Escape from reality by creating at-home getaways

Life is hectic. And although technology has made our lives easier to multitask and stay connected, it also means that no matter where you go, it’s hard to fully escape. While traveling to a remote island to get away for peace and relaxation would be a wonderful retreat, you can easily avoid the hustle and bustle of your daily routine by creating peaceful escapes throughout your own home.

Say “Spaah”

The bathroom is the only place where you can shut the door and have complete “you time” with little to no interruptions. With 54 percent of respondents to a recent Moen survey of showering behaviors saying they have children living at home, a shower means a bit of precious alone time, and people take full advantage of the peace to think about the day, their lives and more.

To add a bit of bliss in the bath, add a spa-like shower with multiple spray settings to meet every mood. The Moen Caldwell Shower Combination offers a spa of multiple sprays and a variety of spray patterns – creating the perfect shower retreat. The collection features an incredible selection of options – both a five-setting wallmount shower head and a five-setting handheld shower head with five unique spray settings. And the best part is it won’t cost a fortune.

It’s time to truly enjoy your shower and create the ultimate getaway. After all, you deserve it. And the multiple spray settings of the Caldwell collection are perfect for everyone in the house.

Zen in the Den

The TV is blaring, the phone is ringing off the hook, and power cords from everything from the Blu-ray, to the Wii, to the table lamp are refusing to stay neatly tucked away. Your den area might be a go-to hangout place, but it’s still easy to create peace among the chaos.

De-cluttering is one of the simplest things you can do to create order and a sense of calm. Remove items that haven’t been used in months and get rid of furniture that serves little to no function. The less clutter your den has, the better you’ll feel. It’s also important to open the windows whenever possible. Less mess and fresh air can easily change the outlook of a room.

Courtesy of Newscanada

Bring your house up to date


It’s amazing how quickly our homes can start to look dated. Even if they were once the height of fashion, they can easily start to feel stuck in the past, and for many people it is enough to make them consider moving, unaware that it is simply the fact that things feel stale that is giving them such wanderlust.

There is plenty that can be done, easily and cheaply, to make a house feel more modern though. A change of paint is always a great way to start. Finding out the colors that are currently in vogue is a great way to instantly transform a room. On top that, interesting and modern artwork and contemporary knick knacks will also instantly bring a room up to date.

Home lighting is also a surprisingly date-specific kind of thing. Older light fittings will instantly date any room, and changing glaring halogens to more subtle accent lighting can instantly change the feel of a room without anything else being needed. Altering home lighting is also easy to research and cheap to achieve, making one of the perfect places to start if a house is starting to feel jaded. The more you can spend on lighting, the better.

Wooden floors are also a great way to stay modern. On top of this, utilizing a wooden floor gives you great scope to include under-floor heating, an investment that will almost certainly pay for itself in terms of how much money can be saved on energy bills. Under-floor heating also helps you remove what are usually unsightly radiators and give rooms more space – another way to make any room feel more modern.

If you can, make as much space as possible, knocking down walls to create more space if it is appropriate. Space and lighting combined will make even the dullest room feel fresh and new.

By: Allision Kraft

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_7221.shtml

Lower summer energy costs and get a facelift for your home


Lower%20summer%20energy%20costs
During summer, many of us look forward to fun-filled days at the pool or beach, but we definitely don’t look forward to exorbitantly high cooling bills during the heat of the season.

A typical single-family home shells out $2,200 in annual energy costs, according a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. And according to the Laboratory’s website, if a house has central air conditioning, even though the system is only used a few months out of the year, it is most likely the single biggest consumer of electricity, driving annual air conditioning costs that can exceed a shocking $1,000.

However, there are a number of ways you can improve the energy-efficient aspects of your home and save on electricity costs.

