doors of your closet or on the bedroom side of your door – two places that combine style and function.

Creating ‘perceived space’ with light

Mirrors create visual space by reflecting light, but they’re of little value if your room is poorly lit in the first place. One of the easiest ways to ‘expand’ your room is with a strategically placed window.

Try to maximise the amount of light that enters your room while minimizing glare and excess heat. Large windows are doubly good for creating space – not only do they allow light to enter, they also open your room up to the outside and make it seem more spacious than it really is.

Choosing the perfect furniture

Picking the right furniture is tricky, especially when you’re starting from scratch. In the living room, focus on furniture that’s the right size for your room – a sofa that’s too big will do far more harm than a loveseat that’s slightly too small.

In the bedroom, look for furniture that serves a dual purpose. Bed frames can have built-in storage, closets can have mirrors for makeup and hair styling, and shelving can be mounted on the wall so that it doesn’t take up valuable floor space.

Decorating around a focal point

Focal points are just as important in interior design as they are in painting. Choose a single focal point for every room in your home – it could be a doorway, a television, or a staircase – and use it as a magnetic force that guides your furniture placement.

In the living room, this could mean arranging your sofas, recliners, and coffee table to point towards a television or fireplace. In the bedroom, it could mean using your bed – particularly if it’s a very large bed – as the centrepiece of your furniture.


Vertical or Horizontal Blinds: Which One Should You Pick?

Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication.

Among the window treatments available in the market, window blinds remain popular among homeowners for good reasons. When properly selected and installed, they can make a big difference in the overall interior aesthetic of a home. They can also significantly reduce heat transfer and reflect most natural light streaming into a space, thereby reducing heating and cooling costs, not to mention help enhance the privacy of a home.

When it is time to purchase window blinds from blinds.com, your final decision will likely involve choosing between two popular options: vertical or horizontal. So how will you know which one to pick?

As both types of blinds look and perform differently, it is a good idea to carefully understand their advantages and disadvantages and use them as a basis to guide you through your choice.

Vertical blinds

Neat and elegant, vertical blinds are characterized by slats that hang vertically from a head rail that houses mechanical components that control the slats when they are adjusted. The individual slats can be rotated 180 degrees or can also be completely pulled out of the way.

One of the main advantages of vertical blinds is that they can cover large expanses of glass. They also help elongate the height of a room, allow for better air circulation and provide sufficient privacy and light control. Vertical blinds are also easier to clean, as their slats don’t easily collect dirt or dust. You can also find them in a number of colours and sizes, with some verticals having the capability to be aesthetically improved by slipping strips of materials into the vanes, thereby making them design flexible.

The problem with vertical blinds is that if you purchase cheap ones, their slats will clank together and the components that operate them are visible if there is no headrail in place. When not properly chosen they can be imposing in a room and may even make the space look too corporate.

Horizontal blinds

Horizontal blinds are the exact opposite of vertical blinds. Also referred to as Venetian blinds, these treatments are made up of long horizontal strips that hang on top of each other through a ladder system that is connected to a rotating drum that is used to rotate the slats. They also feature a pull cord or wand which when pulled or rotated raises and stacks the slats together at the top of the hang rail. The same cord or wand is used to drop the slats down when privacy is needed or when natural light has to be blocked.

The good thing about horizontal blinds is that they work well for almost all types of windows, including those that are compact or thin. They can also control light direction by twisting their slats. Like vertical blinds, they are available in a wide variety of colours, sizes and materials. Hidden brackets and no valance options for these blinds allow them to easily disappear into the inner window frames.

If you will be opting for horizontal blinds, one of the major issues associated with them is that they clank against windows when breeze enters the room. Those with route hole in the centre may also allow anyone to peek inside your home. The slats also tend to accumulate dust, making them a bit difficult to clean.

Making the choice

There are a number of factors that you’ll need to take into account to arrive at an informed choice. These include the size and shape of your windows your need for privacy and light control, the style of the room where the blinds would be involved, and your budget.

However, there are cases where vertical and horizontal blinds perform better than the other. For instance, large individual windows are a prime territory for vertical blinds as the vertical nature of the slats will provide proper coverage against prying eyes and sunlight. They will also emphasize the height of the windows. Vertical blinds are also suitable to use for areas that receive a lot of foot traffic since they are easier to clean.

Horizontal blinds, on the other hand, suit smaller and deep windows best as well as those windows whose panes are opened by raising or lowering. They also work well for less used areas, such as the bedroom.


Home Remodelling the Green Way

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. Creative Commons-licensed photograph by Jeremy Levine Design.

If you are remodelling your home, then making eco-friendly considerations is an excellent way to make sure that any additions or modifications to your home are not only long lasting, but also energy efficient and carbon friendly. Although the most commonly held conception of a green home is one that is ugly and low powered, this is actually not the case. Green home improvements have taken advanced a great deal over the last few years, and as a result most green options for home remodelling not only look great, but do a great job of lowering household energy bills, are recyclable and eco-friendly as well. So let’s have a look at what those home improvements are.

Windows

If you are remodelling your home, usually one of the main and most important considerations is the windows. Windows are exceptionally important for any overall home design and look and so if you are conducting major works of any kind on an area of your home with windows, then now is the time to make those windows green! Windows are responsible for the level of natural light that can come into a room. They can be a beautiful focal point, or a dark and dingy light absorber. They can either insulate a room, sending your bills skyrocketing whilst leaving you cold and shivering all winter, or they can insulate and crank up the heat notches whilst saving you money and keeping you warm. For this reason, if you are remodelling your home, and windows are part of your overall plan, then make sure you go for eco-friendly options and opt for windows that allow for plenty of natural light, save heat and insulate your home as well.

Insulation

If you are remodelling your home, now is a good time to add insulation to your home improvement to do list. Insulation is the adding of cold resistant foam like material into cavity walls in your home. Although many people would like to insulate their homes, the truth is that it is a lot of hard work and noise to do. But, if you are remodelling, then make sure you include insulation. In some UK areas, your local council will do this for free if you qualify, and as you are already making a mess and a noise, a little more to insulate your home will go a long way towards making your home more eco-friendly.

Power usage

If you are remodelling and you are using power tools, generators and external power supplies then of course you are at risk of producing more waste than necessary. Fear not. No matter how powerful the tools you are using, todays generator market has excellent, eco-friendly options for powering tools and other heavy equipment so you don’t have to feel guilty each time you switch the generator on.

Recycle, reuse and recycle

When remodelling it is quite amazing how many things that can be recycled or reused end up in the tip or the dumpster. Rather than throw everything you don’t need away, consider using a green company for your waste instead of a traditional skip. As well as this, send reusable items to second hand stores, or hold a yard sale to get rid of them in a green way, and use recycled materials like 100% recycled rubber cable protection, where you can to up the green points in your home.


Ways to prevent window condensation

Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication.

Do you find you have a build up of condensation on windows in your home? If so, then you will need to take some simple steps to keep this to a minimum as over time, it could begin to cause problems.

What is condensation?

Condensation forms when warm air meets colder air, such as on the colder surface of a window. The reason why this happens is there is more moisture in warm air and when it meets a cold surface, it is unable to hold on to this moisture, releasing it as condensation. Whilst you may see a large amount on the window, it may also be present on the walls too, as they tend to be cooler than warm air within a room too.

Where is the condensation on your windows coming from?

There are a variety of sources such as breathing (including when you are asleep), cooking, washing or showering, heating and drying clothes in the house is one of the largest culprits releasing 5.5litres or more moisture into the air. If condensation builds in your property, over time it will start to cause problems. Window condensation is an indication that damp within your property could be an issue and you will need to start taking steps to deal with condensation.

What to do about window condensation

  1. Single paned windows or ill-fitting windows where there are draughts and cracks can make window condensation worse. You will also need to check the outside of the window unit as a sealant that was used in older style windows known as caulking, should be acting as a seal. Over time, this seal can become less effective. Fitting double glazed uPVC windows will make for an effective solution.
  2. Preventing the build up of window condensation can also be helped by ensuring there is adequate ventilation, even if you do have double glazed uPVC windows. Ventilation allows dry air to circulate around your home.
  3. Extractor fans in the kitchen and bathrooms in your property can be used to effectively expel moisture laden air, reducing the build of condensation on windows throughout your home.
  4. Do you have vents in your walls? If so, many people block then to reduce draughts but by doing so, are blocking circulating air. Just try uncovering these vents for a few days and nights and see how condensation on windows diminishes.
  5. Even though air circulation is important within your home, but insulation is important too. Having draughts in places where you should not – around window frames and exterior door frames – will cause an excess of cold air.
  6. Have you had work done on your home recently? Renovations will change how air flows around your property. If you notice a build up of window condensation, it may be that you need to take a look at how the air is now able –or unable – to circulate around your home.

