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Most of us tend to think of air pollution as something that occurs outdoors where car exhaust and factory fumes proliferate, but there’s such a thing as indoor air pollution, too. Since the 1950s, the number of synthetic chemicals used in home products have increased drastically, while homes have become much tighter and better insulated. As a result, the EPA estimates that Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.
Luckily, there are many ways to reduce indoor air pollution. We all know that buying organic and natural home materials and cleaning supplies can improve the air quality in our homes, but there are several other measures you can take as well.
How pollutants get into our homes
Potentially toxic ingredients are found in many materials throughout the home, and they leach out into the air as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. If you open a can of paint, you can probably smell those VOCs. Mold is a VOC that can build up in the dampest parts of your home like the laundry room or crawl spaces. Another example is the “new car smell” that seems to dissipate after a while, but VOCs can “off-gas” for a long time, even after a noticeable smell is gone.
Many materials used to build a home contain chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, ethanol, and acetone, and even lead. VOCs can also be in the form of pet dander or dust. Fortunately, VOCs from building materials dissipate over time. For that reason, the highest levels of VOCs are usually found in new homes or remodels. If you are concerned about VOCs, there are several products you can buy that are either low- or no-VOC. You can also have your home professionally tested.
How to reduce VOCs in your home
Choose your building materials wisely
- – Use tile or solid wood for flooring—hardwood, bamboo, or cork
- – Choose solid wood or outdoor-quality plywood that uses a less toxic form of formaldehyde.
- – Choose low-VOC or VOC-free paints and finishes
Purify the air
- – Make sure your rooms have adequate ventilation, air out newly renovated areas for at least a week
- – Clean ductwork and furnace filters regularly
- – Install air cleaners if needed
- – Use only environmentally responsible cleaning chemicals
- – Plants are a natural solution to help clean the air
- – Air out freshly dry-cleaned clothes or choose a “green” cleaner
Pick the right carpet
- – Choose “Green Label” carpeting or a natural fiber such as wool or sisal
- – Use nails instead of glue to secure carpet
- – Install carpet LAST after completing painting projects or wall coverings
- – Air out newly carpeted areas before using
- – Use a HEPA vacuum or a central vac system that vents outdoors
- – Clean up water leaks fast
- – Keep humidity below 60 percent, using dehumidifiers if necessary
- – Refrain from carpeting rooms that stay damp
- – Insulate pipes, crawl spaces, and windows to eliminate condensation
- – Use one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water to kill mold in its early stages
If you would like to learn more about VOCs and indoor air quality, please visit http://www.epa.gov/iaq/.
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As the stay-at-home hours add up, setting up a home gym is not only physically beneficial, but can bring some added mental wellness to the new normal many of us find ourselves in. In comparison to a gym membership, even with the up-front investment of purchasing equipment, an at-home gym can deliver savings in the long run. With far-ranging fitness gear options online, there are more ways to save than ever before.
Location, location, location
Before the lunges, pushups, and weightlifting, the first step in setting up your at-home gym is deciding where to build it. You’ll want plenty of room for the activities and workouts you have in mind. Rooms with low ceilings or narrow walls are not well-suited for a gym. They will limit your ability to perform any kinds of jumping exercises or workouts with wide ranging movements. This space is dedicated to physical activity and the environment should support that. If extra space is hard to come by in your home, consider taking your gym outdoors to a patio, multipurpose space, or other less commonly used area.
A space with level, hard flooring, like wood, laminate, or tile, is the best fit for your gym, especially if you plan on establishing a workout plan based around lifting or cardio. Having spatial awareness at all times is important while working out, so you’ll want plenty of light in your home gym. Mirrors are a common fixture in gyms, consider adding one to your wall to analyze your technique.
- Strength training: Simple workout tools like kettlebells and dumbbells allow you to perform a variety of workouts without taking up much space. Kettlebells are a great tool for incorporating cardio workouts with added weight. Dumbbells at a lower weight are better for toning exercises, while those at heavier weights are better for low-repetition, bulk exercises.
- Cardio training: Smaller workout tools such as jump ropes, wrist and ankle weights will add intensity to your cardio workouts. Yoga mats provide proper support while performing core exercises or other body weight circuit workouts during your cardio sessions.
