Home Improvement Tips for 2013

home improvement tips 2013Anyone looking to improve their homes in 2013 should look at a few key areas across their property, from making significant changes, to adapting your home to be more energy and eco conscious; this can be achieved in a number of ways and can go hand in hand with freeing up space around your home as well as with renovating key rooms. Making these changes can ultimately help to boost the value of your home while also making it more comfortable and cost effective.


It can be easy to let clutter build up around your home whether that means filling up a garage or basement with old items or not clearing out cupboards on a regular basis. Living in the same house for a long time will mean that you will gradually fill up your available space which can make it difficult to make changes.

A cluttered home can also put off prospective buyers. Decluttering can consequently involve going through different rooms and either throwing out, recycling, or selling items: old DVDs and books can be sold online, and, in some cases, mobile phones and other electronics can be recycled for cash.

Renovate Key Rooms

By focusing on key rooms around your house you can make a stronger impact on your property’s overall decor and its appeal to buyers. The main rooms to focus on include the kitchen, bathroom, and the master bedroom. Kitchens can be improved by removing central islands to create space and by installing granite counter tops; you can improve bathrooms by creating walk in showers or by fully converting spare bathrooms into waterproof wet rooms. For master bedrooms, repainting and replacing curtains with roller blinds can help to increase the effect of available light.

Be More Eco Conscious

There are many ways in which you can make your home more eco friendly. These ways can range from recycling more to using less water; devices can be fitted to taps to limit water usage while a water meter can be more cost effective than relying on local averages. You can also start a compost heap in the garden and use recycled newspaper as insulating material in lofts to reduce heat loss

Switch Energy Providers

If you’ve been using the same energy provider, or providers, for several years, it can be a good idea to switch at the start of 2013. Look around for deals and be mindful that energy prices as a whole are set to rise during 2013. Providers that combine gas and electric prices and that can offer you incentives for switching are available.

Make Lots of Small Changes

Rather than making large-scale changes to your home it can sometimes be more efficient to focus on a range of small renovations around a property. These renovations might include fixing broken taps, replacing light fixtures, and getting rid of old curtains. Minor upgrades, which can involve hanging new art, or switching the lighting scheme in rooms to include lamps and dimmer switches, can help to boost value and add personality to rooms.

Guest post courtesy of:

Author Bio: Liam Ohm writes about home improvement, from estate agents in Maidstone to how to make your home eco-friendly. In his spare time he enjoys travelling and networking.

Fast Growing Flowers to Put in Your Garden

Fast Growing Flowers to Put in Your GardenHome garden’s make a beautiful addition to your landscape and provide you with many opportunities to put them to good use. First of all you will always enjoy the sight of live flowers each morning when you wake up. You will also always have nice arrangements made from fresh cut flowers. And last, but not least, you will always have the perfect bouquet for any occasion or person. You only have to go to the garden and pick what you want.

The reason why many people do not like the idea of growing their own gardens is usually the fact that they do not have enough patience to wait for the plants to grow and start to blossom. For many flowers this can be true, but still there are some that grow faster and will not make you wait so long for the perfect result.

This article will suggest a dozen of them and basic tips on how to optimize their care. The first one to start with is called cosmos. This plant is annual and usually grows with long stems. They look very pretty, have enough foliage, and can be seen in several different colors some of which are pink, purple, red or white. They are very easy to grow because they do not need much of a fertilizer. It will actually suppress the blooms of the plant if there is too much of it.

The Mexican Sunflower is another one of these fast growing flowers. It is so bright that you will love it from the Fast Growing Flowers to Put in Your Gardenmoment you see it. Its blooms are red and orange. They have the ability to complete two generations for the time of one summer. When you are planting the Mexican Sunflower in your garden you have to be sure that there is enough room for it because it can grow up to four foot in width. You have to be extremely careful when you cut these flowers to use it for an arrangement. Its stems are very fragile. To avoid breaking, try to cut it using very sharp tools.

The yellow flag is an early spring flower which can grow best in wetlands. It is not impossible to have it in a drier place, but there it will grow smaller and will spread less and with more difficultly.

The Black-eyed Susan is a perennial. It grows with numerous blooms on one stem. It can bloom during the whole summer without a break and the more you cut it the more it will grow again.

The purple cornflower is very interesting in its shape and can be dried and boiled on a tea. It attracts butterflies during the whole summer and you don’t have to worry about it because it rarely gets diseases and is very tolerant to dry weather.