Poorly fitting windows can present condensation problem in a property. If you have noticed more condensation than usual, take a look at your windows. Do they need upgrading to uPVC double glazed windows?


Five Simple Ways to Improve Your Kitchen

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. CC-licensed image by Susan Serra, CKD.

They say that good food is often a product of love—love for family, love for service, or love for cooking. However, without a conducive environment, this love may not translate into scrumptious meals. A conducive environment in this regard means a kitchen that you love, one that you’re completely comfortable in. If you feel that yours could use a bit of an overhaul, do so—you won’t want to compromise the place where all the magic happens, after all. With that said, there are tons of ways you can improve your kitchen. Below are some examples of how you can transform your kitchen into the perfect venue for cooking.

Paint everything white.

White somehow gives off the illusion of a more spacious environment. Hence, painting everything white—the walls, the cabinets, and the cupboards—can make your kitchen feel larger than it really is. For smaller kitchens, this is a very practical option since this can eliminate that cramped feeling.

Improve the lighting.

Dim lights should be switched out for the brighter variety. Excellent lighting goes well with the white motif of your kitchen and goes a long way in improving the atmosphere even more. And you need not spend a fortune to enhance your kitchen lighting. All that’s necessary is a lighting fixture (or a few) that can adequately illuminate the room. Also consider affixing lights under the shelves if you find these areas to be insufficiently illuminated. Beacon Lighting offers a wide selection, so you might want to check out their site.

Add an instant boiled/chilled tap water supply.

This is one of the finer additions that your kitchen can receive. A tap that can readily provide filtered water that’s chilled or boiled is clearly a huge convenience—both for cooking and drinking purposes. Now, you have various options for this, but your best bet would be The Water People.

More storage couldn’t hurt.

If you find that a lot of your kitchenware is just lying about, then you should consider adding more shelves. Build these up high so that they won’t get in your way. You can also attach under-shelf baskets to these if you require even more storage.

Install drawer and shelf liners.

Drawer and shelf liners are a must-have for your kitchen. For one, it protects your drawers and shelves from spills and the like. Liners with cushions can also help in safeguarding fragile kitchenware. On top of those, they’re just pretty—choose liner designs that complement the colors of your kitchen. If your kitchen is already equipped with liners, then just remember to replace them periodically. Stick with non-stick liners, though, so that changing them won’t be much of a hassle.


Interior Design to Increase the Value of Your Home

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Note: this is a partnered post and consideration was received for its publication. CC-licensed image by Rogue Interior Designs.

A lot of homeowners make the mistake of spending tens of thousands of dollars to renovate their homes before putting them on the market. While renovations are a great way to increase your home’s value, spending your budget in the right places will help you maximise your return on investment when you sell your home.

 These four interior design tips should form the foundation of the home renovation strategy. Read on and compare these ideas, courtesy of AHF, to your own pre-sale renovation plan.

1.     Focus on the kitchen and bathrooms

Kitchens and bathrooms tend to clearly display a home’s age. Simple things like a yellowed or an outdated kitchen can quickly reveal your home’s real age, even if you’ve spent a large amount of money renovating your living room.

Allocate most of your pre-sale renovation budget to your kitchen and bathrooms. A quick update to your bathroom – a new bathtub, tiling to replace linoleum or wood flooring and large mirrors – will produce an excellent return on your investment.

2. Maximise natural light in living spaces

Natural light is key to creating a comfortable living space. If your home has small windows and large interior dividers that make natural light a rarity, think about installing new windows and glass doors to maximise natural light.

Artificial light has been scientifically proven to worsen people’s mood, while large amounts of natural light have been shown to increase energy and motivation. Give your home a large amount of natural light and you’ll help potential buyers feel at ease and relaxed when they come to visit.

3. Stick to timeless, classic interior design

Cutting edge design tends to age quickly – a truth that even a quick glance at last decade’s ‘cutting edge’ vehicles and fashion choices will reveal. Stick to timeless, classic interior design when you renovate your home to maximise its sale price.

There’s nothing bad about being modern – quite the opposite, in fact. Just stick to modern design principles that have been around for at least a decade or two, while avoiding ultra-modern design ideas that haven’t become yet mainstream.

4. Replace aging carpets and popcorn ceilings

While most interior designers recommend focusing on your kitchen and bathroom for maximum ROI, there are two dated interior features that should be replaced in every home: ‘popcorn’ ceilingsand dated, unfashionable carpets.

If your living room has a popcorn ceiling – a type of spray-on ceiling treatment that was popular in the 1970s – make absolutely sure it’s replaced before you show your home to buyers.


Tackling Home Extensions

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Martin Pettitt

The home glazing specialists at Pavilion Glass help homeowners maximise their living space with unique window and door designs - both of which are an incredibly effective way to create the illusion of space. And the same can be said for the rooms in your house. Taking the time to extend certain areas and rooms in the home can pay off in more ways than one. If you ever find the time, the following home extensions projects can be a great way to make an interior living space seem twice as large.

Out-sizing rooms

Before you start making plans to knock walls through, try and think strategically about which rooms in the house will benefit from a larger space. A popular choice of large living space is often a combined kitchen and living room or dining room, leaving one or the other free to be converted into a study area or even an extra bathroom - which is always attractive to family home buyers.   

Before attempting any extension work in the home, it’s advisable to ask around for registered builders as well as any friends or family member who will be willing to help.

Garage extensions

Making use of the space in an unused garage can provide a great deal of extra space and can add significant value to your home considering the ingeniously hidden away location. Converting your garage into a play area or office can be a very attractive prospect to potential buyers and the more additional room you can make good use of, the more you can offer them.

Loft conversions

Converting your loft space is another inspired way to extend your house. Although most homes can try and create extra space this way, loft conversions are generally better suited to Victorian-era houses due to their high roof pitches. Unlike the kitchen and dining room extensions, loft extensions are relatively straightforward to execute as they require less planning. But as ever, seek assistance from friends and relatives before attempting anything dangerous.

Making extensions within the home can significantly improve your property.  In addition to creating a more spacious and versatile living space, it can potentially add value to your home in the long run since space is always something people will covet. If you’d like to achieve the same look for less, Pavilion Glass can arrange to install a glass door, window or conservatory and even offer a repair service in the event that the glass gets damaged.


Create the Perfect Children’s Bedroom

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Middlebury College

Children’s bedrooms represent more than a place to sleep - they are a comforting safe haven with a strong identity, so taking the time to make your child’s room a home within a home is well worth the effort. Kids will undoubtedly have opinions when it comes to redesigning their personal space, but their ideas - however wild - needn’t break the bank. Discuss ideas openly with them for the best chance of reaching a practical compromise and create a look to please them for years to come.

 Be flexible

Children can be notoriously temperamental, which is why choosing very specific themes is best avoided. Your daughter may be into baby pink and fairy’s now but a year or so down the line, she will have a change of heart. Instead of committing to a specific theme, work around it by making additional touches once the main overhauls such as the floor and wallpaper have been agreed to. For example, buy objects or toys in the room that reflect their favourite colours or pastimes to ensure you can always keep up with their changing trends.

As for choosing a colour scheme that will last, you may want to consider neutral shades for the walls and carpets, or better yet, opt for laminate or hardwood floors - these will always prove easier to maintain than carpet. This way, the child can still infuse their personality by choosing a washable rug in their favourite colour.

Make it spacious

You’ll be surprised how quickly toys and clothes can amass in a child’s life before it leaves room for little else in their bedroom. Combat the clutter immediately with storage spaces and ask your son or daughter where they would prefer to keep their belongings so they can have the best access to them. Disguise storage boxes in the form of treasure chests or hollowed benches and seats at the end of their bed for practicality.

Child-proofing

Most importantly, make sure the bedroom is a safe place for them to be in. Fit window locks and cover any sockets and potential hazards with safety guards. Also, ensure heavy furniture is securely screwed to the wall and fit shelves as closely to their eye level as possible. This will give the added benefit of the illusion of higher ceilings and therefore, more playing space!

Of course, the object that completes the look in a child’s bedroom is the bed itself. Metalbedsltd.com houses a versatile range of bed frame styles to satisfy the fussiest tastes! Whether your child is after more storage space or a stand-out design that reflects their personality, they’re sure to find a timeless style that ticks all boxes.


Safety Tips for Kitchen Remodelling

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Susan Serra

Access equipment suppliers Globe Ladders know a thing or two about safety and eliminating risk when it comes to tackling large scale DIY jobs, and the task of redesigning the kitchen is as large as domestic projects come. The kitchen is one of the most central and widely used rooms in the home and giving it a new lease of life can be a rewarding experience, but it isn’t without its dangers. A kitchen can pose endless hazards - make sure you’re prepared for them with the right tools, a good deal of forward planning and proper safety equipment.

