Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The design element that can add drama and save cash

While drama may be unattractive in other aspects of your life, a dash of it can be just what your home's decor needs to spice things up. Fortunately, you don't have to choose between drama and cents. At least one popular design element can deliver positive impact on your decor and your wallet: skylights.

Interior designers, architects, decorators and homeowners have been relying on skylights to add beauty, warmth, natural light and passive ventilation to interior designs for decades. Fortunately, advances in skylight design make them a cost-effective, green design element as well.

"Skylights ... enliven a house dramatically while cutting down the need for artificial light," notes the website ConsumerEnergyCenter.org. "They brighten up dark corners and let in lots of warmth. They can also provide much-needed ventilation."

Less dependence on artificial light sources or powered ventilation can mean lower electric bills in summer. Plus, warm sun entering the home through a skylight in winter can reduce your heating bills, as well. In fact, EnergyStar.gov says that installing Energy Star-qualified skylights, windows and doors can shrink your home's energy bill - and carbon footprint - by 7 to 15 percent over non-qualified products.

"Skylights convey drama, yet they're a surprisingly cost-effective home improvement," says Ross Vandermark, national product manager of Velux, manufacturers of the "No-Leak Skylight." "Installing skylights can be less costly than buying new designer furniture or putting in new carpet. Plus, if your interior design cries out for natural light, it's more practical and cost-effective to place skylights overhead than to add windows to a wall."

Aesthetic benefits

By opening a room to the sky, skylights add a touch of drama to the interior design. They're also an appealing solution for rooms where a traditional window might be problematic.

For example, in a bath, a venting skylight makes it possible to enjoy natural light and fresh air without sacrificing privacy or living with frosted glass. Venting models are also popular in kitchens and laundry rooms to remove cooking odors and excess heat while brightening much-used work spaces. add%20drama%20and%20save%20cash

In other areas of the home, affordable tubular skylights like Velux's Sun Tunnel products make it possible to introduce natural light to hallways, closets, and other smaller or confined spaces. With the addition of a light kit, 24-hour illumination is available.

Overall, skylights are less limiting to a room's design than a traditional window - all while admitting much more natural light. Many people completely overlook or under utilize the design potential of a ceiling. Skylights can turn that blank slate into a design statement that is both functional and beautiful.

Practical value

Venting skylights can also offer a low-cost way to address indoor air quality by removing humidity, fumes and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your home through their natural chimney effect. In addition to helping improve indoor air quality, skylights allow you to turn off electric lights and save money on power bills.

Accessorizing with manual or solar-powered, remote-operated blinds that qualify for tax breaks, allows you to further incorporate skylights into a design theme. Plus, the blinds - which are available in a range of colors and patterns - enhance the efficiency of skylights by allowing you to control the amount of light or heat that enters or leaves a room.

"Few home improvements marry the dramatic design impact and energy saving boost that you get from adding skylights," says Vandermark. "When it comes to redesigning a room, they're truly the touch that elevates the look and feel of your decor."

You can learn more about window and skylight energy efficiency at www.energystar.gov, and for independent agency information visit www.nfrc.org or www.efficientwindows.org.

Roof insulation makes your home more comfortable

If you are considering taking the plunge and having your home insulated, you may want to consider roof insulation. Just what is roof insulation? It is a product that lives up to its name, and could be called the hidden insulation, because many people do not even know that an outdoors form of it exists- they do research about the best kind of insulation for their home, and make a choice without becoming informed about roof insulation.

Roof insulation works silently to make your living space more comfortable. It has been tested and found to reduce the overall cost of heating your house by an astonishing 13%! This type of insulation can also help to keep your house a great deal cooler during the summer months. That can add up to a nice amount of money in a few years time, perhaps even enough to pay for your roof insulation and installation!

There are two types of roof insulation. One of these types goes on the outside of your home in the area between the roof's shingles or tiles, and the sheathing used on top of the rafters as a place for the roofing. Normally, a type of foam board is stapled to the sheathing, and the roofing material is then installed on top of the foam board. This gives you a layer of protection from hot and cold air drifting into your home's attic and then into your living space. Rigid fiberglass insulation can also be used for this purpose. It is a lot easier to install this type of insulation when you are also replacing your roof shingles or tiles, but it can definitely be used on a roof that is already in place or a flat roof as well.

