Category: Home Improvement

Safety First With DIY Electrical Work

Home improvement projects can help homeowners transform their homes. Such projects are costly, but many homeowners save money by doing some, if not all, of the work themselves.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting electrical safety, recommends that homeowners leave electrical work to the professionals. Licensed electricians are well-trained, whereas homeowners may not be skilled enough to avoid accidents or injuries, which can prove fatal when working with electricity.

Homeowners who take the do-it-yourself route with electrical work should consider these safety tips, courtesy of the ESFI, before beginning a home electrical project.

Learn your home electrical system. Home electrical systems may include power lines, electric meters, service panels, subpanels, wiring, and more. These systems are complex, and homeowners who intend to do some DIY electrical work should familiarize themselves with their home electrical systems prior to beginning any work. The ESFI notes that knowledge of their home electrical systems can help homeowners more safely navigate them and make maintenance easier.

Honestly assess your skills. An honest assessment of skills is absolutely necessary prior to working on an electrical system. According to the National Safety Council, injuries relating to electrical incidents typically fall into one of four categories: electrical shock, electrocution, falls, and burns. Each of these injuries is significant. For example, electric shock, which occurs when electrical current passes over or through a person’s body, involves burns, abnormal heart rhythm and unconsciousness. Given the potential for serious injury, the ESFI urges homeowners to make an honest assessment of their skills before they begin working on their home’s electrical systems. Little or no experience working with electrical systems should be considered a significant hurdle to any DIY project.

Turn the power off. It’s essential that the power to the circuit that will be worked on be turned off prior to starting any work. This can be accomplished by switching off the circuit breaker in the main service panel. Similarly, when working on appliances or lamps, make sure the products are unplugged prior to working on them.

Do not touch plumbing or gas pipes when doing electrical work. The experts at the Indiana Electric Cooperative note that the risk for electrocution is significant when water comes in contact with electricity. It’s imperative that homeowners do not touch plumbing and gas pipes when performing a DIY electrical project. Professionals know how to work around such pipes while minimizing their risk for electric shock or worse, and homeowners must familiarize themselves with the techniques professionals rely on to stay safe if they intend to begin DIY electrical projects.

Homeowners are best served by leaving electrical work to the professionals. However, those who insist on doing such work themselves should do their homework and get to know their systems and safety protocols prior to beginning a project.

Popular Renovation Projects During the Pandemic

Spending so much time at home during the pandemic led many homeowners to spruce up their homes. According to HomeAdvisor’s 2021 State of Home Spending report, spending on home improvements increased by an average of $745 per household in 2020.

In the face of travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines, many homeowners pivoted in 2020 and spent money they initially intended to use for vacations on home improvements. Though many such projects required the services of a professional contractor, others, including the most popular project among the 5,000 homeowners who participated in the HomeAdvisor report, were do-it-yourself endeavors. That not only gave homeowners’ homes a new look, but also gave them something to do during quarantine. The following are the five most popular home improvement projects of 2020 according to the HomeAdvisor report.

1. Interior painting: Just under 35 percent of participants reported taking on an interior painting project in 2020. Interior painting projects can be perfect for DIYers, but homeowners also can trust this task to skilled professionals.

2. Bathroom renovations: Real estate professionals routinely report how much prospective buyers love updated bathrooms, so it’s no surprise that roughly 31 percent of homeowners who took part in the HomeAdvisor report indicated they renovated their bathrooms in 2020.

3. Flooring: Floors took on a lot of extra traffic during the pandemic, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that flooring projects were popular in 2020. More than one-fourth of participants told HomeAdvisor their homes were updated with a new floor during the pandemic.

4. Landscaping: With nowhere else to go to escape the daily grind in 2020, many homeowners took to their yards. Twenty-four percent of those homeowners reported making their backyard retreats more appealing by repairing or upgrading the landscaping outside their homes. In fact, the average homeowner reported completing 3.4 landscaping projects in 2020.

5. Kitchen: Another project that makes sense given the circumstances, kitchen renovations were the fifth most popular home improvement project in 2020. Restaurant closures and social distancing guidelines led many people to dine in more often than they otherwise would, and just under 23 percent of homeowners reported renovating their kitchens in 2020.

As the world gradually emerges from the pandemic, many homeowners who caught the renovation bug while in quarantine also will be emerging with what feels like an entirely new home.

