living room interior

7 tips for maintaining a safe fireplace

Fireplaces are a joy to have in the house and are great during the cold winter months. But, they can also lead to home fires if they are not properly cleaned and maintained. So make sure that you follow these tips to ensure a safe and warm winter.

  1. Get a professional to inspect and clean your chimney every year before the start of winter. They should be able to get all the flammable creosote buildup out of the chimney and make sure that there is none left that can go up in flames.
  2. Make sure that the mesh cap on the chimney is secure at the end of every season and make sure that there are no twigs and branches that have fallen in to your chimney before you start lighting fires. Also check for animals and birds living in the chimney if the cap has allowed invaders. You do not want to start the season off by setting fire to an animal burrowed into your chimney.
  3. Check for soot in the chimney. It is softer than creosote and is flammable so make sure you clean it out before lighting a fire. A professional chimney sweep can also do this for you.
  4. If you find more smoke than normal pouring into the house, there may be a blockage in the chimney and you should check it yourself or have a professional check it.
  5. Leave a good deal of space between the fireplace and your furniture or other objects in the room. Flying embers can set fire to things such as carpets and pillows. Also, you should buy fireplace doors to keep the embers from flying into the room.
  6. You may want to install a stainless steel lining that will be able to keep the live fire and embers contained within the fireplace and be able to withstand high temperatures.
  7. Clean the fireplace floor and sides regularly by using a vacuum cleaner to suck out the ashes. Wear a dust mask while doing this to avoid inhaling the buildup.

With these tips you should be able to make sure that the fireplace in your home is not a fire hazard and not a threat to you and your family. Most of these are easy to do and can be done once before you start a fire for the first time in the season. If you are not confident about handling the tasks, get a professional in to get them done.

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5 things to know before you build a deck

A deck can be a wonderful addition to your home. Not only will it increase the resale value of your home, but it will make a great place for family and friends to spend afternoons and evening or have a cook out. Think about the following things before you start building one or hire professionals to do it.

  1. Find out about all the choices you have in wood. While you may want to go for plain wood or synthetic materials, you can also use mahogany and redwood.
  2. Get all your permits in order and check with the local government to make sure that your planned deck is up to code. If you neglect to do this, you may face a fine or even have to take the deck down. An inspector can be called in to make sure the site and the plans are suitable. They can also be a valuable source of information and advice on building the deck.
  3. Be smart about choosing a location for the deck. If you want to sit on it while your children are playing or swimming, make sure you have a clear line of sight to the area they will be in. If you plan to host lunches or dinners, you may want to make sure that there is easy access from the kitchen.
  4. Make a solid foundation for the deck. It will be supporting the weight of the deck, your friends and family, patio furniture as well as things like grills so make sure you dig deep and build solid pier footings to keep the deck up. You may need to go below the frost line in your area to have a solid foundation.
  5. Make sure the deck will last a long time by protecting it from the elements. This will mean that you should choose paints that will protect it from the sun and rain. Apply a clear coat of oil or water based sealant on top of the paint to give it more protection from the elements.

These tips should help you get started in building a solid and durable decks where you and your friends and family can enjoy the summer months. Do not compromise on quality and you will find that the deck will keep giving joy for a long time. If you are not confident about the process, get advice and help from friends or hire a professional.

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5 Reasons to add insulation to your home

While some people decide to forgo insulation, especially if they are living in an area with good weather, they should now that there are more reasons than the obvious temperature ones to insulate your home. If you are on the fence about it, these reasons should convince you that adding insulation to your walls is a good idea.

  1. The most obvious reason to insulate your home is to keep the elements out of your home. Insulation is almost a necessity if you live in an area with moderate to severe seasons and will help to keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
  2. This will also keep energy bills down as more of the heat and air conditioning inside the house and maintain a comfortable temperature without spending a lot more on energy. Energy bills are one of the most significant utility expenses in a home and you should do everything possible to keep it down. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy has found that insulating and sealing your home to their standards can save up to 20% in energy bills.
  3. Insulation also helps keep the noise inside your home from bothering your neighbors. If you have pets that like to bark in the night or just kids playing loudly, you may start to become a nuisance to your neighbors and insulating your home will make sure that most of the noise is restricted to your house. It also give a little more peace of mind to those who like to play loud music in the house.
  4. Insulating will also be a huge help to the environment as you will be using less energy and keeping your carbon footprint down. While having to heat and cool your house is an absolute necessity, it is important to care about the earth and make sure that you are doing everything that you can to preserve it.
  5. Insulation with a vapor retarded is also great in keeping water vapor from condensing inside the structure of your house and causing damage to it. It will keep your house healthy for longer and keep the value of it up.