It may only be necessary to place roof insulation in your attic space, which some contractors will call loft insulation. This is the more common type of roof insulation, and you will find that more people have heard of this alternative. Rafter vents are needed to keep any build up of moisture from getting the insulation wet. Once this has been accomplished, the space between the rafters can then be filled with insulation.

Spray foam insulation is one choice that the homeowner has for roof insulation in their attic space. A smaller attic, such as one you cannot stand up in, is a good candidate for this type of insulation. Professionals spray the foam into all the spaces, cracks, and crevices, and it does an excellent job of keeping out air.

Another type of attic roof insulation is that familiar pink colored roll that looks a bit like a huge roll of carpet. These are known as batts, and are usually made of fiberglass, but can also be made from rock wool. The pink batts are flexible, and it is easy to cut and fit them into the needed spaces. It is best to leave this type of installation to a professional, for fiberglass can be rather tricky to work with. It is easy to get some of the fibers embedded into your skin, or even in your eyes. As you might imagine, this is quite painful, and potentially dangerous to your eyesight. There is also the risk of breathing in the glass fibers.

The various types of roof insulation that are available will make your home a comfortable place to live, whether it is winter or summer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Serve up an ideal space for summer outdoor entertaining

(BPT) - The arrival of milder temperatures means dining al fresco, hosting neighborhood cookouts and enjoying intimate cocktail parties under the stars. When creating a backyard oasis to entertain family and friends this summer, it's important that it be both inviting and able to withstand the wear and tear that goes hand-in-hand with warm weather fun.

The outdoor living experts at Trex suggest the following tips:

Maximize your space. Think about your deck in terms of different activities - and dedicate separate areas for relaxing, grilling, dining and socializing. Consider creating a simple seating nook or an elegant outdoor bar. Structures like trellises, or even tall potted plants, can help establish settings for cozy conversations between guests - while a pergola may offer much-needed relief from the summer sun.

"When you take a situation where you can entertain and move it outside, it immediately feels special," says Tyler Florence, culinary artist and one of the faces of Trex's new Engineered Artistry campaign. "First and foremost, think about how your space interacts with the environment and use that as inspiration to create a deck that suits your personal interests and preferences."

Create a "full service" outdoor kitchen. If you're planning to spend most weekends entertaining on your deck or patio, consider adding an exterior kitchen to your home. Incorporate elements like a grilling station, cooking range, sink, compact refrigerator - or even a built-in rotisserie or pizza oven. You'll be able to prepare and serve food while outside conversing with guests - rather than being stuck inside behind the stove. Just remember to build your outdoor kitchen in an area protected from the elements and make sure that its style - whether modern stainless steel or rustic country - complements the look of your home's exterior.

Choose low-maintenance materials. Spills, splashes and other mishaps are inevitable when entertaining outdoors. If you want to spend more time enjoying - rather than maintaining - your deck, choose materials that need only a soap and water cleaning to retain their enduring good looks.

"Because I have so much going on, I try to keep things as simple as possible and avoid situations that require an enormous amount of upkeep," says Florence. "If you're going to make the investment in a gorgeous outdoor living space, use decking and railing that will look amazing for decades to come."

High-performance, wood-alternative decking like Trex resists fading, staining, scratching and mold growth thanks to an exclusive protective shell and high-traffic formulation - even after several summers of dropping grill tools, spilling barbecue sauce and moving around heavy outdoor furniture. And while these materials offer the natural look of wood, you never need to worry about sanding, staining or painting.

Design with distinction. Select a style and color scheme for your deck that best complements your home's exterior and reflects the natural environment. Today's wood-alternative decking offers high-definition wood grain patterns and rich, saturated colors inspired by the outdoors - with a vibrancy that remains unchanged for years. When combined with a modular railing system that provides similar high performance and long-lasting beauty, composite decking offers endless mix-and-match options for incredible design flexibility to suit the style of any home.

"Go online and experiment with different resources and tools to figure out how your outdoor living elements can be integrated," says Florence. "With Trex, for instance, the ideas are endless because you have so many more opportunities to create a really luxurious space."

Don't forget the finishing touches. Customize your outdoor living space to make family and friends feel truly welcome. Add ambience for evening cookouts with dimmable LED deck lighting, and create an inviting lounge area with comfortable, durable furnishings - or even outdoor speakers. You can choose to truly "deck out" a space with luxuries ranging from flat screen televisions to stone fire pits, but if the budget is tight, adding vibrant pillows or tropical flowers and plants serves as a quick and colorful pick-me-up.