3 Home Exterior Projects That Combine Beauty and Performance

Will you be completing outdoor home renovation projects this season? To maximize your investment, consider these project ideas, which combine beauty and long-lasting performance:

Smart Landscaping

Landscaping is a fundamental aspect of curb appeal. A beautiful design has the power to boost your home’s resale value. What’s more, certain landscape choices may last longer and can even potentially protect the structure of your home.

Make the smart and environmentally-conscious choice of sticking with native species, which are more likely to thrive and grow a strong root foundation, helping protect your property in the event of flooding. Select fire-resistant plants that can also act as buffers during high winds.

A Complete Roofing System

You don’t have to wait for leaks to appear before you consider a new roof. Missing, damaged or curling shingles are not only an eyesore, they can also be signs of leaks to come. The age of your roof itself can be a guide as to when it’s time to consider an upgrade — homeowner’s insurance companies generally assume an asphalt shingle roof will last about 20 years.

When it comes to beauty and performance, a new roof can be one of the best investments you make for your home, that is if you select durable products that will protect your family for years to come. Homeowners should know that they don’t have to sacrifice style for strength and durability. For example, new Timberline HDZ shingles from GAF, North America’s largest roofing and waterproofing manufacturer, combine the style, class and design of America’s best-selling shingles (Timberline HD with even better protection thanks to a new innovation called LayerLock technology. The technology offers contractors a faster, more precise installation and ultimately, better strength and performance of the roofing shingles.

For greater peace of mind, homeowners should also consider complete roofing systems (shingles and accessories) with a strong warranty. Just be sure to check the fine print, especially if you live in an area with high winds. While many roofing products do come with wind warranties, there are often caveats with regard to wind speed limitations. Timberline HDZ shingles come with an available GAF WindProven limited wind warranty, the first wind warranty for roofing shingles with no maximum wind speed limit. The brand’s shingles that feature LayerLock technology, such as HDZ, qualify for this warranty when installed with four qualifying GAF accessories.

Durable Windows

Today’s high-performance window options can dramatically improve your home’s energy efficiency, provide better sound-proofing and weather resistance, and offer tilt-in capabilities for easier cleaning and maintenance. Some manufacturers offer customization options with regards to grille patterns, window shape, interior and exterior frame colors and glass types, making it easy to find options that complement your home’s style while providing performance features you value.

This season, make smart home upgrades that offer you both greater curb appeal and greater peace of mind.

Tips to Prepare for Your Next Big Home Project

The planning process is one of the most exciting parts of a home renovation project, and with social distancing keeping us indoors, now is the time to dream big and get ready. Whether it’s a basement makeover, a pool addition or even building a new house from scratch, here are some tips to get started:

1. Factor in your lifestyle. Think about your priorities and lifestyle – do you work from home without a proper home office? Do you enjoy cooking and entertaining? Is your backyard living up to its potential as an extension of your home? Asking these kinds of questions can help you determine the most beneficial focus for your next project.

2. Educate yourself. Take advantage of this extra time you have to learn about materials, processes and new innovations. You can make smarter purchasing decisions by finding out the answers to key questions, such as: Is this material mold-resistant? How long will it last? Is this a passing fad or will it stand the test of time?

3. Consider sustainability. Products and materials that reduce your carbon footprint don’t just help the planet —they’re often better for your wallet, too. When doing your research, look for energy-efficient appliances, windows, walls and more to build a greener home that will last longer and save you money in the long run.

4. Disaster-proof your design. The pandemic has taught us that sometimes the worst can happen. From natural disasters to fires and flooding, we need our homes to offer as much protection as possible. Whether you’re planning an extension to your home, pools and spas for your backyard or a custom-built home, insulated concrete forms from Nudura are a smart investment. An eco-friendly alternative to traditional materials like wood, ICFs are disaster resilient, designed to withstand wind, fire, tornados, and more.

5. Budget for smart splurges and savings. Budgeting is one of the most important parts of the planning process because you want to spend your hard-earned money wisely. You’ll want to splurge on items that will boost your property value, like energy-efficient features, creating more living space and a solid foundation. Upcycling and repurposing furniture, DIY-ing simpler projects like painting, and spending more on nicer hardware but less on cabinets are clever ways to save.

Affordable Features to Consider When Revamping Your Kitchen

Kitchens are popular gathering spots in many homes. That popularity is reflected in various ways, including how many homeowners choose to remodel their kitchens. A 2019 report from the home renovation and design resource Houzz found that kitchens were the most popular room to renovate in 2018. Homeowners considering kitchen remodels should know that the Houzz report also indicated that spending on kitchen remodels increased by 27 percent in 2018.