Marigolds are also amongst the fast growing flowers and are very beautiful. They are continuously blooming and can be seen in every shade of orange and yellow. It’s best to plant them with the vegetables because they need pest treatment more than any other flower.

Fast Growing Flowers to Put in Your GardenPoppies are the annuals that come with more than seventy varieties of their color. Their foliage is blue-green. For better results, make sure to remember to cut them just before their flower opens. To make them last longer in the vase, hold the stem in the flame of a lighter for a few seconds then put them in the water.

The horse-mint is the perennial that, when dried, has the taste of oregano. Besides growing it in your garden you can dry it and use its nice fragrance as a natural air-freshener in your home.

Guest Post By:

Bio: Daisy Hart is a writer and blogger with great flair for flowers and flower decoration. She is focused on writing the best possible way and is constantly searching for new sources of inspiration. Her present article treats: gardening and caring of flowers related thematic.

10 Ways to Make Your Home Greener

10 ways to make your home greenerThere are many ways in which you can make your home greener; doing so means that you can raise your property’s future resale value, while also being able to save money on bills. To achieve this, it’s worth thinking about the benefits of switching to eco-friendly appliances, as well as considering how long term investments like solar panels can help to generate future savings. These approaches, and more, to making your home greener are listed below:

1 – Use Eco-Friendly Appliances

Old white goods in the kitchen like washing machines, fridges, and freezers can consume a lot of energy and emit heat and noise. You can reduce their environmental damage, and their costs, by switching to energy saving appliances.

2 – Consider Solar Panel Installations

An excellent long term idea, solar panels can add real value to a property over time. While it may take a long time to recoup your initial investment in solar panels, they will provide backup power and can be subsidized through government feed-in tariffs that pay you for surplus energy.

3 – Compost

If you don’t already, composting represents a great way to deal with waste while recycling nutrients for your garden. You can make a compost heap using a sealed wheelie bin and it doesn’t require a large garden to make one work. Tea bags, coffee grounds, and food scraps can be added to a compost heap and will eventually produce mulch and fertilizer for your garden.

4 – Use Less Water

Making savings on your water usage can add up to significant bill savings. There are some simple ways to achieve this – don’t leave taps running when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving and set limits on showers. Alternatively, invest in low flush shower and tap faucets and recycle grey-water from baths for the garden.

5 – Insulation

A home that has up to date insulation will be a greener property as you won’t have to rely as much on central heating. Windows and doors can be re-insulated using natural materials and blinds made from recycled materials can be added to rooms.

6 – Switch to Energy Saving Bulbs

If you’re using old light bulbs, it’s worth considering a switch to energy saving bulbs and LEDs. While they might initially be more expensive, energy saving bulbs last longer and are better for the environment.

7 – Use Eco Friendly Cleaning Products

Try to clean your home using eco friendly products that won’t damage the atmosphere. Toilet cleaners, air fresheners, and other natural cleansers can be picked up at relatively little cost but can have a big impact on your home.

8 – Get On Top of Recycling

Make sure that you’re separating paper and plastic  and find a local bottle bank if there is no collection. You can also order extra bins and  arrange for special collections for old furniture and white goods.

9 – Change Your Eating Habits

By eating more local food and buying from farmer’s markets, you can end up with produce that’s healthier and better for the environment by reducing distribution and packaging costs.

10 – Switch Appliances Off at Night

Most people tend to leave their appliances switched on or left on standby overnight – anything non-essential can be switched off at the mains rather than left on overnight or standby. Doing so will help to make your house greener and will save you on your bills over time.

Guest Post By:

Author Bio: Liam Ohm writes about home improvement. He recommends investing in bespoke furniture in order to ensure it fits your specification and holds its longevity. In his spare time he enjoys reading, socialising and travelling.

Winter Gardens Combine Convenient with Beauteous

Winter Gardens Combine Convenient with BeauteousWinter couldn’t be called exactly a welcoming season with the associations of cold and snow that come with it. This is the season when all greenery is covered in white as far as your sight can reach. The world around is still, nature looks as if it is fallen asleep waiting for better times to come. A desire to replace the dull colours with brighter hues arises probably because the weather outside is so gloomy that one wants something more cheerful to have around for a change.

A winter garden can bring back spring and summer in your life and the positive mood they bring with them. It is falsely perceived that when the coldest season comes, all plant life disappears and gardening should cease until it gets warmer again. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re willing to have plants and flowers in your garden even in the winter, this is not a mission impossible. You just have to be determined enough, to have the knowledge, the tools and the necessary facility.