For more inspiration to create an amazing outdoor entertaining space - or for favorite outdoor living recipes from Tyler Florence - visit www.trex.com.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

House Painting: Tips to choose the best house painting colors

House painting is like getting a makeover that adorns your home. You need it timely according to the changing trends of taste for color and design. It's bit tough to know where to get started.

This article will show you how to choose house paint colors that will effectively add beauty to your home's design and style. It highlights the important points of choosing the appropriate colors for various areas of the house. Your home reflects your personality, your way of living and thus by contrasting colors you can give the illusion of your royalty, taste, and your likes. It's also important to know the difference between exterior house paint and interior house paint, considering differences between both types. It's also good to know the color effects and contrasting that your point choices will create. You can explore various colors and select according to your taste through virtual online sources and paint websites.

The whole idea of selecting suitable colors for exterior or interior house paint is a little confusing, but we'll help to explain it here. First is selecting the color type for interior and exterior paint, like latex based paint or oil based paint, a glossy finish or flat finish etc. Painting contractors will help to give you the best options that suit your needs according to your home, type of wall and different areas of the house. Although the idea of painting yourself is tempting, one should understand that painting is a long term addition to your home. You cannot keep changing it every now and then.

If you are going for exterior house paint, than the paint you choose should suit the weather of your area. No doubt painting contractors will surely take care of this and make suggestions. Factors like external moisture, heat, constant rain and other unfavorable weather conditions cause problems like peeling, chalking, fading etc. While choosing interior house paint you should be concerned about easy removal of stains and washable paint, which keeps it looking alive and fresh.

Even if all these provisions are cared by a professional painter, we are still left with one basic question. Which color to select? The color of the paint is a big part of decorating your home. While choosing colors for interior house painting you should consider the following points.

If your house is comparatively small, pastel shades will make it look spacious because they reflect more light. Pastel paints are suitable if there is a limited source of light, such as a basement or the staircase. Also, basic shades of white or light colors will be fine if you already have a color contrast running through your furniture, curtains, and interior decorations. You may go for diverse colors for different areas like the main hall, reading room, guest room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, living area and so on.

For color lovers there is a wide range of bright color schemes waiting to be explored. Oranges and yellows are known for representing energy and enthusiasm. You can use these bright colors in your children's room to create an energetic environment. These ideas really work in making of their room look cool. One can also add some creative designs like wall prints or wallpapers to make the rooms more attractive, especially in a hall or spacious bedroom.

If you have a garden then lighter shades of green or brown can be used around your gardening area. Even if you have a few planters or bushes, it will appear to be an abundant garden. For a royal look you can paint your house with very light tint of camel brown color and add maroon interior to highlight the furniture.

If you are going for exterior house paint then again try sticking to basic neutral pastel shades of white, pale yellow etc. Or try going with bold colors and use pastel shades for painting windows, and again a dark shade for the roof top. You should try to blend your house in your surroundings. Get more ideas from vast resources available online.

by: Nick Taylor


Money advice for expectant and new parents

Have you ever heard the saying that "babies don't come with owner's manuals"? It's true that no matter how many books you read, classes you take, or experienced parents you talk to, you can never be completely prepared for the challenges and joys of parenthood. You can, however, prepare yourself for the costs of a new baby by looking after your finances before your bundle arrives.

New parents don't always prepare for the expenses associated with having a baby. One survey by Redbook Magazine and VISA found that less than 50 percent of expectant parents create a new budget that includes baby expenses. And while 76 percent of parents-to-be felt financially prepared for a baby, after the tyke arrived, 41 percent of new parents said they weren't as prepared as they had thought.

Taking steps like clipping coupons and buying secondhand clothes can help new parents save cash, but other important financial considerations - such as protecting their credit scores - require advanced planning. Here are some tips to help expectant and new parents to look after their finances:

Before the baby arrives

* Review your health insurance and what it covers. The full costs of pre-natal care, maternal care and delivery are not always covered by all insurance plans. As soon as you know you are pregnant - or when you make the decision to conceive - contact your insurer and ask for a detailed explanation of benefits. The Redbook survey found that unexpected hospital costs - things that couples thought their insurance would cover - cost one in four new parents more than $2,000 from their own pockets. Knowing what's covered, and what's not, can help you determine how much cash to set aside for hospital expenses.