Homeowners concerned by the cost of remodeling a kitchen should know that there are ways to give kitchens a whole new feel without breaking the bank.

Appliances

Consumer Reports notes that luxury home buyers expect high-end features, including professional ranges and built-in refrigerators that match the surrounding cabinetry. However, many mainstream brands offer “faux pro” features that can equal more expensive alternatives. Consumer Reports even notes that many budget-friendly faux pro appliances outperformed their high-end counterparts in terms of reliability.

Countertops

Countertops tend to capture the eye’s attention when walking into a kitchen. Outdated and/or damaged countertops grab that attention for all the wrong reasons, while updated countertops made from today’s most popular materials provide that wow factor homeowners seek. If granite is a must-have, Consumer Reports notes that homeowners can save substantial amounts of money by choosing granite from remnants at the stone yard. If marble is your ideal countertop, save money by choosing a domestic product as opposed to one imported from overseas.

Cabinets

Custom-built cabinets may be a dream, but they tend to be a very expensive one. Such cabinets are designed to adhere to the dimensions of the kitchen, and Consumer Reports notes that they can cost tens of thousands of dollars. If that estimate would bust your budget, examine the current layout of the existing cabinets. If the layout is fine but the cabinets need work, you can give them a whole new look by refinishing them. If the cabinets must go, stock units or semi-custom cabinets can provide a new look without busting the budget.

Kitchen remodels can be expensive. But there are many affordable ways to revamp a kitchen.

Tips to Nail the Latest Home Design Trend

Redecorating? Experts say to keep in mind that the days of matching metals used for lighting, cabinet hardware and plumbing are over. Today’s rule: mix it up! When done right, combining colors adds visual interest and depth to a space.

“Mixing metals makes a statement in a room,” says Jennifer Kis, director of marketing communications for Progress Lighting. “It’s not considered unusual anymore, and our customers are comfortable with it and confident about trying it in their homes.”

There’s a simple recipe for success: pick a dominant metal finish for the room and coordinate it with accent metals. Try for a 70/30 ratio.

To easily nail the look, consider starting with a significant fixture that’s already finished in a mixed metal combination. For example, the lighting fixtures from Progress Lighting come finished in mixed metal combinations, such as matte black accented with gold, polished chrome with brushed brass, and even white accented with brushed nickel plus a touch of blue. Then, match cabinet hardware, appliances, plumbing fixtures and accessories to one of the finish colors from the lighting fixture.

When selecting finishes, use contrasting tones. Warm metals such as brushed brass, antique bronze, and gold give a vibrant pop of color when mixed with cool metals like chrome, nickel and silver. And don’t forget black — it is one of the trendiest finishes on the market today, and mixes beautifully with most metal colors.

Take the room’s color palette into consideration. Combine warm metal finishes (like brass, bronze, and copper) with warm hues (like beiges and browns). Use cool metal finishes (such as chrome, nickel and silver) with cool tones (such as blues, greens and grays). For a neutral color palette, add metallic accents to achieve warmth, texture and color. With a white or gray color scheme, for example, add a stunning gold chandelier to make your room come to life.

Kitchens typically contain the most metal in the house, and there are many ways to harmonize elements. Try placing mixed metal pendant lighting over the kitchen island, then match an accent metal finish from the fixture to coordinate with the cabinet and plumbing hardware. For a consistent look, pair finishes on metals that appear within the same line of sight: for example, the sink faucet and cabinet hardware should match.

In bathrooms, blend lighting choices with metallic accessories like a metal-edged mirror, soap dispensers and wall hangings, for seamless style. Lighting finishes don’t have to match hardware, but remember to choose complementary, contrasting metal tones.

Larger spaces, like living and family rooms, are ideal for mixing metal accents. As one of the most significant accessories in the room, start with your lighting fixture. Then add decorative elements — mirrors, wall art, tables — in contrasting metallic tones to make a dramatic statement.

In the bedroom, overhead lighting is often a prominent feature. Choose either a mixed metal fixture or one with a dominant finish color, then select subtle metallic touches for table lamps, sconces, furniture and wall décor to provide a cohesive flow.

For design resources, visit bit.ly/ShopMixedMetals.

Today, metals are meant to be mixed. Keep in mind the 70/30 rule for the perfect mixed, but not mismatched, look.