A solar greenhouse fits perfectly (as seen in the picture above) where you can grow plants indoors. Other than that, there are crops that can be planted outside and do just fine in lower temperatures. Knowing the secrets of winter gardening will help any devoted, and determined, gardener have fresh and natural herbs, vegetables, flowers and fruit when nobody else does.

When you first start with your winter garden, you have to consider some factors that will help you choose the plants you want to grow. Usually, the conditions in your region determine the plants that can be grown there. But in an indoor, solar or otherwise heated greenhouse you can practically grow anything that is usually grown in the warmer months. What can be planted in such indoor winter garden is rosemary, parsley, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, broad beans, mangetout, tomatoes as long as you establish the needed conditions. Some seeds are sown directly, others – in pots. Another thing that has to be considered is the amount of space that each type of plant is required to have in order to grow well. A warm greenhouse is considered one with a minimum temperature of about 13ºC/55ºC, and even if at night the temperature drops, it will still be higher than the one outside. Since in the winter days are shorter, you should have in mind that you might need an additional source of light in your greenhouse to simulate the presence of the sun. Pollination is also an issue that has to be paid attention to. Tomatoes, for example, self-pollinate which means that no insects are needed for the purpose – you can simply shake the plant and it’s done. When this method can’t be applied, what gardeners do is transfer pollen from the male to the female blossom with a cotton swab or a painting brush.

As far as crops that grow in cold weather outdoors are concerned, you have to plant them in late summer. If you do that in September, you’ll get the results in winter or early spring depending on what you’ve planted. Leeks, garlic, kale, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, collards, broccoli, and cabbage can be grown that way.

Having a winter garden a few steps away from your home certainly brings a lot of benefits. The very fact that you grow your own food makes it safer, healthier and tastier. You are aware how you’ve grown it, what fertilizer you used, how the plants were treated, so worries about harmful components immediately disappear. Having plants and herbs picked up right from your garden is also beneficial for your family bank because you won’t spend money on them. Growing your own produce is relevant to gardening as a whole, not just in the winter, which makes the idea of green living part of your life. The more practical side of having crops at hand is that you can always prepare something fast out of the products you have without having to walk/drive to the store when you’re feeling too exhausted, for example.

Don’t forget that plants require regular care. The produce doesn’t just magically turn up out of the blue. You have to Winter Gardens Combine Convenient with Beauteousbe enthusiastic enough to do some work in the greenhouse in the winter. Compared to the warmer months, people tend to not go out much when they are cold unless it’s necessary. Gardening is a great way to get out and do something useful, to stretch your legs a little. It’s like a kind of an exercise to keep you in good shape in the months you’re reluctant to move around because of the bad weather conditions. The lack of sun can be compensated by the vitamins that fresh and natural vegetables and fruit provide. It’s all good for the immune system.

Another positive aspect of having a winter garden would be to turn it into a flower haven on earth. Just entering in there will give you the feeling of spring and summer with all the colours and greenness. The types of flowers that are suitable for growing in a cool indoor greenhouse include Primroses, Nasturtiums, Azaleas, Freesias, Amaryllis, Hyacinths, Impatiens, etc. They have to be planted in pots but in a special soil, not the one from your yard because it carries pests. The pleasant fragrance that comes from the greenhouse will draw you to it as if you’re captured by some kind of an invisible power. What’s most important is that you’ll be cheered up and charged with fresh energy looking at all the beauty that you’ve created yourself.

Guest Post By:

Daisy Hart is a writer and blogger with great flair for flowers and flower decoration. She is focused on writing the best possible way and is constantly searching for new sources of inspiration. Her present article treats: winter gardening and flowers related thematic.

Fans in the Attic: Do They Help or Do They Hurt?

Whole-house fan drawingHomeowners in hot climates need to understand the difference between whole-house fans and powered attic ventilators

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding attic fans. Here at GBA, we regularly receive e-mails from homeowners with questions about attic fans: What’s the purpose of the fan in my attic? How often should I run it? Do I need a bigger fan?

Before addressing these recurring questions, it’s important to define our terms. First, we need to distinguish between three different types of ventilation fans.The most common kind of residential ventilation fan is… (Click here to continue reading this article)


Transparent solar cells let windows generate electricity

transparent-solar-cellsIn the future, solar panels will no longer be restricted to the roof. You’ll be able to put them on your windows too.

Scientists at UCLA have invented a thin, transparent solar cell that can turn the energy of the sun into electricity, while still allowing visible light to stream through it.