* Review your credit. One way or another, you will be spending money - a lot of it - when the new baby arrives. Whether you need to tap credit to buy nursery furniture or need a good credit score so you can get a better auto policy that costs less, it's important to understand this aspect of your financial well-being. Enrolling in a product such as freecreditscore.com can help you understand your credit score and status, which can help you make informed decisions about how you will use credit during this potentially financially challenging time.

* Create a spending plan. Your overall spending plan should not only include a budget for day-to-day costs like diapers, but a long-term plan for larger expenses such as nursery furniture, day care, and college savings. It's important to estimate not only how much you'll spend but when you'll spend it, too. For example, your short-term budget may include the cost of a crib - an item you will need immediately - but you may be able to postpone other furniture purchases like a dresser or changing table.

When you're new parents

* Buy wisely and frugally. From clipping coupons to buying off-brand names or purchasing from second-hand stores, it's possible to equip your baby with everything he or she needs at a fraction of the cost of buying brand new, brand-name retail products. It's normal to feel pressured to buy new, top-of-the-line luxury items for your baby, but used items and off-brand products can be just as good. Check out online ratings for a used item's durability before you buy it, and see what other consumers have to say about cheaper brands of diapers, baby wipes and clothing.

* Continue to keep an eye on your credit; it's a key element of your financial health. Good credit directly affects your ability to buy that bigger house you need as Junior starts to grow, get an auto loan for a minivan, or secure a new job in some cases. The Internet can help. For example, freecreditscore.com offers a Score Planner that lets members and nonmembers see for free how their financial behaviors can affect their credit scores.

While nothing can really prepare you for the agony of sleepless nights with a newborn or the joys of seeing your baby take his or her first steps, it is possible to prepare for the financial responsibilities associated with becoming a parent.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The best lawn games for players of all ages

When you think of playing games on the lawn, children's classics like tag and capture the flag might be the first activities that spring to mind but the possibilities are truly endless. Below are some of the top lawn games that are fun for all ages and can easily be adapted to fit a wide range of skill levels.

Badminton:Official badminton matches are played indoors, but who wants to hang out in a hot gym on a beautiful day? You can pick up a decent-quality outdoor badminton set at any sporting goods store. Like tennis, you can play singles or doubles and for children or beginners, you can start without the net. Just hitting the shuttlecock back and forth is great for improving eye-hand coordination and fitness.

Croquet:Croquet is one of the oldest and most widely-played backyard games in the world. There are many variations, but all involve using a mallet to hit a ball through a series of hoops or wickets, embedded in the grass. You can make the course - and the rules - as simple or as complex as you want and you can play as individuals or teams.

Horseshoes:Two individuals (or two teams of two) take turns tossing four horseshoes at two stakes set in the ground. Backyard players can set their own rules, of course, but generally you score points either for "ringers" or for landing your horseshoe closer to the stake than your opponent's. Other tossing games include ladder toss, cornhole, washer pitching and many variations on the ring toss theme. Choose your favorite or make up your own new game.

Lawn bowls:Even if your lawn isn't a perfectly level and immaculately manicured bowling green, you can still enjoy a good game of lawn bowls. The objective is to roll balls - they're biased, so they follow a curved path - as close as possible to a smaller ball, called the "jack." As a member of the boules family of sports, lawn bowling shares a common ancestry with bocce, petanque and other games in which a heavy ball is thrown or rolled toward a smaller target ball.

Miniature golf: If you don't have a miniature golf course in town, you can create your own. Use plastic cups as targets and let your imagination run wild in creating challenging obstacles. No putters available? Try disc golf instead: Create a series of targets that you throw a flying disc at and whoever completes the course with the fewest number of attempts wins.

Water fights: They may not be a recognized sport but no list of outdoor activities would be complete without a mention of water fights. Whether you use water balloons, squirt guns or high-powered water blasters, there's no better way to cool off - and you can even claim you're watering the lawn while you're at it.

If your group is a bit less competitively inclined, you can bring out the boomerangs, frisbee, hula hoops, Hacky Sacks, bubble-blowing equipment, kites and remote controlled airplanes (but keep those last two apart). Or, of course, you can just play catch - a game that never goes out of style. The important thing is that you are making the most of your lawn.

"A natural grass lawn creates the perfect setting for a whole host of outdoor activities for the entire family," says Bryan Ostlund, executive director of Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers and turf specialists. "A healthy lawn can stand up to a surprising amount of traffic and can easily be spruced back up in the fall with some additional grass seed. If you're lucky enough to have a grass lawn, use it! Spending time outdoors is good for both mind and body."