Seal the deal

According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of the most cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency in homes is to seal and insulate windows and doors. Often, this means replacing old, leaky, sticky, poorly performing windows and doors. A typical home that replaces its single-paned, clear glass windows with energy-efficient windows can realize up to $494 in annual savings, according to the EPA.
“Windows are a wonderful source of natural light, but if they are old, they can act as giant heat lamps in the summer, allowing the sun’s heat into a home,” says David Harrison, chief marketing office of Champion Windows, one of the nation’s leading home improvement companies. “By installing our Comfort 365 Replacement Windows, homeowners can help shrink their cooling bills. Champion’s Double hung replacement windows exceed ENERGY STAR rating requirements by an average of 42 percent for Solar Heat Gain, which is the measure of the sun’s heat that comes through your window. Champion windows also help keep the cool air in and still let in natural sunlight – without the heat.”
For more energy saving window tips check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s website or Champion Window’s Energy Efficient Replacement Windows.
On the side
Another great way to cut costs is to increase insulation by installing energy-efficient siding. Vinyl siding and energy-efficient underlayment can increase a home’s R-value, a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation. By increasing the R-value, homeowners can save more than 20 percent on their electricity bills, according to energysavers.gov.
“Installing an energy-efficient siding system, including ENERGY STAR rated insulation board, can help insulate your home against the heat, reduce the amount of air flow into your house, making it easier to keep cool air in during the summer,” says Harrison. “At Champion, our customers have told us they were pleasantly surprised to see a decrease in their energy bills after their siding installation.”
Other ways to improve energy efficiency and lower summer electric bills include:
* Increasing insulation in attics
* Making sure you have proper roof ventilation
* Sealing air conditioner ducts
* Keeping your blinds closed when the sun is shining in
* Using a programmable thermostat
By making a few of these changes, you won’t cringe when you open those utility bills, and you might even be able to reap benefits beyond the summer.
“If homes are not properly insulated or sealed, cool air is leaking out and homeowners are throwing money out of the window,” says Harrison. “By making a few energy-efficient changes to your home, you can help keep electric bills in check and even increase the value of your home.”

Courtesy of BPT

Five renovations to make an even bigger splash with your backyard pool

Five%20renovations%20to%20make%20an%20even%20bigger%20splash%20with%20your%20backyard%20poolIf you added a pool to your home in the past few years, or moved into a house with an existing pool, you may wonder what more you can do to enhance the value and enjoyment your pool brings to your home and family. You may even think there’s not much you can do beyond keeping it clean and well maintained.

“Pools are a great investment, and the vast majority of owners say their pool is a great place to entertain,” says Bill Weber, president and CEO of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP). “Fortunately, some simple upgrades and renovations can help pool owners enjoy their investment even more.”

APSP points to five renovations that can offer homeowners the most satisfaction and value for their investment. The Association suggests homeowners consult with and hire an APSP-certified professional for the best possible results from any of these renovations:

1. Resurfacing – If your in-ground pool is made from concrete, time and use can cause the surface to deteriorate and become rough or even cracked. Resurfacing can restore the beauty and comfort of the pool and extend its functional life. Choose options that provide durability, and consider multiple manufacturers’ products to ensure the best selection. For pools with a vinyl interior, a host of new patterns, available for replacement liners, can transform the appearance of the pool overnight. Fiberglass pool owners also have several resurfacing options. Consult with an APSP-certified professional to determine the best product to make your fiberglass pool look like new.

2. New tile – Just as a kitchen backsplash can transform the overall look of the room, tile can set the tone for how your pool looks. Pool tile options are vast, and changing the tile is one of the most dramatic improvements you can make; it will give you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of appearance.

3. Change the look of the pool deck – The current design trend is to extend the look of interior flooring out into the pool area to create the effect of an outdoor family room. Deck choices range from man-made and natural materials to staining existing concrete. Know that old concrete does not necessarily need to be removed. Often you can fix unsightly cracks and dated concrete decks with a thick overlay and new finish.

Most%20renovations%20are%20quite%20affordable4. Add a water feature – Installing a waterfall or fountain is a great way to bring the sound and beauty of moving water to your outdoor environment. Water features also create a strong focal point for the pool. A dramatic spillover or sheer water feature can be dynamic additions to an ordinary pool.

5. Lighting – While safety is a primary function of lights, today’s pool lighting also adds touches of beauty and pizzazz. Standard incandescent and halogen pool lights are functional staples, and fiber optic lighting can add striking color to a nighttime poolscape. Fiber optics are especially great around pools and landscaping because there’s no electrical current to worry about. Long-lasting LED replacement lights can typically be installed with little or no modification to the existing pool. The colored LED lights can create an entirely new mood around your pool while providing energy savings at the same time.

“Of course, there are many more renovations and improvements to consider,” Weber says. “Digital controls make operating pool equipment easier than ever, allowing you to control lighting, heating and cleaning with the touch of the button. And upgrades like adding a salt chlorinator system, solar cover and heater can improve the functionality and efficiency of a pool.”