Get to know your tools

Even if you have used tools on a previous project, you will find the kitchen to be an entirely different kettle of fish. Make sure you know how to use them in this new context by consulting the official manuals and ask friends or relatives for assistance. A kitchen remodelling involves everything from the cabinets and tiles to the lights and flooring so ensure you are confident with your tools before putting your project and yourself at risk.

Create a safe environment

There are so many hazards involved with redecorating from wires and loose floorboards to slippery surfaces. Avoid catastrophe from the get go by creating a safe working environment. Cordon off all entrances to the kitchen and lay down old sheets on the floor and on the kitchen work surfaces if necessary. If you’re going to be removing or redecorating overhead cabinets, you’ll need non-slip material to provide a sturdy, even surface. Also keep all tools out of sight to protect others, particularly small children, from injury.

Know your psychical limits

With any big scale home project, it is vital to know your own limits, both for yourself and for the safety of others. Never try and push yourself too hard get the job completed as this is when accidents start to happen. Over-estimating how much you can lift for example is only going to induce back injury so make sure assistance is on hand. Also, never attempt to work or operate any kind of machinery (even the smallest tools) when tired.

Knowledge can be half the battle when it comes to DIY projects so it could be worth looking into further guidance on health and safety in the home. As well as making and supplying safety equipment, Globe Ladders provides training courses which can result in a certificate stating your capacity and understanding of essential safety awareness.


Design your Bathroom for Relaxation

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Jeremy Levine Design

Some can be under the impression that the bath itself is all that’s needed to feel relaxed, but if your bathroom lacks atmosphere, taking a long hot soak can feel more like a chore than a long-awaited pleasure. The bathroom light specialists Downlights.co.uk can lend a helping hand in creating the appropriate ambience needed to give a bathroom character, but it can take a few personal touches of our own to feel we can truly relax.

Second to the bedroom, our bathroom is our retreat in which we can unwind and break free of the day’s stresses and strains. More than any other room in the house, it grants us personal ‘me time’ to sit and reflect, so why not decorate it in a way that inspires you! Here are just a few ways to make your bathroom a more serene and relaxing place.

Candles

Arranging some aromatherapy candles can be a cheap yet effective way to promote relaxation, particularly those with stress-busting scents such as lavender and camomile. These can suit most bathroom decors if decorated sensibly and tastefully - just be sure to take caution when arranging the candles, particularly if you line them along the bath or beside the sink.

Warm colours

The colours present in the bathroom should act as mood-enhancers. Nothing too gaudy or assaulting on the senses - this is your haven of rest and relaxation, remember? Neutral colours or simple duo tone shades such as deep violet and lavender inspire relaxation because we associate them with luxury and sunset skies.

A Spa setting

As with the aromatherapy candles, you will buy into the bathroom as a relaxing place to be with the presence of relaxation paraphernalia. You can imitate the surroundings of a luxury spa with little money or effort. Using a heated towel rail or wooden spa bench to display your neatly folded towels can be a great way to create a peaceful setting for less.

A stand-alone bath

If it’s possible to, install a traditional free standing bath. Not only does it look gorgeous, but it creates the illusion of a wider space since the bath is the focal point. A free standing bath creates a sense of solitude and tranquillity and it completely defies the typical bathroom layout - acting like a working art installation in your own home.    

Complete the look with soft and subtle bathroom light fittings by Downlights.co.uk. With a wide range of brands and fixtures to choose from, you can be sure to find a style that compliments any bathroom concept.


Essential Tools and their Uses

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Sean Vadilfari

If you have ever wondered how certain tools operate or how to get the best use out of them when tackling odd repair and remodelling jobs around the home, then this quick summary is for you. These are the tools that allow all the tedious jobs to be carried out so quickly and efficiently. Presenting the top home maintenance tools no budding DIY expert should be without.   

Sledge/Club Hammer

The only non-electrical tool on the checklist but an unmistakably powerful toolkit essential all the same. Heavy duty demolition hammers such as the sledgehammer and club hammer are quintessential home improvement tools, primarily because of their ability to knock clean through concrete, stone and masonry work. They can also be used to secure floorboards, panels and decking.

Sander

Available in varying shapes and sizes, sanders can be used on domestic projects great and small. Handheld mouse sanders for example can be used on small pieces of furniture such as coffee tables, chairs and skirting boards while disc and belt sanders can be used to smooth uneven surfaces on large planks of wood and other materials for use on bigger jobs.

Joiner

Joiners are a worthwhile investment and a great piece of equipment - particularly if you have a penchant for carpentry and various woodwork crafts. Joiners create jigsaw pieces out of ordinary wood by cutting slots that fit together with adhesive. Perfect for making everything from bookcases and table and chair sets to your child’s very first cot - the possibilities are endless!

Power drill

Aside from its primary function of drilling clean-cut holes into most wall types, the classic cordless power drill can be fitted with adapters that allow you to drive through screws and bolts and even sand with ease, rendering them the Swiss army knife of the power tool family. If you choose to start with any domestic tool, make this your first purchase.

There you have it – the handyman’s guide to essential tools. Now you’re familiar with their incredible range of functions, you’ll no doubt want to sink your teeth into a new home project – but where to start? A great place to begin is with quality and reliable equipment. Tool supplier Elcocks have been providing all manner of quality tools and safety equipment to trades men and women for over 40 years. Ensure you’re cut out for the next big home maintenance job and stock up on the right supplies.


How to Properly Lay Tiles in Your Bathroom and Kitchen

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Wonderlane

When you are decorating your home there are two areas in which you will want to use tiles, and these are in the kitchen and in any of the bathrooms that you have. You may want to have some tiling elsewhere in the house as well, but it is these two spaces that are most likely. Tiles are great in kitchens and bathrooms mainly because it makes them very easy to keep clean, something which is of course very important in these spaces. As well as this, tiles can also look great too and particularly when you consider just how many different styles, materials, colours and designs you can opt for. Whatever decorative style you decide on you can be sure that there will be a tile design and type which will compliment the room well and create a complete and well designed feel.

The difficult part is not picking out the tiles unfortunately, but instead it is the laying of them. Whether you do it regularly or it is your first time, it is important to be aware of the fact that this is a tricky job which may take you some time to do. In my experience the difficulty does not come in the setting of the tiles, but instead it is the drilling of any holes that you need. You will need to drill holes for a variety of different reasons, and when this is not done properly it can crack and break the tiles which can be a real nightmare, so how do you make sure that you get the job done properly?

Getting the Right Tools for the Job

Before you do anything you need to ensure that you have all the right tools for the job, and this will include special drill bits for drilling through tiles. Many tile companies, like www.suretile.co.uk, will provide suitable drill bits along with tiles, and this makes it easy to get everything you need in one place. You will be able to get a kit which will give you all the drill bits you need, and this will help you to drill holes for service pipes, fixtures and fittings, and this is for both the kitchen and bathroom. This will be for any radiators, wash basins, hot and cold taps, shower heads, mirrors and other similar items you have in these rooms.


Why Wallpaper is the Key to a Well-Decorated Bedroom

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Dave Bleasdale

In my opinion, the best way in which you can add some real character and personality to your bedroom is with the wallpaper. This is because the wallpaper will be the most noticeable aspect when you enter a room, and it also will be covering up a large percentage of all the surface areas. Therefore, when you are decorating your room it should be the first thing that you think about, and then you can carry on and add decoration fitting with the style that you have gone with. It is important to fully prepare and plan this though, as there is nothing worse than wallpaper that clashes with the rest of the room.

It is important that everything compliments in this room, as otherwise you may struggle to relax and unwind in it, and of course this is absolutely essential in the bedroom. I think that the best way to create a pleasant atmosphere in the bedroom is to not have boring plain walls of just one colour, but instead to pick some eye catching yet minimal and simplistic wallpaper designs. This way it will stand out but not be too bold, and with simple, artistic designs it allows you to easily find furniture and other items that will look good and be in tune with the style of the wallpaper.

Finding Unique and Stylish Designs

To find the truly best wallpaper designs which will improve any bedroom you will need to look a bit harder than normal, but it will certainly be worth it all in the end. There are lots of excellent wallpaper retailers online, much like WallpaperSales, which carry designs by all kinds of classy brands and designers. Nina Campbell being one example, as with this wallpaper you will be blown away by the beauty of some of the designs which are eye catching but not too dominant, making them perfect for any sized bedroom whether it is for your child or your own bedroom.

 Once you have your wallpaper selected you can begin thinking about other important bedroom decoration, including the flooring, photos and or posters, furniture, television, computer and anything else that you may want in this room. I think that the bedroom needs the most planning and thought, and this is because to you there is no more important room, and it should reflect your personality and also be somewhere where you can totally unwind and feel relaxed.