These reasons should be enough to convince you to get a professional in to insulate your house. The money you spend now doing it will more than be paid back in savings from lower energy bills and a healthier house.

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5 benefits of a finished basement

If you are shying away from finishing your basement or keep putting it off because of the cost involved, you may have not realized that the basement is worth more to you finished than unfinished and the sooner you do get it finished, the sooner you can start enjoying these possible benefits from the basement.

  1. A finished basement will add a huge amount of value to your house and according to estate agents, gives you more value per square foot than other improvements like kitchen remodels and additions. It will add more living space and bigger families will also be interested in your home if you are considering selling it.
  2. It will add more living space to your house and if you have family or friends over and they need to spend the night, you can always convert your basement into a sleeping area for guests instead of having to cram them into your bedrooms upstairs.
  3. You can also set it aside as an entertainment room, a storage area or a study and a finished basement will hold expensive equipment and furniture without threat of break-ins, the elements or moisture getting to them and also will keep cleaner and be easier to clean.
  4. You can also turn the basement into a separate basement apartment and get some additional income by renting it out. While this may not be a suitable option for families, if you are single and own a house, you can always get a housemate in and collect some additional monthly income.
  5. A basement is cool during the summer if it is wall insulated and is the perfect place to spend those hot summer afternoons and avoid the heat without running up the energy bills. Set up an entertainment center in the basement and enjoy the cool temperature.

The only limit you have when finishing the basement is your imagination. Unlike rooms in your house, the basement can be used for almost anything and decorated in any way. If you had an idea that you wanted to implement in the house but it did not fit the decorating scheme, use it in the basement. Your basement can turn into a refuge from both your loud kids and the summer heat and you will always be looking forward to spending time in there if you do it right.

Ducts/Air Vent Cleaning

4 reasons to keep your air ducts clean

You need to really pay attention to how dirty your air ducts get and clean them regularly because the air that flows through them makes it into your home, your body and your family’s body. These reasons should be enough to convince you to check them regularly and get the cleaned as often as possible.

  1. Dirty air ducts are one of the exacerbating factors for people with allergies. Your air system will pull in air from outside along with the dust, dirt and pollen from outside. Not only that, but the air inside your house is being recycled so the concentration of these allergens increases to astronomical levels which will make your allergies worse. Especially if the air intake is at floor level, there will be a huge amount of dust, pet dander and in some cases, mold that will be circulating throughout your house.
  2. Avoid respiratory problems by cleaning out your air ducts. Poor quality of air can lead to allergies, headaches, nasal congestion, hay fever and dry eyes which will affect you and your family. If the air ducts are dirty, bacteria and germs can breed in there with abandon. If you let it get very bad, there may even be mold like black mold which can cause death. People will chronic problems like asthma and emphysema need to be especially diligent about cleaning out their ducts.
  3. Smell can also start to permeate the house from inside the air ducts. If a small animal or insects make it inside the ducts and die in there, the smell will get recycled throughout the house and if you are not careful, may even cause permanent damage to furniture and upholstery. Cigarette smoke and smells from pets also get sucked in and transferred around the house repeatedly.
  4. You will also be spending more in energy bills if there are impediments to the smooth circulation of air in the house. If there is blockage in the system, the motor that powers the blower will also be under a lot of stress and may have a shortened life span.

You can always clean out your air ducts yourself or bring in a professional who will make sure that the air ducts are cleaned properly and that all parts of your air conditioning or heating system is working at their best. It is best not to take chances with matters that affect your health.

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5 reasons to add a fireplace to your home.