- Large equipment: To get the most out of large workout equipment like treadmills, stair climbers, and bikes in your home gym, plan for them to be a significant part of your workouts.
- Additional: Applying a layer of gym flooring will help prevent damage and provide added support. If you prefer music and/or video to accompany your workouts, add speakers and a TV to get the motivational juices flowing.
Establish a routine
Your home gym is no good if it gets no use. With zero commute time to account for, arrange a workout routine that suits your daily schedule. Even if you have 30 minutes, getting into a routine of working out is the key to building up your healthy lifestyle in this new normal of home life.
Once your home gym is set up, it can be either your individual fitness sanctuary or an opportunity to work out with others. Invite a friend to exercise via video chat and schedule times to feel the burn together. With more virtual fitness classes available now than ever, surf the web to find the classes that best fit your schedule and desired workout intensity.
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When it comes time to sell your home, first impressions are crucial. Improving your curb appeal helps to make the most of a buyer’s first glance and sets the stage for their interest in purchasing your home. The following projects are simple and inexpensive ways to enhance both your home’s first impression and its value.
- Lawn: A healthy, well-tended lawn goes a long way towards improving your curb appeal. Clean up all weeds, leaves and debris, and consistently water your lawn to give it that fresh green look. If you live in an arid climate, consider grass alternatives like artificial turf for the best lawn aesthetic.
- Plant colorfully: Adding color variety to your front yard will grab buyers’ attention. Align smaller plants, like groundcover and flowers, neatly within your flower beds, aiming for symmetry when possible. Use larger plants and trees to frame in your entryway or walkup. If your front yard doesn’t have flower beds, try adding hanging planters or window boxes.
- Lighting: Landscaping lighting boosts your curb appeal during nighttime, accentuates your shrubbery, and adds a welcoming touch for visitors as potential buyers, lighting the way to your door.
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Front porches set the stage for all your home has to offer. Improvements here will play a significant role in how comfortable potential buyers feel about the property and how inspired they are to explore the inside of the house.
- Door: Your front door is an opportunity to make a tasteful statement. Look at bold color choices that are within or slightly stretch your home’s exterior color palette. Take time to prepare the surface for a fresh coat of paint to make the color pop as much as possible. Try stylish doorknob options that accentuate the aesthetic to give your door some added flair.
- House numbers: New and stylish house numbers are an easy, eye-catching touch to the look of your porch. Look for styles that match with your exterior color palette and any exterior lighting fixtures.
- Go for comfort: Incorporating classic front porch elements like a porch swing, sitting bench, and other outdoor furniture gives a welcoming aura to the front of your home and creates a sense of comfort for prospective buyers.
- Shutters: Windows are the gateway to the inside of your home. Shutters of delicate fabric will bring elegance to your front porch, while wooden shutters deliver a solid, cozy vibe.
These miscellaneous projects will add the finishing touches to your home’s curb appeal and get it in prime selling condition.
- Quick maintenance: Small chores and minor fixes like cleaning gutters, repairing chipped paint, and cleaning windows are important for buyers with a detailed eye.
- Staining: Instead of replacing fences or garage doors, look into applying a fresh stain. This brings a refreshed look and is much cheaper than a full renovation or replacement.
- Power wash: Power washing your walkways and driveways makes a significant difference in curb appeal. If buying a power washer is outside your budget, explore rental options from the big-name hardware stores.
Your kids have moved out and now you’re living in a big house with way more space than you need. You have two choices – remodel your existing home or move. Here are some things to consider about each option.
Choice No. 1: Remodel your existing home to better fit your current needs.
- Remodeling gives you lots of options, but some choices can reduce the value of your home. You can combine two bedrooms into a master suite or change another bedroom into a spa area. But reducing the number of bedrooms can dramatically decrease the value of your house when you go to sell, making it much less desirable to a typical buyer with a family.
- The ROI on remodeling is generally poor. You should remodel because it’s something that makes your home more appealing for you, not because you want to increase the value of your home. According to a recent study, on average you’ll recoup just 64 percent of a remodeling project’s investment when you go to sell.