Why Composite Products & Materials are so Popular

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Giles Douglas

For any type of construction and decorating job there are two different things which need to be looked at before the hard work can begin, and this is how the project can look its best, but also how it can be practical and safe as well. It is essential that both of these elements are addressed at the beginning, as this way you can plan to make sure you have the right materials to complete the job and get it done properly. A good example of this is for marina decking, as you will want a deck which looks attractive and compliments the water and boats around it, but at the same time this is somewhere which could be particularly hazardous and slightly dangerous, and with so much water around the area it needs to last a lifetime and not rot too, so what is the best solution?

Projects like these, and many others, will require the use of composite materials, as these carry a number of advantages over regular construction materials. By combining two or more materials it will enable new characteristics and traits, so for marina decking a composite material will be strong and lightweight whilst at the same time being slip free and very durable. Not only this, but this material can look fantastic and also last a lifetime as well, which makes it excellent value for your money and something you won’t have to worry about again. This is just one application of composite materials, but you will also find them in lots of industrial projects, as cladding, as well as for other types of decking. So if you have a project on your hands that needs a strong, lightweight material which is also slip proof and attractive looking too then you should look into using composite materials.

Composite Materials Available for All Kinds of Applications

Most suppliers, like Dura Composites, carry all kinds of materials and products for use in many types of projects, so you should be able to find what you are looking for easily enough whether it is for commercial, industrial or domestic applications. You will be amazed at just how often a composite material is used, but once you see the advantages that it can bring practically, as well as how good it can look, then it is clear why it is such a popular choice for construction projects.


Seasonal Maintenance Tasks Around The House

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Charlie Vinz

Perhaps you’ve been in your home for many years and you’ve just realised you can no longer put off all those essential repairs you’ve tried to ignore since you moved in. Maybe you’ve just moved in and discovered your dream home is a little rough around the edges. Or maybe you’re looking to sell or let and there’s a few glaring problems that you can’t sell as “rustic” to potential buyers.

Whatever stage you’re at in the property ladder, it’s always good practice to keep your home in top condition from January to December – and to that end, there’s a host of easy but effective checks and preparations you can perform throughout the year that can help prevent a lot of unnecessary work later on. Alternatively, if you’re a DIY novice who’d prefer a professional appraisal and expert work – or if you just don’t have the time - you could choose to go with a home maintenance service such as The Handy People who will supply trained handymen to fix all kinds of problems around the house.

Spring

The varying weather can take its toll on a poorly maintained house. Spring is the time to check and repair any cracks in the walls or ceilings, perhaps caused by winter ice, which can let in rain during spring showers or summer thunderstorms.

Summer

Watch out for humidity, which can lead to damp and structural damage – consider using a dehumidifier to keep the air in cellars, garages and bathrooms dry. But the good weather makes summer a great opportunity to air out rooms, give carpets and rugs a good clean, and inspect the exterior of the house and garden for any small jobs that need doing.

Autumn

It’s time to check the heating – check your central heating is operating correctly, and be sure to bleed radiators so heat can circulate properly throughout the house before the cold sets in. Because the cold weather plays havoc with plumbing, take the time to check your pipes and taps to ensure the whole system works as it should.

Winter

When winter rolls around, be sure to wipe down cold windows where condensation forms – excessive water can quickly lead to damp on walls and rotting wood.

Using electric heaters and fireplaces can keep our homes cosy and warm in winter, but it sharply increases the risk of fires. Now’s the time to check the batteries in your smoke alarm and make sure you and your family know what to do if the worst happens – it could save your life.


Make your living room a place for all the family

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image of a XXXXXXX by Chunky Salsa

It is important to remember that your house has to be practical and functional as well as stylish and luxurious. Above all else, your house should be a family home. There are a number of ways that you can make your home more family oriented, here are just a couple:

  • Ensure that there are family photos on display: Nobody wants to feel like an alien in their own home and achieving a sense of belonging is essential if you’re trying to create family cohesion. To make sure everyone feels at home in their own home, have family photos on display. You should be proud of your family, be sure to show them off with all the pride and prominence they deserve.
  • Don’t buy products based on style alone; make sure they have comfort value: Yes, stylish items can look beautiful but sometimes they are not practical. If you don’t buy practical items then it may discourage your family from using the room and teenagers in particular may skulk off into their own rooms rather than using the family room.
  • Create a room all the family will enjoy: Each room in your home should have something for everyone. For this reason, you cannot build the family room around the tastes of one particular family member. Remember that everyone has to feel comfortable. Yes, your room should be stylish, but it should not be off putting. Sofas and rugs are made for people to sit on- they’re not just art!
  • Centre the room around your television: Although people often do not want to admit it, most of us spend a lot of our family time in front of the television. Instead of shunning this, embrace it and make it family time. Try making your television into a home cinema so your family can sit and watch movies together. When doing this, make sure that you use your television to its full potential by adding a backlight to enhance the atmosphere. Try checking out Northern Robotic Systems for ideas.

Your family really are the most important thing in your life; and they always will be. For this reason it is important that your house is a home and is somewhere that everyone wants to be. Converting your living room into a de facto family room will help achieve this in an instant so try some of the above tips today! 


Choosing The Best Floor Covering

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Marcelle Guilbeau

Though every aspect of a room has its own unique effect on the room’s atmosphere and décor, the floor – and what you choose to cover it with – can turn a heavy and dark room into a light and airy space that transforms the feeling of your house, or make an area that was cold and uninviting into a cosy and welcoming addition. With the array of natural and manmade materials available on the market, it’s possible to achieve almost any effect, no matter your circumstances or budget.

Carpet

Traditionally used for living rooms and bedrooms, carpet is hard to beat for sheer softness – the luxurious sinking of feet into deep pile carpet is something you might want to add warmth and cosiness to rooms used for relaxation. While carpets can be difficult to measure and lay, you can always choose carpet tiles for an easier fit – simply lay down complete tiles in the centre of the room and work outwards, cutting the edge tiles to fit. Carpet tiles also have the advantage of being easy to replace if stained or damaged – just lift up the damaged tile and set down the replacement.

Tiling

Sleek and easy to clean, tiles are an obvious choice for kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas that attract more damp and dirt than most parts of the house. However, they can feel cold and uninviting and carry with them the risk of slippage, especially when wet – although non-slip finishes are available for added safety. Choose vinyl tiles for an economical and easy-to-lay covering – vinyl is available in a wide range of patterns to suit your preferences. If your budget is a little higher, it’s hard to beat ceramic tiles for sheer durability. Alternatively, for a Mediterranean feel, go for handsome terracotta tiles for a warm and welcoming feeling.

Wood

Ideal for halls and dining rooms, wood offers a uniquely traditional feel that’s ideal for a natural ambience, especially suited for homes in the country. Depending on your circumstances and expertise, you can nail it to the floor below, glue it down with a hardwearing adhesive, or choose specially interlocking boards that can be installed with less effort.

You can choose from solid wood flooring which, as its name suggests, is made from hewn timber from a single natural source, or more economical engineered wood flooring. Engineered wood flooring, available from suppliers like the Reclaimed Flooring Company, is constructed from layers of real wood for a high quality, temperature-resistant alternative that can be almost indistinguishable from solid wood.


Quick Fixes for Decorating

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image by Cameron Parkins

Most of us have incredibly busy lifestyles, and the last thing we feel like doing after a week at work is doing odd jobs around the house at the weekend. It’s a fact of life that sometimes decorating needs to be done though, so for those wanting to spend as little time as possible updating their home’s décor, we have some top tips.

Kitchen

Rather than re-designing your whole kitchen, making simple changes to the design you already have is a quick and affordable way of updating the room. Painting your kitchen cabinets is perhaps the cheapest option and can instantly transform your kitchen; however, it might take a little more time than you’re willing to give up. Simply replacing the wooden panels on a few of the cabinet doors with glass is a good way to modernise the room and will give you a place to display your favourite tableware.

Dining Room

Replacing dining chairs with wooden benches creates a relaxed and sociable atmosphere around the table, encouraging your family to spend more time together. It also looks super stylish and will bring your dining room right up to date. If you’re handy, you could build some yourself quite easily, but many stores sell basic benches fairly cheaply. Whatever you decide, you can blend them in with the décor of the room by adding scatter cushions or you could even upholster some old sofa cushions to place on top. 

Bedroom

If your bedroom furniture is in desperate need of replacement but you don’t have time to shop around for matching pieces from different stores, don’t worry. You could look into purchasing a furniture set; they’re good value for money and can often be cheaper than buying individual items. You’ll find lots of online retailers like David Phillips selling furniture sets, so compare prices and styles before settling on your chosen one.