“If you take a piece of glass and compare it to our solar cell, it is difficult to tell the difference,” said study leader Yang Yang, a professor at UCLA and director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).
Read more…

Source:  Los Angeles Times, Business

Humidity, Mold, and Indoor Air Quality

Moisture rides on air currents, and warm air carries more moisture than cool air

To control air flows, make sure the air barrieris continuous
An air barrier helps control airflow both through and within the building enclosure. By controlling airflow, you also control moisture.  Read more…

Source:  GreenBuildingAdvisor.com

Five tips for conserving water during warm-weather months

Tips for conserving waterWater and the summer months tend to go hand-in-hand – water skiing or fishing at a lake, taking a dip in a swimming pool and watering home-grown plants with a garden hose are among the season’s most popular activities. Recent summers have also been some of the driest on record, prompting grass fires, drastically low lake levels and water utilities having to implement water restrictions on their customers.

According to the United Nations’ Water for Life campaign, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in parts of the world where access to clean water sources is extremely difficult. Additionally, water around the world is unevenly distributed, taken for granted and wasted, polluted or unsustainably managed.

So how can you positively impact water usage inside and outside your home? Here are five simple tips for the summer months:

* Start with smart landscaping decisions. Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting – longer grass shades the root systems and holds moisture in soil better than shorter grass. Also, consider composting kitchen scraps, lawn clippings and garden waste to retain more water, reduce erosion and even decrease weed growth.

* Water your yard responsibly. When summer temperatures heat up, water your lawn in the mornings to reduce water loss from evaporation. You can also set your sprinklers to a lower pressure. Why? Higher pressure creates a fine mist that evaporates faster or will blow away, thus wasting water.

* Start your day by showering with a low-flow showerhead. Low-flow showerheads limit the water flow to around three gallons per minute as compared to twice that for a normal showerhead. Pick one up at a local home improvement or hardware store. If you’re remodeling a bathroom, you can look at other water- and energy-saving gadgets like tank-less water heaters or low-volume flush toilets.

* Reduce the amount of water that runs down drains. It’s estimated that 95 percent of water that flows through a home runs down the drain, but simple steps like turning off the running water while brushing teeth or washing hands until it’s time to rinse decreases water waste. Consider collecting some of this water when there may be another use for it, such as watering a plant. Also, rather than running cold water from the tap until it’s cold enough to quench your summer thirst, refill and store a pitcher of water in the refrigerator.

* Save water and energy in the laundry room. Reduce water waste by running a washer only when it’s full. Using cold water also reduces the amount of energy used and conserves hot water for other household needs that require it. Need a new washer? According to ENERGY STAR, the average American family washes almost 300 loads of laundry each year, but can significantly reduce energy and water usage by purchasing ENERGY STAR-qualified products. For example, a full-sized ENERGY STAR qualified washer uses 14 gallons of water per load, nearly 50 percent less water than a standard machine.

For more information on water savings tips this summer and information on incentives or rebates in your area, check with your local water utility.

Steamy and water smart: New ideas for your bathroom remodel

Steamy and water smart: New ideas for your bathroom remodelCreating a feeling of luxury in your bathroom doesn’t have to come with a high price tag or a shockingly high water bill. You can create an indulgent spa sanctuary with water-sipping faucets and toilets, as well as other water smart choices, following these simple tips:

Saving water with style. Choosing a water conserving faucet, toilet, or showerhead no longer means sacrificing style or performance. When shopping for a new low flow fixture, check the package for the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense certification, which lets you know the manfacturer’s claims about water savings and performance can be trusted. When you see the WaterSense label, you can be sure you’re making an eco-friendly choice.

If you’re looking for high style in addition to water conservation, the new Pyke and Stoic Collections by JADO are two new and strikingly elegant examples of beautifully designed faucets that can save the average household 500 gallons of water every year. For toilets, look for WaterSense-labeled toilets that attain top ratings in independent Maximum Performance Testing or MaP toilet tests.

Steam instead of soak. For some, a deep soaking tub is an appealing luxury, which has a place in many bathrooms. Averaging about 75 gallons of water per bath, however, a more sustainable option is a home steam shower, which uses only two gallons of water and negligible electricity for a 20 minute steam experience.   Adding a home steam shower can be a surprisingly easy and affordable indulgence.

A steam shower can also promote wellness and relaxation in ways that a soaking tub can’t. Steam showers can help soothe tired muscles, promote restful sleep, and can open pores to reveal cleaner, softer skin. During cold and allergy season, steam can even improve breathing by helping to clear mucus and allergens from your lungs.