- Remodeling is stressful. Living in a construction zone is no fun, and an extensive remodel may mean that you have to move out of your home for a while. Staying on budget is also challenging. Remodels often end up taking much more time and much more money than homeowners expect.
Choice No. 2: Sell your existing home and buy your empty nest dream home.
- You can downsize to a single-level residence and upsize your lifestyle. Many people planning for their later years prefer a home that is all on one level and has less square footage. But downsizing doesn’t mean scrimping. You may be able to funnel the proceeds of the sale of your existing home into a great view or high-end amenities.
- A “lock-and-leave” home offers more freedom. As your time becomes more flexible, you may want to travel more. Or maybe you’d like to spend winters in a sunnier climate. You may want to trade your existing home for the security and low maintenance of condominium living.
- There has never been a better time to sell. Our area is one of the top in the country for sellers to get the greatest return on investment. Real estate is cyclical, so the current boom is bound to moderate at some point. If you’re thinking about selling, take advantage of this strong seller’s market and do it now.
If your current home no longer works for you, consider looking at homes that would meet your lifestyle needs before taking on the cost and hassle of remodeling. Get in touch with a Windermere Real Estate broker to discuss the best option for you.
Every component of your home has a lifespan. Common questions asked by homeowners include when to replace the flooring or how long to expect their siding to last. This information can help when budgeting for improvements or deciding between repairing and replacing when the time comes. We’re all familiar with the cliché: They just don’t build things like they used to. And while this may be true when it comes to brick siding or slate roofing, lifespans of other household components have increased in recent years. Here are the life expectancies of the most common household items (courtesy of NAHB):
Appliances: Among major appliances, gas ranges have a longer life expectancy than things like dishwashers and microwaves.
|Oil-burning Furnace||20 years|
|Heat Pump||16 years|
|Gas Range||15 years|
|Electric range / Refrigerator / Dryer||13 years|
|Electric / Gas Water Heater||10 years|
|Garbage disposal||10 years|
|Dishwasher / Microwave / Mini Fridge||9 years|
Kitchen & Bath: When choosing your countertops, factor in the life expectancies of different materials.
|Kitchen / Bath Item||Life Expectancy|
|Wood / Tile / Natural Stone Countertops||Lifetime|
|Toilets (parts will require maintenance)||50+ years|
|Stainless steel sink||30+ years|
|Bathroom faucet||20+ years|
|Cultured marble countertops||20 years|
|Kitchen faucet||15 years|
Flooring: If you’re looking for longevity, wood floors are the way to go. Certain rooms in your home will be better suited for carpeting, but you can expect they’ll need replacing within a decade.
|Flooring Material||Life Expectancy|
|Wood / Bamboo||Lifetime|
|Brick Pavers / Granite / Marble / Slate||100+ years|
|Carpet||8 – 10 years|
Siding & Roofing: When choosing roofing and siding for your home, climate and maintenance level factor into the life expectancy of the material. However, brick siding and slate roofing are known to be dependable for decades.
|Siding / Roofing Material||Life Expectancy|
|Brick Siding||100+ years|
|Aluminum Siding||80 years|
|Slate / Tile Roofing||50+ years|
|Wood Shingles||30 years|
|Wood Siding||10 – 100 years (depending on climate)|
Are extended warranties warranted?
Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty.
You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you. For some, it brings a much-needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also consider if the cost outweighs the value of the item. In some cases, it may be less expensive to replace a broken appliance than to pay for insurance or a warranty.
Ask a homeowner which room they would most like to improve, and most will point to the kitchen – the starting point for every meal and the heart of the home.
Ask those same people why they don’t move forward with a kitchen remodel, and many will say the project seems so overwhelming they don’t know where to start. If your kitchen needs an upgrade, here are some step-by-step suggestions to get you started.
Gather your thoughts
The steps that follow will all progress much easier if you take time beforehand to form a strong opinion about the desired look and layout of your new kitchen.
Start by reviewing kitchen magazines and photo-heavy kitchen remodeling guides and/or websites. Compiling clippings and printouts in a notebook helps you refine your vision. Clip or print the photos that capture your imagination, add notes, and draw circles and arrows around the things you like most.