Living Room

Living room furniture is often expensive, but the good news is there are plenty of ways to update your décor whilst holding onto your sofa and coffee table. A simple lick of paint in an unexpected colour can add a new lease of life to the room with minimal effort, or just adding a pop of colour with accessories like lampshades, rugs and photo frames will help establish a fresh new theme. Something as simple as a few new covers for your scatter cushions is another simple yet effective idea that won’t take up any of your time.


space for a free-standing bath

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image of a freestanding tub by Erica Nicol

I was never aware really, until I had my bathroom renovated (by some really good natural stone tillers) that free standing baths had become one of the most sought after choices for bathrooms on large new builds. Free standing baths are a feature unto themselves; an expensive and practical bathroom ornament that is elegant, bold and lavish enough to create an instant wow factor to anyone who visits. As you know, a freestanding bath is not directly fixed to the wall like most units. This is not to say it’s able to move however – they are plumbed in underneath and through the floor which is why they are so heavy and durable because: If they weren’t made of heavy solid composite – you’d catch it with your hip going past and rip out the plumbing – we wouldn’t want that now? However this said, it may have prevented just a little bruising from my unobservant self. 

Have you ever tried lifting a freestanding bath? Don’t! Simply put, if you’ve splashed out and spent the money – get the delivery guys to take this upstairs to the bathroom. They’ll argue that it’s not in their remit no doubt…and who can blame them? Lifting these are a pain! But worth the effort!

What Bathrooms Space is Needed?

It has to be said that free standing baths look their best in larger bathroom environments. They are the juggernaught of the bath tub world. You wouldn’t stick an Elephant in a Kennel now would you? Let’s face it, if you have a small bathroom and you simply can’t go without – I suggest knock through a wall or two, move house or just don’t bother. Small bathrooms have practical layouts for practical units for practical reasons. A free stander would literally be the next large Russian doll in the room and you’d be crying for space! Generally you’d want other free standing units to accompany this furniture too such as these free standing bathroom cabinets or sinks for example perhaps? Free standing bath units are absolute luxury because of their individual designs and way they cup yours (and whoever else’s – they’re great to share!) body. I reiterate, just make sure you have the space!


Planning on Decorating a Bathroom? Complement the Bold with the Bright!

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. photo: CC-licensed image of a backyard pond by Summit Design Remodeling

Whilst both the style and colour are generally personal matters relating to the taste of the individual, like graphic designers know not to mix their warm and cold shades when producing packaging for print of product design – there are a few key take-aways that can assist as a guideline to getting the right look! 

If you’re looking for something extravagant you may wish to think again about installing bathroom furniture with overly exaggerated features or facets. The same goes for selecting exotic and unusual colours. The reasons being is that colours go out of fashion fast, and whilst it’s fab for a few months to have that crazy bright contrast – as time goes on these kind of creative design ideas can become a grate on your personal space. It’s not just this aspect that you need to be aware of though. Colours and designs go out of fashion based on the manufacturers consumer demand. That crazy design might be discontinued next year meaning that if anything goes wrong or gets damaged – replacement parts will be a rarity and extremely hard / expensive to get hold of. Whilst I’m a big fan of buying and installing bathroom and cloak room suites, often it can be just as practical to purchase individual units. It may seem boring and cliché, but depending on your circumstances, the fact is, standard white finishes on bathroom products are practical because they’re so easy to replace!

I want to talk about decorating wheels and charts for a moment, I feel that I can offer a bit of advice here. Whilst you may plan for LED strip lighting under the bathroom cabinets or inside the cloakroom I advise that you definitely consider the bare colour scheme under natural lighting conditions, and really take into account the areas and walls that natural light splashes it’s lumens across at particular times of day. You obviously don’t want the bathroom to appear too dank, dark, cold or claustrophobic – so if there’s not much outside light within a tightly enclosed space then I’d definitely suggest going with a pale warm colour scheme. An alternative to this would be to create the illusion of these bright conditions with the standard white bathroom fixtures (especially if it’s a suite). This allows you to add contrast to the rest of the room’s colour scheme allowing you to play more with bolder complementary colors.


How To Create a Modern Kitchen For Spring in Ohio

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. Photo: a colorful modern kitchen, CC-licensed image by Lee J. Haywood

Where spring is all about color, the modern world seems more set of steel and chrome. Color is minimal and there is more of a focus on metallic colors, machinery and appliances.

How do you go for a modern kitchen while still keeping it in line with the lively and colorful season of spring in Ohio?

Do you make it an explosion of colors or do you restrict it to the minimalistic and metallic order of the modern world?

Here are just a few hints and tips on how to make your kitchen more modern without depriving it of the spring fever.

1.  Add Color Smartly

Hints of color look good when spring rolls around. Having a modern kitchen doesn’t mean you must deprive yourself from colors, but that you use them smartly. Don’t go ahead and paint the entire kitchen yellow. What you can do is buy appliances in color.

A lot of different electronics companies have introduced sleek creations that work well as per their function and also have infused in them a stripe of color here and there. So though they may still appear all steel and chrome, you’ll find some life in them.

2.  Let the Environment Breathe

When you imagine a modern kitchen, you see a room stuffed from wall to wall with appliances. You can always be a little careful when buying appliances so that you consume the minimum of energy while using them.

With everything in today's world running on electricity, trying to be energy efficient and opting for energy saving products is not only wise, but also in vogue. There are plenty of companies manufacturing energy saving appliances. You can also save on appliances that rely on natural gas by opting for a company such as http://www.ohiogascompanies.com/ or a similar company if you live outside Ohio.

3.  Create Creative Storage Spaces

This goes especially for those with smaller kitchens. People do tend to horde certain things, whether its grocery items or some sort of a crockery item. Regardless, there is always more to keep and less space to keep it. You don't necessarily have to store it in the already cramped cabinets. Modern kitchens are not only spaces to cook in, but, increasingly, also to entertain so it would do good to add some decorative element.

Why not make this decorative element a part of your storage as well? If you like to collect unique salt and pepper shakers, set up a simple shelf on one of the kitchen walls and show them off. Alternately, you can set up a peg board on a wall and hang your cutlery on it. This will add to the ambience of your kitchen while saving you some space in the drawers and cabinets.

4.  Modernize the Plumbing

No, don’t redo the entire plumbing, but you can use plumbing fixtures to add some mood to your kitchen, similarly as you use appliances for the purpose. Change up your sink and faucets to add a little color or add some unique form of faucet that seems very techy, but is essentially just a means to wash your hands and dishes.

One unique design allows water to flow from a faucet in a waterfall-like fashion, so you know there are plenty of options when it comes to faucets as well.

Whether it's a major change as of getting new floors done or a minor one of just adding a new toaster, making a kitchen more modern is not about how big your budget is, but rather how innovative and out of the box you can think.


Getting More Out of Small Spaces

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. Creative commons licensed photograph by Jeremy Levine design.

Compared to other markets, finding spacious and affordable housing in Denver isn’t that difficult. Still, there are a lot of benefits to living in a smaller space. Financially speaking, smaller spaces are cheaper. They also force you to evaluate not just what you already own but things you think you might want to own—which keeps you from spending money on space suckers on a whim (another financial boon).

How smaller spaces are cheaper:

  • Smaller spaces simply cost less across the board than larger spaces.
  • A small home is cheaper to insure.
  • Smaller spaces are easier to heat and cool, so your HVAC system doesn’t need to work so hard or use as much power.
  • Smaller spaces are easier to light properly (and natural light goes further within them) so your electric bill will be lower.

You can see why it’s financially beneficial to go smaller, especially when you’re concerned about your financial health.

At the same time, it’s understandable that you’re attached to the things that you’ve collected. You worked hard to bring those collections together. You’re proud of them. You don’t necessarily want to give them away or sell them or toss them out. So what do you do?

1. Figure Out Some Creative Storage Options

We’ve talked about how to make the most of the space in your bedroom. Apply these same concepts to the rest of your house. You’ll be amazed at how many things can double as storage containers (and artfully so at that)!

2. Store Things Off Site

Do you really need to keep your Christmas decorations on hand all year round? Do you really need to keep every single book, movie, vase, art print, tchotchke, etc within sight at all times? Do you really need your winter clothing to be taking up space in your closet in the summer? These are examples of things that can all be stored off site in a storage unit. Storage units have come a long way from the dank holes they used to be a decade ago. Now they are affordable, secure and most are even climate controlled (check unclebobs.com for deals in your area). This is important for an area like Denver, where we get all of the seasons and they are all intense.

Either way, you are probably going to have to pare down, at least a little bit. Go through your home and look at everything you own. Consider each item carefully. If you haven’t used it in the last twelve months and it doesn’t have significant sentimental value, you can probably get rid of it and not miss it too much.