Keep in mind, you don’t have to do everything at once. Pool renovations can be done over several seasons, allowing you to make the improvements and fund your investment at a pace that works for you. Of course, to ensure you get the most for your money, you’ll want to hire an experienced pool contractor. You can find an APSP certified building or service professional through the organization’s website, www.apsp.org. APSP-certified professionals are required to demonstrate proven knowledge of design, construction and service, follow a strict code of ethics, and must engage in continuing education to maintain their certification.

“Most renovations are quite affordable, and can dramatically change the look of your backyard,” Weber says. “It’s important to ensure your project is performed by a certified professional who can help you turn your vision into reality safely, efficiently and cost-effectively.”

Courtesy of BPT

Responsible ridership and safety are the first steps toward personal watercraft fun


One of the easiest and most fun ways to enjoy everything the water has to offer is on a personal watercraft (PWC). Personal watercrafts have taken great strides toward modernization; the PWCs of today are quiet, run on clean four-stroke technology engines, include significant safety features, are more stable, and are designed to accommodate up to three passengers.

Because advances in technology have made personal watercraft options from brands like Sea-Doo, Jet Ski, Kawasaki and WaveRunner more accessible and easier to use, more people are enjoying them each year. PWCs are also incredibly versatile and are becoming popular for towing wake boarders, tubers, and water skiers, exploring waterways and fishing. They can even be used as transportation to and from overnight camp sites.

To fully enjoy a PWC, riders must be responsible, safe and educated about operating one. Before you insert the key into the ignition, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

* Are you of legal age in your state to operate a PWC?

* Do you know your craft and the specific ways it operates compared to other PWCs?

* Have you read all instructional materials and labels from the manufacturer?

* Do you know the “rules of the road” on the water?

* Are you wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) and neoprene shorts?

If you answer “no” to any of these questions, it’s time to head back to the dock.

Responsible riding isn’t just about personal safety. It also includes being considerate of those around you. Be mindful of other vessels in your vicinity and how your rate of speed or wake affects them. And don’t forget about marine life: Respect ecologically sensitive areas.

The Personal Watercraft Industry Association offers important safety tips, rider rules, local laws and PWC etiquette for riders of every skill level. Information on instructional courses and downloadable safety materials, including a brief handbook titled Riding Rules for Personal Watercraft and PWC Orientation Checklist can be found at www.pwia.org. Additional information can also be found through the United States Coast Guard. Getting educated about riding a PWC responsibly will ensure you’re equipped to handle the vessel and can enjoy a fun-filled day on the water.

Before you get your feet wet, remember to ride responsibly. Visit www.pwia.org to learn more about riding responsibly, or visit us on twitter @PWIA_News.

Courtesy of BPT

New siding improves a home’s curb appeal

Nowadays, many are choosing to live in their homes longer.  As a result, a growing number of homeowners are investing in home improvements they can enjoy themselves.  

One of the best home improvements homeowners can make is replacing  tired, old, faded siding.  According to the National Association of Realtors, replacing your siding offers an 80 percent payback or return on your investment.

One reason that new siding is such a solid home improvement investment is it instantly enhances the curb appeal of your home. There’s nothing quite like the warm feeling of driving up to your home every day and admiring its beauty.  

Siding also is a critical link to the well-being of your home. Siding is the first layer of defense against the elements, protecting the walls and interior of your home from moisture, heat and cold.

From wood clapboard and brick used widely to side homes decades ago to today’s innovative materials, such as patented Ultrex pultruded fiberglass used in APEX siding and trim, siding materials have evolved to deliver higher performance, more cost efficiency and enhanced aesthetics.  With so many choices available to homeowners today, it’s important for homeowners to do their homework when shopping for home siding.  Here are seven tips to consider when shopping for home siding:

1. Do your homework. Not all siding options are created equal. There’s a huge difference between lower cost vinyl siding products and high-performance fiberglass siding. Lower priced options often come with tradeoffs, such as a higher risk of damage in a severe storm from hail or wind, faster color fading, or lots of maintenance (repainting, caulking, etc.). Premium siding products may cost more initially, but may be far less expensive and hassle-free over the course of homeownership.

2. Have a plan. Now is the time to coordinate other exterior elements with your new siding and trim to give your home a more contemporary, updated look and feel. Consider new energy-saving windows, such as Integrity windows, a new garage door, new roof shingles and enhance your landscaping through the use of pavers, wall systems and perennial plants and shrubs.

3. Get referrals. Ask your neighbors, co-workers and friends for referrals of remodelers who specialize in replacing siding.  Interview several remodelers and always get detailed estimates before committing to any remodeler.