Once you have a clearer vision of what you want, search online for better examples and new solutions, if necessary. If you live with a significant other, share your ideas with them and don’t allow yourself to become too committed before getting buy-in from them. Contractors and sales associates will expect a unified front.
Focus on the flow
Another major factor you’ll want to consider is how your new kitchen will be used, and by whom:
- Do you want to cook with others?
- Do you want family and guests to gather in the space while you cook?
- Do you want to serve meals in the kitchen?
- Do you want to display your dishware?
- Where would you like things stored for maximum efficiency?
Imagine yourself happily cooking and entertaining in your new kitchen, then note the key elements necessary to make those dreams a reality. Having a list of your desired kitchen features and storage needs will help ensure your plan meets your vision.
Determine your budget
According to the annual Remodeling Magazine survey of costs, a “midrange,” “minor” kitchen remodel will cost homeowners living on the West Coast about $23,000. Those same folks can expect to pay about $70,000 for a midrange “major” kitchen remodel. Determine what you can afford before you start work to ensure that your vision is within reach, or to help prioritize what’s most critical.
What to do with the cabinets
Replacing the cabinets is one of the most expensive improvements you can make in a kitchen remodel (typically consuming 20 to 40 percent of the overall budget, according to Architectural Digest).
Consider refacing instead. This can include one of the following: 1) Installing completely new cabinet doors and drawer fronts or 2) installing new wood or laminate veneer over the existing cabinet and drawer fronts or 3) simply refinishing the existing cabinet and drawer fronts.
Shopping for contractors
The contractor you choose will determine much of the cost, the pace of your project, the amount of disruption, the final results, and your level of satisfaction. So be thorough in your search:
- Ask friends and family for referrals and advice.
- Interview at least three of the leading prospects in-person.
- Ask to see samples of past work.
- Look for someone who complements your operating style (similar personality and communication style).
- Once you’ve narrowed your choice to one or two, ask to speak with a few past clients.
You’ll be tempted to latch onto the first contractor who gets rave reviews from a friend or family member. But remember: You and your project are unique, and it’s worth the time and effort to be rigorous in your search.
If you’re planning to replace appliances, here are three factors you’ll want to consider:
Finish – Stainless steel is still the most popular option, but beware: smudges, fingerprints, water spots, and streaks will be obvious. Black stainless steel has a warmer feel and is better at hiding spots.
Extended warranty – According to Consumer Reports, extended warranties are hardly ever worth it because today’s appliances are so reliable. And if something does fail, it’s often less expensive to just pay for the repair.
Unbiased testing and reviews – Before making an appliance purchase, use the information resources available through Consumer Reports.
A final note
Moving walls and extending your home’s foundation are both very expensive options. If your kitchen plans call for these architectural renovations, perhaps you’ve outgrown your home and need something larger (with an already-improved kitchen).
Classic Blue has officially been anointed Pantone’s 2020 “Color of the Year”. Pantone says it picked this color because of its ability to instill calm, confidence, and connection as we cross the threshold into a new decade. A dependable color, Classic Blue is timeless, and enduring, making it a great addition to just about any room in your home.
Here are some ways to add this stunning shade of blue to your home:
Add a splash of color to any room with Classic Blue furniture, such as these dining room chairs, which express a sense of tradition and elegance, as well as unexpected boldness.
Geometric patterns are all the rage this year, so why not liven up your kitchen backsplash with tiles that incorporate the color of the year? Here’s an example that achieves this through bold, colorful design that doubles as a piece of art.
If geometric tile isn’t your thing, the are other ways to bring your kitchen to life with this stunning shade of blue. If you’re not in a position to purchase all new cabinets, simply paint your current cabinets for a more affordable update.
Whether it’s built-ins, panels, or an accent wall, Classic Blue can make your furniture and décor pop. Consider this color when you paint your living room or bedroom as a way to encourage calm and confidence in your favorite spaces.