Instead of simply tossing out the things you decide not to keep, though, why not sell them? Put them up for sale online. Have a yard sale. Use the proceeds from the sale to finance your storage unit and a few of the artful storage containers we talked about at the beginning of this article.

The truth is that living a comfortable lifestyle doesn’t require lots of space or lots of things. If you’re creative you can make a small space feel and function the same way as a large space.


Lighting Options for Your Home

Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. Creative commons licensed photograph by Jeremy Levine design.

When you’re looking to spruce up your home, lighting is one of the easiest ways to give the space a new feel while keeping it consistent with your current theme or décor. Lighting is a relatively easy fix and most of the items can be found online in places such as LEDRopelightsandmore or in most retail stores, which means you’ll be able to simply make use of the new appliances without a lot of work.

When you’ve decided you’d like to upgrade your lighting, you’ll need to decide what kind of theme you’re looking for and what kind of space you’re dealing with so you can most effectively use the room you’ve got for the best lighting possible.

Keep in mind that you can really change the ambience of a room simply by switching out the colors of the bulbs you’re using or adding in splashes of colors through lamps or rope lights. They make light bulbs in pretty much every color imaginable ranging from soft pinks for a romantic bedroom atmosphere or bright blues for something a bit more fun and wild.

In most cases these bulbs can be used in the lamps and lighting houses you’ve already got, which means you won’t need to purchase anything else to get the benefits. Even fluorescent black lights can be placed in most traditional fluorescent housings, meaning you can save money just by buying the black light bulbs.

Rope lights are a great way add a little bit of ambient lighting to a room quite easily. The best part about using rope lights is that they’re designed in such a way that they can be easily hidden behind furniture or on the corners of a room, keeping them out of sight while still emanating quite a bit of light. These are probably the easiest lighting pieces to install as oftentimes they’ll only need a few tacks or wall hooks to be used effectively.

Chandeliers are a classic lighting prop and for good reason. They add a lot of light to any room and they have such a great look to them that they work with pretty much every theme or décor you could possibly imagine. They add a ton of class to any space and the best part is that because they’re meant to be center pieces, the light flows around the housing, meaning you can light an entire room with just one furnishing.

Contrary to popular belief chandeliers are becoming easier and easier to install and most of them can be hooked into the existing wiring that’s already in the roof.

Another very easy lighting idea that is simple to implement is simply using what you’ve already got and using it creatively. One of the best ways to control the lighting in any room is to use sheers or lamp coverings as they’ll allow the light to filter through the fabric in different consistencies depending on the thickness and color of the material. If you add this in with one of the aforementioned colored light bulbs you’ll see that your entire room will look quite different.

Lighting is probably the easiest way to upgrade or spruce up any room in the house and it’s really quite easy to implement. It doesn’t take a lot to change some of the lighting options in your room and you’ll see a huge difference that will be sure to keep you happy.


How to Create a Modern Bedroom

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Note: this is a guest post and consideration was received for its publication. Creative commons licensed photograph by Jeremy Levine design.

If you are tired of looking at your outdated and even traditional-style bedroom, you may be interested in revamping the entire room and turning into something unique, beautiful, and modern. If you are thinking about a modern makeover for your room, you should always look for modern ideas for your room beforehand. There are tons of images that you can find online to get the inspiration you need to turn your room into something magnificent. In little to no time at all, with just a bit of effort, you can completely transform your bedroom.

Get Inspired

Grab a modern bedroom magazine and get inspired. You can look around at all the different and creative ideas that are pictured in the magazines. Of course, this does not mean that you have to copy exact ideas. However, pictures can help you to become inspired on the type of modern theme you want to have for your updated bedroom. Aside from looking at magazines, you can get your inspiration from just about anywhere. A walk in your neighborhood may give you the inspiration you desire for changing your bedroom around and improving its appearance so that it is more modern.

Consider Contemporary Bedroom Furniture

Modern rooms tend to contain a whole lot of contemporary furniture, which includes furniture that you may consider out of the ordinary. There are armories, benches, and even bedroom vanities that are made using different materials. These different products are often shaped with a modern look and feel. You will want to add these accessories to your room to give it even more of a modern appeal. When it comes to bedding, look for down alternatives to get the modern look of down without the allergies. Modus Furniture has become a popular choice amongst buyers looking for modern bed frames. There are many styles to choose from, especially from the different collections that they have available. Check out the collections and determine which meets your personal preference and ultimately has the modern look and feel that you like the most.

Use Modern Colors

Modern colors come in such a wide variety. Brighter colors are commonly being used, which includes bright shades of blue and green, along with shades of red and purple. As you are planning out the customization of your bedroom, you can jot down alternatives for the colors of the walls. For example, instead of painting the walls one solid color, you can choose a solid color and a design. There are many designs that are being commonly used in modern bedrooms. Some of these designs include damask patterns, argyle patterns, and stripes. Adding a splash of color to add an extra touch is also a good idea. As an idea, if you paint the walls a shade of purple, you may want to buy an even brighter piece of furniture. A chair in the room could be lime green and it would still look well in the room.

There are lots of easy ways to create a modern bedroom. It is best to start off with some inspiration, jot down a few ideas, and ultimately go from there. Remember that bold colors are considered quite modern and contemporary furniture has become a huge hit. All it takes is the right supplies, some paint, and a little patience because you will likely be remodeling your room on your own or with the help of a friend or family member.


Tips on How to Light Up Your Living Room

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From time to time, we allow a company or craftsperson we know and trust to place a sponsored post here at Hewn and Hammered. This particular piece is from Bunning's Warehouse, a dependable supplier of lighting for a wide variety of residential projects.

Lighting is a very important element when it comes to creating the atmosphere of a room. Here are some tips to assist you light up your living room.

Planning and preparation is a big ingredient when it comes to a successful project. Some people decorate a room and only late in the piece, do they think of lighting, but if you can have it in the equation at the beginning, it will assist you greatly. Not just in terms of fixtures, but in terms of having an electrician set up the wiring to accommodate your needs.

Your lighting needs are going to be contingent on how you use the room. This will be determined by things such as the amount of people in your family, their age and the way you entertain. As the living room is a room that requires versatility so too, the lighting in the room will need to be able to fulfill a variety of functions. So bear this in mind.

As opposed to pendant lighting which a lot of people have traditionally gone for, wall lighting will make the room rich in light. This is great in terms of making the room very friendly and warm as well as creating an atmosphere which is conducive to entertaining.

If there are things in the room such as a piece of art that you would like to draw attention to, don’t be afraid to highlight it or them with a spot light. Strategically placed spot lights can create a very powerful affect.

As can lamp shades, which apart from providing light can help contribute to the aesthetic of the room. High quality lamp shades can be very expensive so pick one that is within your budget. The same applies to chandeliers which will add depth to the room. Certain pieces can become the centre piece of the whole room and depending on the atmosphere you want to create, this could be one way to go.

If there are times when you don’t want all of the light on, you may rely on some smaller more subtle plug-in or task lights. A table lamp work wells for this scenario and be very effective. Something that people fail to remember is to avoid placing a lighting fixture next to a wall. If you don’t, you will find that much of the light will be wasted.

Feel free to utilize as many different types as you need. Blend task and ambient light as well as lamps to form the combination you are looking for in order to create that right feel for the room.

Remember that installing a dimmer provides you with instant flexibility and is great if you would like some mood lighting.

While you may be blending different types of lighting, you need to be sure that the theme you are working on creating is consistent. All of the fixtures need to be in-sync with each other. If you are doing it yourself and without a decorator, make sure you keep this in mind.

Another great way to add some color to an otherwise bland room – or, alternately, to complement a very colorful theme that you already have – is to use custom-sized perspex sheets from Simply Plastics. Often overlooked, these sturdy and archival plastics – which are really more like glass in that they don't fog, bow or deform over time – can be used as window inserts or in a wide range of other places to add a splash of bright color. They come in a wide range of colors, transparency/opacity levels, and can even be pre-cut to almost any size you can imagine.

You shouldn’t be afraid to experiment and change things up. Trial-and-error is a sound way to find the successful living room lighting combination you are looking for.

sposored post • image by acrylic online


infographic: repair vs. replace

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Our friend Adria Saracino at PartSelect recently constructed this useful infographic to help you decide "what to do with your broken appliance - repair or replace" (click the link for the full interactive infographic)?

I can attest to its usefulness; I recently had a problem with my previously-excellent Kenmore dishwasher. This wonderful device, which has made my life so easy for 3 years now, suddenly decided that it was finished cleaning dishes on the top rack. It deigned - although I worried that this might be temporary - to clean dishes on the bottom, but not the top. After a $120 Sears service call, all was fixed: it was a matter of mineral deposits from hard water clogging up the nozzles, nothing a quick acid treatment couldn't fix.