4. Visit homes. Replacing siding isn’t like replacing an appliance. You may only do this once or twice in your lifetime. To make sure you get exactly what you want, make sure to visit homes that have recently been resided by your contractor or remodeler. This will help you compare how different types of house siding actually look on a home.

5. Take your siding green. When replacing your siding, use siding material that is made from sustainable materials, such as sand, which will reduce the use of harmful chemicals and paints needed to manufacture and maintain it.

6. Select your colors. Choosing a color for your new siding may be the most difficult decision you’ll have to make. The good news is that today’s top-of-the-line siding offers a wide variety of bold colors from which to select. In contrast to traditional wood and fiber cement siding that requires painting and caulking every few years, new pultruded fiberglass siding offers an acrylic finish that is thicker and more durable than paint, and it resists chipping and fading. This allows homeowners to enjoy the satisfaction of their new siding with virtually zero maintenance.

7. Better moisture management. The number one thing you should expect of your new siding is it should protect your home from the elements, especially moisture. Unfortunately, some types of siding, such as fiber cement, wood and stucco, are more prone to moisture because they trap or absorb moisture behind the siding material. Instead, look to a siding that is inherently resistant to water.  Then, look to how that siding will manage moisture – behind the siding, when it’s up against the wall of your home. A siding system that provides a continuous, natural drainage plane (moisture drains harmlessly away), and allows air to circulate to provide natural evaporation is critical to decreasing trapped moisture, which creates rot and mold.

Courtesy of BPT

Soul-lifting home improvements that are good for your wallet, too.


Soul-lifting%20home%20improvements%20that%20are%20good%20for%20your%20wallet%2C%20too
No matter how value conscious a homeowner may be, few people ever make a home improvement simply to increase their house’s resale value. People also undertake home improvements to enhance their enjoyment of their home – or to fix a problem, which, in its own way, is good for the soul, too.

When it comes to deciding how to spend your renovation dollars, some home improvements can boost both your spirits and your home value. Here are some soul-lifting home improvements that also add value to your home:

Install a skylight

The health benefits of natural light are well known. Not only does sunlight stimulate the body’s production of Vitamin D, it also boosts brain levels of serotonin. Lower serotonin levels have been associated with depression, decreased physical energy, increased appetite and elevated desire for sleep. A lack of sunlight has long been associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder – something your dear old grandmother might have simply called “the winter blues.”

And there’s another consideration with today’s tightly built and heavily insulated homes – indoor air quality. According to the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (www.greenguard.org), most of our exposure to environmental pollution occurs by breathing the air indoors.

Adding a traditional or tubular skylight – to virtually any room in the house – brings more mood-boosting natural light into your home. It’s also a smart money decision. Energy-saving, solar-powered fresh-air skylights, like those made by Velux America,-can be opened-to bring much-needed outside air into your home, providing passive ventilation to reduce humidity and stale air, and reduce heating, cooling and lighting costs. Energy Star-qualified solar powered fresh-air skylights and accessories like solar-powered blinds, plus the installation, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit – now that’s good for the soul.

You can learn more about energy-efficient skylights and calculate your tax credit for a new or replacement model at www.veluxusa.com. For more on skylights and other home energy saving tips visit energystar.gov.


Soul-lifting%20home%20improvements%20that%20are%20good%20for%20your%20wallet%2C%20too
Add a sunroom

While you’re thinking about the benefits of more natural light in your home, consider adding a sunroom. One of these light-filled retreats returns more than 46 percent of the initial cost when it’s time to sell your home, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. In a  survey by the National Association of Home Builders, 52 percent of builders rated sunrooms as “desirable” or “essential” – ranking them higher than other specialty rooms like workout rooms, dens or even media rooms.

Sunrooms can be a great way to make your small home feel much larger, without the expense of a bigger, costlier addition. They also speak to our natural affinity for the outdoors, allowing you to enjoy nature year-round, even when it’s too cold to be outside.

Upgrade your bathroom

The trend of bathrooms as a restive oasis doesn’t show any signs of disappearing. If you doubt the popularity of luxury bathroom fittings, just visit the showerhead aisle in any home improvement store. Options include everything from rainfall shower heads to multi-jet contraptions that promise a spa-like experience in your own shower stall. Add in jetted tubs, towel warmers and amenities like under-floor heating, and it’s easy to understand why real estate pros continue to cite a great bathroom as a must-have for many buyers.

Even if you don’t have the space or budget for a major bathroom renovation – which Remodeling Magazine says returns more than 65 percent of its value on resale – even making modest improvements can boost your mood. Replacing old fixtures with newer more luxurious models, such as a touch-free faucet or multiple shower heads, can be an easy, cost-effective way to enhance your enjoyment of your bathroom.