What’s the best remodeling project for your home? The answer, in part, depends on where you live. Every year, Remodeling Magazine evaluates which projects bring the most return at resale in different markets around the country in their “Cost vs. Value” report. For the purposes of this blog, we are focusing on the Pacific states (WA, OR, CA, AL) and the Mountain states (MT, ID, UT, CO, NV).
According to Remodeling Magazine, these are the six top projects in those two regions that currently have the best return on your investment when it comes time to sell. To see the full report, click here.
Garage Door Replacement
The project with the most return from Washington State to Nevada? A new garage door.
In the Pacific States, replacing your garage door will cost an average $3,785, but will increase your resale value by $4,686, recouping 123.8 percent of what you paid for it. Homes in the Mountain States will also benefit from a garage door replacement, recouping 98.6 percent of their costs.
Due to its size, a garage door can have a big impact on a home’s curb appeal. But adding to your home’s aesthetic is only one advantage; the warranty that comes with the new garage door is also a selling point for potential buyers who can trust that they likely won’t have to deal with any maintenance issues in the near term.
Manufactured Stone Veneer
As long as the new stone veneer is consistent with your neighborhood’s overall look, this siding is the second-best project across the Pacific and Mountain states.
Stone veneer can replace your home’s existing siding, adding a fresh, modern look that conjures a cozy vibe all the way from the street, before buyers ever step foot inside. Along the West Coast, it can recoup 110.4 percent of the cost when you sell, and Mountain states will recoup 96.5 percent of the cost.
Wood Deck Addition
While building a deck might seem like a big undertaking, it’s actually a pretty cost-effective way to positively impact your home’s resale value. Pacific states can expect to pay around $15,000 and Mountain states just above $13,000, but they’ll see 87.8 percent and 74.3 percent recouped respectively when they sell.
Adding a deck extends the living space of your home and provides even more area for entertaining, relaxing, and enjoying the outdoors. Whether you choose a natural wood deck or a low-maintenance composite deck, you can pick from a variety of styles based on the lay of your land and the areas of your backyard you wish to highlight.
Minor Kitchen Remodel
No need to move walls or appliances around, a minor kitchen remodel will do the trick to recoup 87.1 percent of the cost in the Pacific states, and 80.3 percent in the Mountain states.
An outdated kitchen can go from drab to fab and become a focal point with a fresh palette. Replace the cabinet doors with new shaker-style wood panels and metal or metal-looking hardware. Switch out the old counter tops with laminate that matches the new look. Think about adding a resilient flooring option, then finish the project with a fresh coat of paint to the walls, trim, and ceiling.
Looking to improve your curb appeal and create an entrance that guests and homebuyers won’t soon forget? Add a fiberglass grand entrance. This project involves replacing a standard-sized front door with a larger opening with dual sidelights (glass panels). Typically costing around $8,000, Pacific states will see 85.1 percent of that recouped in the sale, and Mountain states will see 71 percent.
Depending on the size of your home, replacing the siding can be an expensive undertaking. However, it’s a project that comes with high returns. For Mountain states, sellers can expect 75.4 percent of the costs recouped, and Pacific sellers will see 84.3 percent.
Not only is siding one of the first things a buyer sees, but it also serves as an indicator of the overall health of the home. Broken or damaged siding could mean that there are other problems with the home, such as pests and rot. Replacing old siding is a cost-effective way to boost your home’s curb appeal and ensure buyers are going to walk through your front door.
The month of November brings the end to daylight savings time, for most of us anyway, and the start to the holiday season. Don’t be left in the cold, jumpstart your preparations with this quick checklist.
Check Your Fire Safety System
Test your smoke alarms and CO detectors to make sure they’re in working order. Locate your fire extinguisher and be sure the gauge shows that it has enough pressure. If it isn’t already stored in or near the kitchen, re-locate it closer to the oven for quick action should Thanksgiving dinner go up in flames.
Clean Your Garbage Disposal
Don’t let a stinky garbage disposal ruin your appetite, keep it smelling fresh with a few pieces of lemon rind and some ice cubes. The lemon cleans and deodorizes the odor causing bacteria and the ice scrapes away any debris, as well as sharpen the blades.
Check and Repair Other Plumbing Issues
Run the water in each sink to determine if it’s draining properly.