However, many times we don't have the luxury of paying $100+ for a service call when a new appliance might be only twice or three times that cost. Who knows how long the fix would last - would it be worth paying a third of the cost of a new appliance for 1 year or service, when for the full price you could have something that would work a minimum of three - and ideally close to a decade?

This chart can help you answer these questions and more!


Broken Antique Window Glass?

Learn How to Replace It With Historically Accurate Restoration Glass®

thanks to Renee Rosiak & Bendheim for this submission

Owners of historic homes and buildings take great pride in their antique window glass. With its occasional wave, bubble, and characteristic imperfections, it testifies to the history of an old structure or a piece of furniture, exuding the charm and character of by-gone days.

The making of window glass began in the 7th century with the development of mouthblown Crown glass. The 11th century saw the invention of the Cylinder glass method of producing mouth-blown antique window glass, first developed in Germany. Today, Cylinder and Crown glass are two types of authentic, mouthblown antique window glass found in fine American homes and buildings built from the 17th to early 20th centuries.

When old window glass is broken or damaged, people often go to great lengths to find a perfect match in order to preserve the historical integrity of a home or building. Finding the right glass can pose a significant challenge, considering the relatively wide-spread production of antique window glass ended after the invention of the first mechanical method for “drawing” glass, to be later followed by today’s ubiquitous “float” glass.

Window glass salvaged from another old building can be one replacement option. However, it can often be challenging to remove it from its old frame, cut it to the required size, and clean it.

An excellent alternative is to purchase cut-to-size “new antique” window glass made today utilizing the same techniques and tools used to make mouth-blown glass centuries ago. Authentic Restoration Glass®, produced at Germany’s Glashütte Lamberts, is crafted by skilled glass masters. The factory has preserved the mouthblown production methods through generations, guaranteeing the historic accuracy of this glass. As a testament to its authenticity, Restoration Glass is found in our country’s most prestigious restorations, including the White House, George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

view through regular glass window with no restoration

view through regular glass window with no restoration

 

view through Light Restoration Glass® window
view through Light Restoration Glass® window

 

view through Full Restoration Glass® window
view through Full Restoration Glass® window

To match precisely the original structure’s time period or the desired glass appearance, homeowners can select one of two varieties of Restoration Glass – “Full” or “Light.”

Full Restoration Glass is more distorting and accurately represents antique window glass made in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its distinct, somewhat “wavy” appearance makes it an excellent choice for colonial-style windows, antique and reproduction furniture.

Light Restoration Glass is less distorting and is an excellent match for glass found in structures built in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Its slight distortion is more pronounced when viewed from a distance, in reflected light, and over a large area, making it ideal for use in windows and doors.

If uncertain about the appropriate amount of distortion, homeowners can request samples from Bendheim or send a piece of the original glass to the company to determine the best possible match.

“New antique” window glass offers additional advantages to homeowners by blending historically accurate aesthetics with modern capabilities and standards. Today, Restoration Glass can be laminated with a special resin interlayer to provide an impact-resistant safety glass, which will remain in place if broken, as well as provide enhanced sound control. Current building codes require safety glass to be installed in doors and sidelites, among others.

To restore a damaged old window and replace its broken glass, homeowners can hire a glass installation professional or do it themselves. Those with the skill to complete the installation on their own will benefit from the following tools: protective gloves and goggles,  heat gun, putty knife, glass cutter, framer’s point gun, pliers, primer or shellac, glazier’s points, Calcium Carbonate (“whiting”), paint brush, and paint.

The steps below and an instructional video (featuring the restoration of Martha Stewart’s 1805 farmhouse window) will demonstrate how to replace broken antique window glass.

  • Safety first. Put your protective gear on.
  • Remove the window sash and place it on a table or other flat surface.
  • With a heat gun, warm and soften the old putty so that it can be easily removed. Be careful not to burn the wooden sash.
  • Remove the old putty with a putty knife, taking care not to damage the frame.
  • Cleaning out the putty will expose the old glazier’s points. Pry the glazier’s points up.
  • Run the glass cutter diagonally over the glass pane twice creating an X.
  • Gently tap the glass from underneath to break it into pieces that can be easily removed.
  • Remove the old glazier’s points with pliers.
  • Clean and scrape out the remainder of the old putty from the cleared glass channel.
  • After ensuring the window surface is dry, paint the channel with a primer or shellac. Note that regular primer dries in approximately two hours; shellac dries in approximately 10-15 minutes.
  • After the primer or shellac is dry, place new putty inside the channel.
  • Gently press a new glass piece into the opening. Squeeze the putty down by carefully applying even pressure on all four sides of the glass, ensuring a snug fit.
  • Use a framer’s point gun or a putty knife to install one or more glazier’s points in each of the four sides of the opening. The glazier’s points will secure the glass in place.
  • When using the putty knife, gently rock the glazier’s points back and forth until they are properly seated in place.
  • Press more putty around the edges of the glass panel.
  • Using the putty knife, flatten the putty to ensure a snug fit.
  • Place the putty knife at a slight angle in one corner of the glass and run the knife along the side to remove extra putty. Repeat on all four sides.
  • Take a small amount of “whiting” and spread it on the glass. Use a soft brush to rub the whiting on the glass and putty to remove excess oils, then gently clean it off.
  • Wait approximately two weeks for the putty to dry before re-painting the window.

Good luck with your restoration project! Please view the instructional video at www.restorationglass.com for additional tips and information.


storm doors or heavy-duty screen doors for a Mission home

A family member has given me a very nice birthday present - my choice of storm or other similar screen doors for my front and back doors, the only two entrances to my home. All of those that I see at Home Depot and Lowe's are either flimsy wood or vinyl or aluminum, or very ugly heavy metal security doors.

Does anyone have suggestions for either a heavy-duty wooden screen door - something a toddler and a couple of cats can't push through - or something more substantial?


downsizing Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

The last time I wrote about Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, I got in a lot of trouble. People wrote me plenty of nasty emails, telling me that I was, variously, a "grinch," an "asshole," an "overprivilidged idiot" (sic) and that I was "totally out of touch with reality." All because I was trying to make a point about both historic preservation and long-term thinking - that it could be cheaper to restore an old house in the long run than build a new one, especially when building a new one encumbred the homeowner with increased property taxes that have, thus far, caused several recipients of these new homes to lose them. And, self-centered greedy jerk that I am, I suggested that the real purpose of this television program is not to do good for folks who deserve it but to give free advertising - not to the local contractors who do the work, but to the national homebuilding firms who may "donate" materials and expertise or the big box stores that provide all the nifty new made-in-China hardware and drywall.

So you can imagine I felt a bit vindicated by Dawn Towapka's article in the Wall Street Journal this past week, which explores the various and very sad issues recipients of these dream houses have had - everything from bad loans and defaults to property taxes they can't afford to pay. Luckily, the comments on the WSJ article aren't nearly as obnoxious as those I got, nor do any of the folks leaving comments wish violence on the author, as was the case with two that I received.

...But after the cameras have gone, another trend has been developing: Homeowners struggle to keep up with their expensive new digs. In many cases, the bigger, more lavish homes have come with bigger, more lavish utility bills. And bigger tax assessments. Some homeowners have tapped the equity of their super-sized homes only to fall behind on the higher mortgage payments.

The show's producers say they are aware of the problem and are making changes appropriate to current economic reality: downsizing.

Back in the boom, the makeovers got a little out of hand because of competition among home builders aware of the free publicity that came with the show and who tried to outdo previous projects. These days, the show is backing away from the boom-era showpieces. We "scaled back," says Conrad Ricketts, an executive producer for the show created and produced by Endemol US.

Still, it's a neat idea. I'd love to see a show like this that connects with local markets a bit better: restoring and, if necessary, expanding already-existing homes using small, same-area contractors who really need the work; using recycled and repurposed materials via local nonprofits or, for example, Habitat for Humanity's Re-Use stores; sticking to sustainable woods and US-made parts. It might be a little more expensive in the short run, but nothing worth doing is easy - and it'll certainly save a lot of heartache and cash over time.


make your own backyard paradise

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Our friend Kimberly Aardal forwards the following short article on easily and inexpensively remodeling your backyard into a stress-relieving retreat:

Your Backyard Can Be Your Paradise – In 10 Simple Steps

It's probably no shock to learn that stress levels have increased dramatically in the lives of most Americans these days. But what may be a surprise is the fact that moderate stress levels affected over half of the population in the last year. Even our much-needed rest has been impacted by this phenomenon, with studies showing nearly 50% of Americans losing sleep as a direct result of stress.

A Simple Remedy for Stress

As is often the case in life, the simplest solutions can be the best. And they frequently are right under our noses. Relaxation is critical to good health and can be found in many places. However, one logical place to start is one's own backyard. It's a defined private space, free from the pressures of the fast-paced world beyond. A well-arranged backyard can offer us the peace and tranquility that allows our mind to relax and our body to heal a bit. Here are ten steps to transform your backyard.