The National Association of Realtors predicts the housing market will continue to improve this year. Yet even those who are not thinking of selling any time soon are aware of the value of certain types of improvements. A  survey by real estate professionals indicates that people are becoming more attuned to the emotional component of home ownership, rather than just viewing their houses as investments.

“ … We’re seeing a psychological shift,” Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist who partnered with the surveyors, said in an announcement of the survey findings. “Instead of looking at homes through the eyes of an economist, we’re realizing that a home doesn’t solely equate to financial return or measure only to a mortgage amount. Instead the home is the emotional center of our lives, and it remains a critical component of who we are.”

Courtesy of BPT

Increase garage sale profits with some marketing basics


Increase%20garage%20sale%20profits%20with%20some%20marketing%20basics
As the weather warms up, garage sales begin appearing all over the U.S. Garage sales are a great way to clean out clutter while making some extra dollars for home improvements, bills, vacations or even “retail therapy.”

Marcela Iannini, department chair of Advertising and Design & Media Management at Miami International University of Art & Design, says, “Garage sales are great opportunity to employ basic marketing principles in a fun way; a little innovation and creativity go a long way to maximize sales." 

"It’s important to start with the basics of marketing – the four P’s – price, product, promotion and place. In garage sales it works best to think of the product as the garage sale itself and the items to be sold as product lines or brands of that product,” adds Cheryl Pilchik, Advertising faculty at The Art Institute of Philadelphia.

Dr. Larry Stultz, department chair of Advertising and Web Design & Interactive Media at The Art Institute of Atlanta-Decatur, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, agrees. “It is imperative to use the same thinking retailers use to maximize the visibility and sales opportunities for a garage sale." 

 
Below are some helpful suggestions from Iannini, Pilchik and Stultz on making the best of your garage sale:

 
* Product and price: Product mix is important in retailing. You can either focus on one type of product (kids’ toys or garden tools, for instance) or a broad mix of products. Study sales in your neighborhood to see what works best. Check out the prices, too. You should consider not only the original cost, but also what others charge at sales like yours. Rather than use a lot of time individually pricing each item, consider grouping like items together on large tables, posting the same price for all items on that table – like retailers do. 

 
* Place (scheduling/location): Think about a high-traffic area – retailers pay a premium for high-traffic locations. Perhaps you can team up with several neighbors and choose the house that has the most street visibility. Knowing your target market is paramount in timing your sale. Consider scheduling with other activities in your neighborhood – art shows or community events will help draw additional traffic.  

 
* Promotion (advertising/marketing): A successful garage sale requires careful planning and promotion using proven advertising strategies to make your sale stand out. One successful strategy is choosing a theme related to the items to be sold and carrying out the theme in all aspects of the sale. For example, if most of the items to be sold are from the 1980s, you’d play 80s music, have everyone working at the sale dress in 80s style and use 80s elements in your flyers. 

 
Whatever your theme, consider the following to promote your sale: 
1. Neighborhood signs and flyers, placed on local business, PTA and school/church bulletin boards – and where permitted, on street corners or in yards.
2. Local newspaper listings and online listings like craigslist.org.
3. A social networking fan page with an event for the garage sale inviting friends and family.  
4. Your own Facebook and Twitter pages to inform your "friends” and “followers” about your event.
5. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest on the day of the sale to distribute special offers, share photos of items for sale or offer incentives for referring fans or customers.

 
Give your garage sale a facelift to keep it fresh and appealing. Borrowing effective strategies and tactics used in the merchandising and advertising industries to engage the customer and communicate with them on their terms will help to ensure your success. 

 
To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu.

Courtesy of BPT

Easy ways to renovate your kitchen


Do you think your kitchen is a mess? Are you frustrated over the fact that your toaster is not working because your coffee maker is on? This is the result of a poor electric connection that is plaguing your kitchen. Your gas might not be working with faulty supply and you are down to your last stove top. Your countertops are stained and your cabinets are broken. You have to address all the leaking taps as well. In short you are frustrated with the condition that your kitchen is in. You need a complete renovation of your kitchen, and you are not the only one.