6 Ways to Make Bathrooms a Safer Place

Homes should be safe havens. But each year injuries in and around the home contribute to millions of medical visits and many fatalities each year. Although anywhere in a home can be the scene of an accident, bathrooms tend to be the most dangerous room in the house. Slippery tile, the presence of water, stockpiled medications, and many sharp and hard edges in a small space pose several different hazards in the bathroom, particularly for young children and people age 65 and up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says falls, which can result in serious injuries like hip fractures and head trauma, are the cause of 80 percent of all bathroom accidents. Many bathroom accidents are preventable with some easy modifications.

1. Reduce slippery surfaces. Wet tile is a recipe for slick conditions. Bath rugs with rubber backing can provide traction in the bathroom, as can nonslip mats placed on the floor of the bathtub or shower enclosure. Water-resistant flooring made from recycled rubber is another option. It is softer, less slippery, and more forgiving than traditional tile flooring.

2. Install lever-style fixtures. Round knobs in the bathroom can be difficult to grasp, especially for the elderly or those with arthritis. Lever-style fixtures are easier to maneuver and can help alleviate scalding from not being able to adequately adjust the water temperature.

3. Utilize transfer benches and shower seats. A transfer bench can help reduce injuries that occur when trying to climb over a tub wall. Benches are placed outside of the tub and a person sits and then swings his legs over the ledge. Transfer benches also can be used in conjunction with shower seats. This is a chair or bench that allows people to sit while they shower.

4. Discard old medications. Clean out the medicine cabinet of old or expired medications, including both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. This reduces the likelihood of medication confusion, and does not put potentially harmful pills and syrups into the hands of children.

5. Install grab bars. Properly installed grab bars around the shower and toilet area can provide leverage and stability. AARP says many injuries to seniors occur when they are attempting to sit or get up from the toilet. Grab bars or an elevated toilet seat can help.

6. Install motion-detecting lights. These lights turn on automatically upon detecting movement, making them beneficial for people who routinely visit the bathroom in the middle of the night. Adequate illumination also can help reduce fall risk. Bathroom safety should be made a priority. Various modifications can make bathrooms safer for people of all ages.

Make the Most of Your Home Improvement Dollars

Home improvement projects provide homeowners with a chance to put their own stamp on their homes. In addition, many such projects make homes safer and, in some instances, more eco-friendly. The opportunity to make a home more comfortable, safer and/or more eco-friendly entices many homeowners to open their wallets. In fact, the Home Improvement Research Institute estimates that the home improvement products market will grow by more than 5 percent in 2018.

Homeowners might experience some sticker shock when researching home improvement projects or receiving estimates from contractors. But there are ways for budget-conscious homeowners to transform their homes and still make the most of their home improvement dollars.

• Do your homework. Each year, Remodeling magazine publishes its “Cost vs. Value Report,” a comprehensive study of 21 popular remodeling projects in 149 United States markets. The report notes the value each project retains at resale in 100 markets across the country. Homeowners who want to get the strongest return on investment can access the “Cost vs. Value Report” (www.remodeling.how.net) to see which home improvement projects are best suited for them.

• Do some of the labor yourself. Homeowners willing to swing a hammer also can stretch their home improvement dollars. For example, the home improvement resource This Old House® notes that homeowners willing to do their own demolition before the contractors arrive can save substantial amounts of money. A professional contractor may charge $1,000 to demo a 200-square-foot deck, but This Old House estimates that homeowners who demo their own decks may spend only $450 (for the dumpster rental and parking permit).

• Hire a consultant. The DIY movement is incredibly popular, no doubt thanks to television channels such as HGTV and the DIY Network. Homeowners with DIY experience may be able to complete projects on their own with little consultation from professional contractors. Some contractors may not offer consulting services, however. The consultation route, which typically requires paying licensed contractors hourly fees to offer guidance, should only be considered by homeowners with legitimate DIY skills, for whom this option can be a great way to save money.

• Schedule renovations during homeowner-friendly times of year. Summer and fall tend to be contractors’ busy seasons, and homeowners will likely pay more for projects during this time of year. If possible, delay starting projects until right after the new year, when contractors aren’t so busy and might be more flexible with pricing. Budget-conscious homeowners can employ various strategies to make the most of their home improvement dollars without sacrificing quality.