Keep shower systems simple. The “human car wash” style of shower system with lots of additional body sprays was once a big trend in luxury bathrooms. However, as interest in water conservation continues to rise along with the price of water, this style of shower- which can use as much as 160 gallons of water for a 20 minute shower – has declined in popularity. Instead, limit your shower system to two outlets: one fixed showerhead and one handheld.

A rain showerhead is a great option for the fixed showerhead, as it provides a luxurious drenching feeling. An accompanying hand held shower has the force to rinse shampoo from long hair, and is useful for cleaning the shower walls, washing pets. Its adjustable settings provide a variety of spray experiences in one showerhead. Most important, it provides an easily accessible bathing option for older guests and family members with limited mobility when used with a secure shower seat.

For more bathroom remodeling idea’s, please visit our bathroom remodeling page.  Ready to discuss how we can help you transform your bathroom?  Give us a call at 914-576-2572 to schedule your free in home design consultation!

What would you like to change about your bathroom?

Cool new concepts for gardening

One of the driving forces in gardening is many American’s pursuit of healthier eating and greener living. This means that the new face of gardening has begun to change considerably in recent years.

So, what’s cool about gardening?

bird feederFrom growing vegetables in the front yard to creating an edible wall of green on the balcony, gardening is not limited to just a half-acre plot in the country anymore. Now, gardeners use any space available for a garden, no matter how urban or small. The key is adding individuality or personality to the garden in the form of handmade sculptures, water features, bird feeders or even the variety of unique heirloom plants that are used. Sustainability is also very important. Plants that serve a dual purpose – like low-growing thyme used as a ground cover in a small area or a cucumber plant that has been trained to grow up a trellis as a green screen – are excellent examples of how many gardeners have transformed traditional ideas of gardening. Looking at gardening and plants in new ways can lead to some great discoveries – and may even increase the productivity of a green space.

How can you join in the gardening movement? Here are some helpful tips to get started.

Maximize space: 
Even if you only have a window, and no outdoor space, you can have a garden. An herb garden, like the Miracle-Gro Culinary Herb Kit, can be grown on a window ledge in the kitchen. No ledge? No problem. Just hang a hook from the ceiling and grow your plants in a hanging basket. For those with little outdoor space, try container gardening on the patio or use an outside fence or railing to grow a vertical garden. Simply hang pots on hooks or create your own “living wall” using chicken wire, coconut fiber lining and a quality potting mix. Then, plant trailing produce or flowers and watch your wall grow. If you have a sunny space in the yard, create a small garden using the new Miracle-Gro Ultimate Raised Garden Bed. This easy-to-use kit snaps together and can easily be customized to fit in nearly any space. Simply add nutrient-enriched soil, like Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro or Potting Mix, and plant the garden on a patio, deck, rooftop or balcony.

Redefine terms: 
Produce plants are for vegetable gardens and landscaping plants are for the front yard … right? Not necessarily. The tomato containergreat thing about gardening is that the only necessary rules are the ones Mother Nature created: plants need sunlight, water, food and soil with good drainage. Other than that, do not be afraid to mix it up. Plant vegetables in the front yard, use strawberries in a hanging basket or plant an herb for groundcover along a path. Tomatoes will grow beautifully next to marigolds and sage will add a nice contrast when grown in a container alongside yellow daisies. Grow what you like that will thrive in your climate, even if it is not what your neighbors are growing.

Stay true to yourself: 
If your favorite color is blue, then plant blue flowers. If you love salsa, then plant a “salsa garden” by using tomatoes, cilantro, onions and jalapenos. Add your own touch and make it personal. The materials used can represent your style and add interest in the garden as effectively as what is planted. With adequate drainage, even an old toolbox can come to life with some potting soil and impatiens. Collect stones and small objects with kids to make garden sculptures or bird feeders that the whole family can enjoy. Green plastic bottle caps can be turned into ornamental “trees” and grandma’s cracked tea cup could become a bird feeder with a little imagination. If you have extra produce, make sure to share it. Friends, neighbors, family and even many local food pantries will take donations of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Although gardening can be seen as a science, it should also be looked as an art. Gardeners should feel free to experiment and express themselves through their gardens. Let your green space reflect your home, your interests and your individuality. Make it a tradition to try at least one new thing every year and you may be surprised how much you learn along the way.

Have any gardening tips or want to share pictures of your garden?  We’d love to hear what you have to say and see what’s growing in your garden.

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