1. Start with the Big Picture

Any landscape architect will tell you that balance is the most important consideration when undertaking a site project. Before embarking on remaking your backyard, familiarize yourself with the positive elements that are present in your backyard, taking note of textures, colors, even the scale of trees and shrubs. Regardless of the scope of your project, remember that the eye seeks the balance that we find in nature. Areas of your backyard that are flat and straight (a concrete walkway for example) can easily be complemented by curved planted areas or a border of colorful ground cover. In the case of small yards, creating the illusion of more space is not difficult. By installing serpentine pathways rather than straight ones, the perception is one of a deeper environment. Break up sight lines with plants and trees and encourage variety. This will ensure that a stroll through your backyard is not just a walk from one point to another, but also a sensory experience. Be on the lookout for locations where outdoor wood furniture might be placed to invite a quiet moment of relaxation or reading. Itís always wise to carve out a seating area large enough for two to enjoy.

2. Define What Relaxation Means

To some, the most pleasurable form of relaxation in the backyard is actually quite active: donning gardening gloves and maintaining a vegetable garden, mowing the lawn or sculpting the hedges. To others, the thought of leaving their rocking chair and working up a sweat is anathema to the whole point of a backyard paradise. Know your preferences and your ultimate goal before embarking on a new design. If the yard is to be shared with a loved one or the whole family, build their needs into the equation. Should yard maintenance be seen as a burden, be clever about your selections when buying plants and ground cover. If appropriate vegetation is chosen, your quality time wonít be dominated by chores.

3. Color is the Key

When planning your new backyard layout, remember the importance of color. Itís a given that any yard with a lawn or trees is going to provide an abundance of green. But what other colors should you introduce into your new environment? What changes occur as the seasons change? Is there a dominant color already in the environment, such as a house or painted fence? As a helpful starting point, reference Feng Shui colors. The energy map will point the way to which of the five elements - fire, earth, metal, water or wood – is most appropriate for achieving harmonious balance in your new configuration. The colors you choose for plantings, furniture and raw materials are the key to ensuring a sense of calm. Comforting colors allow us to relax and unwind without distraction. Even the choice of a fabric color for pillows in a rocking chair nook should take nearby foliage into account. The most successful backyard arrangements are seldom achieved by accident.

4. The Element of Sound

For a backyard to be a truly sensory experience, consider the importance of sound. Sometimes what we call blissful silence in a backyard is actually defined by the soft whisper of a summer breeze or the tinkling of a fountain. Peace can be found in a well-placed wind chime or even in our favorite tunes, emanating from hidden speakers throughout the yard.

5. Back To Nature

Even the most formal backyard design will benefit from airborne visitors attracted to the tranquility, the fragrance and the colors of your new paradise. They should be welcomed as honored guests. Butterflies, birds and bees are essential to the balance that keeps plants flourishing and flowers blooming. They add sound, color, motion and they enhance the experience of relaxing outside. Encourage your visitors by selecting flowering plants that attract them. Try buddleias, bougainvilleas, azaleas, petunias or any others that are appropriate for your planting zone. Remember that low bushes or trees with Y-shaped branches create prized nesting locations for hummingbirds.

6. The Furniture Element

Comfort and durability should be the watchwords when picking out furniture for any backyard environment. It's essential that a well-planned layout include a quality table and chairs. For spots with a great view, explore benches and swings. Hammocks are traditionally suspended from trees but can be purchased with a stand and are suited for tanning under the sun or gazing at stars. Rocking chairs and gliders are perfect in an alcove, beside a garden or anywhere else conducive to napping or meditation.

7. Consider the Time of Year

The effects of the sun on your new backyard paradise depend a great deal on your location, terrain and the time of year. However, certain things are universal. In the spring, the lounging areas should face east or south. Direct sunlight, when itís a bit too hot, can be countered with the use of outdoor umbrellas or pergolas. The charming tradition of a covered porch allows for more substantial protection from the sun while affording a cooling breeze as well.

8. The Taste of the Outdoors

Yes, aromas and even tastes are vital to the outdoor experience. We are soothed by the scent of pine trees, the herb garden growing nearby or flowers in bloom. Your backyard should incorporate these elements as you lay out your planting areas. Movable pots with basil, mint or lavender can function as easily moved elements on a patio, deck or along a flagstone path. Relaxing aromas of chamomile and sandalwood can be incorporated into the lawn or mixed into a garden where the breeze can carry their heady fragrance. Try essential oils and candles as well. They can be introduced into a seating arrangement to enhance the sense of complete relaxation.

9. The Warmth of a Fire

As daytime moves toward evening or as summer moves to autumn, the backyard environment can still remain comfortable with the installation of an outdoor fireplace. On a deck or patio, this important addition to your plan will ensure pleasurable evenings of conversation, outdoor cooking and stargazing. The traditional clay chiminea and freestanding fire pits can do much the same and have the added advantage of being portable. For less warmth but more light, try tiki torches. They can be installed just about anywhere and they create a wonderfully festive addition to all evening activities in your backyard.

10. Let the Games Begin

As part of the essential balance of backyard design, donít forget to allow room for romping on the grass. Space for playing lawn games like bocce ball, badminton or horseshoes is as important to your new plan as the quiet seating areas and curved walkways. It's important to include a comfortable play area, a place to toss a Frisbee or roll around with the dog. It's all part of the process of relaxing.

Paradise Found in Your Own Backyard

A sublime solution to the problems of a stressful world, your backyard sanctuary will allow you to relax and breathe. The enjoyment you'll get from a place of your own, where all your senses are enriched, will improve your life. Kimberly Aardal, Publisher of EveryDayRockingChairs.com loves the outdoors and relaxing in her own backyard paradise in her favorite white rocking chair. Kimberly lives in the mountains of Colorado with her husband Jon and yellow lab Ginger and has learned the value of slowing down and enjoying life to the fullest. When Kimberly is not sharing information about wooden rocking chairs, the three of them spend a great deal of time in the mountains hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and exploring the small mountain towns in their beautiful state.

cc-licensed photo by Tracie Hall

another home saved from the wrecking ball

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Reader David McMurray points out a recent LA Times story on a Long Beach Craftsman saved from the wrecking ball. David walked his dog by this house regularly and was particularly happy to see it appreciated after years of neglect. Above photo by Christine Cotter, taken from the slide show at the attached link.

When Wendy Harn rescued a 1913 Craftsman from the wrecking ball in 1989, she didn't know much about the Long Beach house except that it was free. A developer had planned to demolish it to build condos, but first the city insisted that he offer the house to anyone willing to move it. Harn stepped forward, and the following year she relocated the two-story, five-bedroom behemoth from its Ocean Boulevard site opposite the Long Beach Museum of Art to her lot in the Bluff Park Historic District.

Twenty years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, Harn, a Long Beach native and assistant director in charge of crime analysis at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and her partner, Sasha Witte, are nearing the end of a painstaking renovation that makes the house radiate with new vitality. Here, Witte descends the entry staircase with a scroll-like banister — one of the elements that first attracted Harn to the house.


out-of-context remodels

It's so sad to see something like this - a very cute, sharp looking bungalow (on the outside), with a horribly anti-Craftsman bath and kitchen inside, which totally ruins the entire Arts & Crafts feeling of the entire place. Why spend all that money on a kitchen that is exactly the opposite of the style of the house? Successful remodels are always in the context of the house as a whole, and don't try to rebel against it.

Mission Revival home in San Jose's Palm Haven

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Lookiloos has a terrific profile on Michael Borbely's gorgeous Mission Revival home in San Jose, California. The tile, beams, fixtures - everything is spot-on and a really nice example of the style.

The stark white house at the end of Plaza Drive in San Jose's historic Palm Haven neighborhood takes you by surprise. It's small in scale, a single story on a corner lot. But its domed tower and decorative parapet across the roofline force you to take a second look.

  This is Michael Borbely's mini masterpiece - a recently completed Mission Revival house of stucco and tile that took years of research to create, plus help from San Jose's Fireclay Tile to reproduce century-old details.

Borbely, 45, is an architectural activist of sorts who spearheaded an effort several years ago to restore the pillars at the entrance to the 1930s Palm Haven in Willow Glen to their original Mission Revival style. So when he was ready for a new project after selling his Prairie style house in the neighborhood, "I looked for the house in the worst condition that had the most impact on the neighborhood." He decided on a tiny Spanish style house for sale nearby in need of a major remodel. He wanted the house to fit into the streetscape and, taking some cues from the pillars and an original Mission Revival house in the neighborhood, decided to reinvent a scaled-down version.