Design a More Functional Pantry

Many homeowners wish they had more storage space, and kitchens are one area where people seemingly can always use more storage. Despite a desire for more kitchen space, until recently, kitchen pantries fell out of favor. Builders and architects may have thought that close proximity to supermarkets as well as multi-use cabinets in kitchens would offset the need for pantries. But according to a recent survey from the National Association of Home Builders, a kitchen pantry is the most desirable kitchen feature for buyers in the market for a new home. According to a 2016 survey from ReportLinker, 98 percent of Americans say cooking at home is their preferred way to prepare a meal. And despite the wide array of restaurants, prepared meals and fast food options nearby, more than one-third of people cook at home daily, with nearly 50 percent cooking between three and six days a week. In order to accommodate for spending more time in the kitchen, homeowners are directing additional attention to kitchen preparation and storage features. In fact, one recent trend in kitchen renovations is creating custom-designed pantries.

Locate the Appropriate Space

Ideally, pantries should be in or adjacent to the kitchen. But not every home layout allows for this setup. Some homeowners need to move storage pantries into the garage, the basement or a mud/laundry room. Various factors should be considered before placing a pantry outside a kitchen. What is the climate? Will food spoil? Is there a possibility that vermin or insects can infiltrate the room and access food? These factors will dictate whether to have closed cabinets, air-tight bins or open shelves or if other modifications must be made to the room prior to building.

Choose the Type of Pantry

Accessibility is essential in a pantry. Everything should be easily reached and grabbed as needed without having to move too many things. Ideally, foods should be arranged in a single layer so that all items can be viewed at a glance. Shelves of various depths and heights can accommodate items of different sizes. Adjustable shelves are ideal because they can be modified as foods change. Sliding drawers can improve reach in cabinets. In smaller spaces, French door-style reach-in cabinets are convenient and flexible. In complete kitchen remodels or new constructions, walk-in pantries offer the most space and flexibility.

Must-Have Features

Pantries serve different functions in different homes. For the bulk shopper, a pantry with plenty of room for large items will be needed. Lighting can be beneficial in all pantries. Lights can improve visibility when trying to locate items. Others prefer an outlet for charging hand-held vacuums or other small appliances. Counter space in the pantry enables homeowners to unload groceries directly onto pantry shelves.

For pantries located outside of the kitchen, built-in freezers can maximize storage possibilities, especially for those who freeze-and-eat after bulk shopping ventures. Pantries are popular features that homeowners can customize depending on their storage needs and the amount of time they spend in their kitchens.

Safety Renovations for Seniors’ Homes

Feeling safe and secure at home is a priority for any homeowner. But safety is of particular concern for aging men and women who are at greater risk of being involved in accidents at home than younger men and women. Harvard Health Publishing says that accidents at home are among the leading causes of injury and death in the United States. The chances for fatalities increases as one ages, and by age 75 and older, men and women are almost four times as likely to die in a home accident as people a decade younger.

As people age, their balance, eyesight and general physical abilities can begin to diminish. Furthermore, a fall or incident that may only bruise a younger individual can cause more serious breaks or damage for seniors, resulting in potentially lengthy recovery times. The Home Care Assistance organization says that one million elderly people are admitted to the emergency room for injuries every year. People concerned about the safety of their homes or the homes of their aging loved ones can retrofit such properties to make them safer.

Falls

According to The Senior Social Club, which offers care and community services to seniors, falls are the most common accidents affecting seniors. One out of every three seniors aged 65 and older falls at least once a year. In addition to working with doctors to improve mobility and modify medications that may cause unsteadiness, changes around the home can help. Grab bars placed in bathrooms and high-traffic areas can help seniors get stay more stable when changing from sitting to standing positions. Potential tripping hazards should be assessed. Area rugs without nonskid backings, clutter on floors, extension cords that extend into walking areas, and uneven flooring pose tripping hazards. Anti-slip coatings can be added to floors to reduce the risk of tripping. Poorly lit staircases and entryways also can contribute to falls. Consider the installation of motion-activated lighting so that dim areas can be automatically brightened when necessary. A nightlight or LED lights placed near molding can help guide seniors to the bathroom during midnight visits.

Physical Limitations

Arthritis can impede seniors’ ability to turn on and off appliances, water faucets or handle certain kitchen tools. Kitchen and bathroom modifications can include the installation of ergonomic and user-friendly handles and spigots. Task lighting can make it easier to prepare meals, and appliances that automatically turn off after a certain period of time can be a safety feature for forgetful individuals. Reorganize kitchen cabinets to make commonly used items as accessible as possible.

Smart Homes

Friends or family members can have greater control over seniors’ homes by installing smart home systems. This way they can remotely adjust thermostats, control lights, view cameras, engage locks or alarm systems, and much more without having to be at the home. This can seniors allow seniors to maintain their independence while offering peace of mind to their loved ones.

Certain home modifications can reduce seniors’ injury risk.