If you are thinking about adding a fireplace to your home and need a little bit of extra encouragement, the following reasons why adding a fireplace to your house is a great idea should help give you that little bit of enthusiasm for the idea that you need.

1. It will add value to your house.

FIreplaces are a great way to add a lot of value to your property and makes your house all the more desirable. The National Center for Real Estate Research has noted that homes that add fireplaces usually increase their value by an average of 6-12 percent. Ask any real estate agent and they will tell you that prospective buyers are often swayed by houses that include a fireplace.

2. Reduce heating bills.

While fireplaces may seem expensive to operate, the fact remains that while a central heating system will sometimes heat areas of the house that are empty, a fireplace is a great way to heat up a specific zone and the whole family can cozy up near the fire, saving a lot of money by not having to heat up the whole house.

3. Not as expensive as you expect.

Many people have the misconception that a fireplace is very expensive to install but that fact is that it can be done for as little as $5000 and with the money saved on heating bills, it will pay for itself in no time. Nowadays, you can even get gas and biofuel fireplaces that require no chimneys and only pipes installed, so that is even less investment.

4. Great ambience.

A fireplace can work wonders for the look of a room and instantly make it homier and cozier. It is a great place to bring the whole family together or just curl up with a book while basking in the warmth in the cold winter months.

5. Great aesthetics.

Fireplaces nowadays come in many designs and sizes which means that you can find one for almost any type of room. You can get traditional ones for rooms that you want to have a more traditional aesthetic while there are more sleek and modern ones that would be perfect for rooms with more modern furniture.

There are many more reasons apart from these five for installing a fireplace and with the variety in fuel, design and price range available nowadays, there is a fireplace for everyone.

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3 tips for installing curtain rods.

There are a few things that need to be considered before you put up those new curtains, especially in terms of the type and configuration of curtain rods that you want to use. This will mean that you will need to plan ahead so that you do not have to waste time and money reinstalling those rods and curtains.

1.  Know what options you have for rods.

There are many different types of rods and materials that rods are made of in the market. This means that you can buy decorative, magnetic, adjustable, spring loaded, double, triple, traverse or just standard rods. Rods are also made of a variety of materials including but not limited to mahogany, teak, walnut, metal, plastic, chrome and graphite. Apart from choosing a rod that fits the aesthetics of the room, it should also be practical in usage.

2. Decide on the type and material of the curtains to choose the right rod.

Curtains made of heavier material will need stronger rods. Lighter curtains can do with lighter or hollow rods that do not need to support their weight. Additionally, if you choose curtains made of materials that can be damaged easily or their color can fade easily, you may want to layer the curtains to protect it from dust from outside and direct sunlight. In this case, you will need double or triple rods to accommodate all the layers.

3.  Decide how much you want to be able to draw the curtains.

If you want to be able to draw the curtains all the way across to expose all the window, you should install your rods outside the window frame or even consider getting a rod with a right angle so you can pull your curtains apart and then slide them towards the wall to save space. If you plan to keep the curtains stationary you can go with more intricate frames and materials that might make it harder to open and close the curtains.

Think about these things before you start to install your curtains and they will help you decide what kind of rod and curtain to get, how to install it and save you headaches after you have installed them. Ask a professional for advice if you are not sure about which rod or material will match the look of your room and what is most practical for a particular area of the house.

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5 things to consider before building a outdoor shed

If you are finding it hard to work in your house with the kids hollering or are simply running out of storage, then this might be the perfect time to build yourself a garden shed. While a daunting task, even for an experienced craftsman, these tips should help you get started and help you avoid problems later.

1. Selecting the right site in your garden.

Make sure that the area you plan to build your shed in is level. It should also be dry as wet areas will cause the wood to start to rot and damage the building. Furthermore, you should not build at the bottom of a slope where water collects and try to put it in a more high lying area on your property.

2. Make sure your plans and site are up to code.

Most local governments require that the right permits are secured to build an external structure. This will mean that you will have to have a building inspector come around and inspect and approve your site and plans. They can be a valuable resource and advise you on saving time and money when building your shed.