If your bathroom sink is not draining quickly, a great natural way to clear debris, with ingredients that you likely already have in the house, is to put ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup of vinegar, then plug the drain and let it sit for an hour. When you unplug the drain, pour boiling water down until it drains quickly.
Send a snake down your tub drain, then add a hair trap to each drain to prevent future blockage, especially when you have guests over for the holidays.
For a slow kitchen drain, the likely cause is a build up of fat, oil, or grease (FOG drain clog). The best way to clear this kind of clog is with 2 liters of water and a few tablespoons of dish washing detergent. Pour slowing and keep pouring until the drain is cleared.
Pull Out Your Winter Essentials
For those of you in cold climates, get out the shovels and replenish the ice-melt bucket before the snow and ice hit this season. Don’t get caught in the storm, make sure they’re easy to access or easy to pull out when the weather forecast calls for below freezing temperatures.
It’s also a good idea to get out your snow gear and toys. Don’t miss an opportunity to play in the snow because you can’t get to your shed to pull out your snow boots, gloves, or sled!
Check and Replace Floor Protectors
Prevent damage to your floors by checking any pads on your chair legs as well as the rug mat.
Make sure the pads on your chairs, sofas, and tables are intact so when you move them, they won’t rub and scuff or dent flooring. Lift the rug to double check that the rug mat isn’t causing damage to the floor as well. Sometimes, the adhesive can stick to the floors, leaving a residue that’s almost impossible to clean, this is especially important on cement floors.
Prepare the Guest Bedroom
Has it been a while since anyone, besides the dog or cat, has slept in the guest bed? This is a great time of year to wash the sheets and clean the room in preparation for holiday guests. And don’t forget the cobwebs in the corners! Organize and re-stock the closets so your guests can easily access more blankets and towels during their stay.
Once you’ve completed your November checklist, you can sit back with your hot apple cider and know that you’re ready for the holiday season.
Stylizing your own home can be a daunting but rewarding challenge. When you own your living space, it’s easy to feel a sense of ownership over every piece of your design. But for renters, the challenge is a bit different. Despite limitations, it’s no less important to one’s well-being for a residence to convey a sense of ownership and self. To make a rental unit feel a bit more like home, we collected a few ways to imbue your abode with your own spirit, without risking your security deposit.
Storage – Let’s be honest, rentals often lack sufficient storage place, and since custom cabinetry isn’t usually an option for renters, investing in some added storage is key.
Add some simple, no-to-low damage shelves, bookshelves that stand on their own, baskets, or use under the bed storage. Search for furniture that doubles as storage, like an ottoman that opens up or a side table with a drawer or shelf.
Blinds – Vertical blinds may be the ultimate decorating sin. No one likes feeling as if they’re living in a motel room.
We suggest you either take them down and save them somewhere so you remember to put them back when you leave. Another option is to hide them under curtains. Just don’t throw them out or you may not get all of your security deposit back!
Before making changes like this, or adding hardware like curtain rods, be sure to ask your landlord for permission.
Accessorize – A MUST when decorating your space are small items like pillows, throws, candles, books, and light fixtures… the only way to get a truly genuine space. These are easy ways to add your unique style that you can take with you from one place to the next.
Wall Art – Hanging art with hooks and nails can damage the walls, which might keep you from hanging art or photos on your walls, but when it comes down to it at move out, they’ll only take a few minutes to patch up when it comes time to move out. This doesn’t mean you have to hang an entire art gallery, but hanging one statement piece and placing the rest of the photos on a mantel or shelf can be all you need.
Again, ask your landlord before you add any holes in the home. When you’re touring, ask the landlord to keep the existing holes in the walls so you can use them, or ask if you can get the paint color information so you can patch and touch-up yourself, upon move-out.
Rugs – Last but not least, rugs: the peanut butter to your rental jelly. If there are scratched hardwood floors or stained carpets, you can cover those up easily with a throw rug, and prevent further damage as you live there.
Additionally, a rug is a great investment piece that will add your personal flavor to any space, plus they absorb noise and make a room feel comfy.
Do you have any great tips to decorating a rental? Let us know in the comments!