3. Make sure the foundation is secure and the floor is rot proof.

Favor solid blocks of concrete over hollow core blocks to make sure that the foundation does not start to crack after a few years of use. Sheds larger than 200 square feet will require foundations that go down to the frost line. For smaller sheds you can also use skids which are pressure treated wood timbers. Make sure the floor is rot proof by using pressure treated wood and plywood and use rust resistant screws to fasten the wood.

4. Make sure the doors are suitably large.

Plan ahead for what you aim to keep in the shed. If you are using it to store your lawnmower or other equipment, make sure the doors are large enough to accommodate them. It is always better to make the doors larger than needed to make sure that you have never have problems bringing things in or out, especially if you plan to use your shed as a workshop.

5. Install proper ventilation.

Leave open space around the shed, even underneath, so moisture does not accumulate and rot the wood. Use windows to let light in and also air in and out.

With these tips you should be able to plan for your shed and build a useful one.

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4 things to consider before painting a room

If you have just moved into a new house and think that the walls require a new coat of paint or if you just want a change from the old colors, there are several things that you will need to consider before you decide on a paint. These following tips should help you choose the right kind of paint to buy and apply on your walls.

1. Choose the right finish.

If you have a wall that is irregular and filled with imperfections you want to hide, then you would be better off with a flat paint. However, flat paint is easy to damage and if you are painting in an area that gets a lot of traffic and is susceptible to damage and messes then you should go with high gloss paint which is more durable and easier to clean. Eggshell paint is also an option that will offer you some of the durability of high gloss paint while hiding some minor imperfections.

2. Choose the right color.

While choosing the right color you should consider not only if it fits the aesthetics of the room or passage but also more practical issues. While it is important that the color is one that will appeal to you over a long time and it works with the lighting and look of the room, it is also important to consider durability. Darker paints often last longer and show wear and tear much less than lighter paints.

3. Use sample paints.

Many paint manufacturers offer small sample cans of colors so that you can apply a stripe on your wall and see what it looks like. Use these; they will give you a better indication of how the color will look on your walls than color cards.

4. Use a primer.

It might seem superfluous, but a primer can contribute greatly to the look of the paint on your walls and its durability. A primer will seal the surface of the wall and the paint will hold onto the primer base for years. It will prevent flashing in case your walls are spackled.

With these tips, you should be well on your way to changing the look of your house or a particular room or even just restore it to its past glory. A new paint job can work wonders on the value and desirability of a house.

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Remodeling Your Kitchen

Let’s face it remodeling your kitchen is not a project that should be taken lightly. It takes careful planning and preparation in order for it to take place. One of the first things you have to take into consideration is your budget. Some people choose to do their kitchen reno project themselves, while others spend a little more money to hire a contractor to do the work for them.

The first step in preparing for a kitchen remodeling job is to take a look at your kitchen in its present condition. Figure out what you would like to see updated and then figure out how much money you have to work with.

One of the most popular kitchen renovation projects that home owners often think about is having their existing cupboards replaced, or cupboards/counter tops installed in the first place. Other popular kitchen renovation projects include installing a double sink, backsplash, and new flooring. Homeowners may also choose to have a new door installed or even installing insulation and new drywall.

No matter what type of kitchen remodeling job you plan, try to stick within your budget. If your kitchen is draughty and the walls need to be repaired, perhaps you can afford to have new countertops/cupboards and the walls done at the same time. If not, choose the kitchen renovation project that will provide you with the most comfort.

Remodeling your kitchen is not a task that many homeowners choose to do themselves. The reason for this is the time involved to do the work properly. Therefore, it is important that you choose a home renovation contractor that is reliable, honest, and hard-working. Call a couple of the home renovation contractors in your local area; they should be able to give you a price quote on the work.

Choose a home renovation contractor that has experience and has been in this field for many years. This way, you can be assured that the work will be up to standard and also completed within a certain time frame. When you call a home renovation company to inquire, ask for references. This way you can find out if they are dependable and if past customers are happy with their work.

Remodeling your kitchen takes knowledge and skill. If the kitchen renovation project is completed successfully, it will improve your living conditions and also improve your property value. You could also work on your kitchen remodeling project yourself, if you are an experienced home renovation contractor.