You may have your reservations about renovating your kitchen. After all, there’s all the noise, dust and lack of mobility while your kitchen is getting renovated. Also, there is the cost factor to consider. However, with a little planning in mind you can take care of all these things in a manner that works for you. You can make use of all the resources available in the market to make sure that you have what it takes to renovate your kitchen and live through the process. It is actually a very simple process if you think about it. All the information that you have and all the products that you need are available. All you need to do is make the right choices and you are set to renovate your kitchen. Of course, your kitchen will be unavailable for use for the next few days. Therefore, you need to make sure that you have made arrangements so your daily routine is not affected. This is most important as the kitchen forms an important part of your household. Therefore, you need to make sure that you have arrangements ready as a substitute for not using your kitchen.

There are many things to consider while renovating your kitchen. You need to seek out what you require from your kitchen first. If your gas is not working, then you need to change your stoves. If you are not getting proper electric connection, then you need to change your lines. If your piping is not working, then you need to get a proper plumber. These are the essentials of a functional kitchen. Check them one by one and make sure to have a list of things to repair.

The next important factor to consider is that the renovations being done  should enhance the look of your kitchen. This would mean cosmetic modifications to your kitchen, which would come in form of countertops and cabinets. Marble countertops will give your kitchen a grand luxurious look that would enhance the quality of your kitchen. You can purchase such countertops from home or kitchen renovators. You should look for one stop shops for all your kitchen renovation needs. This will help you to get all the assistance you will need for your kitchen renovation.

by: Easy Ways to Renovating Your Kitchen

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_7266.shtml

Check out these innovative solutions for your home!

Technologies that improve and protect your home become more advanced each year. Many common problem areas could benefit from the latest unique home solutions! Here are some tips:

New eck kits enhance outdoor spaces

With the emergence of new deck materials such as solid PVC, homeowners no longer have to waste excessive time or money on deck maintenance. The vast array of rich colors and surface textures, along with stain and scratch resistant materials have made these items a smart choice over wood. Now, there are kits that accessorize these deck options.

If you’ve ever made a mad dash to retrieve cushions or other items when it rains, then in-deck storage may be in order. This clever idea provides 17.5 cubic feet of safe, dry storage space that uses the area below the deck. “You don’t have to sacrifice living space or ruin your view with unsightly plastic tubs,” says Mike Gori, maker of AZEK Deck.The storage unit’s lid sits flush with the deck surface and holds up to 500 pounds. “There are also kits for building benches with planter boxes and custom gates,” he says. “It’s never been easier to accessorize a new or existing deck.”

The caulk cure for energy costs ~ 

One of your home’s biggest money drains can be energy waste – whether it’s warm and cool air leaking out or outside temperatures sneaking in. One caulk problem happens when homeowners paint caulk too early, which can cause cracks to form, letting in air and moisture. It is essential to focus on the timing of caulk application as well as applying quality caulk to avoid unwanted air leakage. 

“What we came up with is an advanced sealant called ColorCure that actually tells you when the caulk can be painted – it turns from pink to white,” says Jason Ringling, director of marketing at Red Devil, Inc. “If you test caulk by touching the wet bead, the finish is ruined.” Another good practice is to use new caulk and sealant products that are better for the environment as well as high performance. “It’s not only environmentally friendly, but solvent-free and low VOC – and with no plasticizers it won’t leach or pick up dirt which is perfect for painted finishes,” Ringling says.

Have a great room outdoors ~ 

Shade pergolas can provide the convenience of a great room in the great outdoors for entertaining al fresco. With dignified beauty, pergolas have many style options that create a picture-perfect gathering spot near the garden or pool.

“These versatile, stylish outdoor rooms provide semi-privacy and are ideal for entertaining or relaxing with your family,” says Sue Donahue, marketing manager for Walpole Woodworkers, a leader in premium outdoor structures.

Another advantage to today’s pergola designs is the addition of protective fabric canopies that let the party go on, rain or shine. “Canopies, either operated manually or by remote control, keep furniture and outdoor decor protected at the first sign of inclement weather,” Donahue says.

Pergola styles include arched or classic straight tops, and columns are typically square, tapered, or round. A lattice screen can add more privacy and bring color to the area, with climbing plant and vines. Donahue says to look for pergolas in wood or the new wood-alternative solid PVC materials that are low maintenance and long-lasting.

Prepare for wet weather extremes ~ 

Extreme weather events can happen in a flash. Even if you’re not in an official flood zone, inches of rainfall in a matter of minutes, hurricanes and other freakish weather events can cause flooding. The experts at WAYNE Water Systems advise consumers to look for durable, reliable, worry-free water handling pumps.

“It only takes one water event to cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage, so prevention is the key, starting with a quality sump pump,” says vice president of sales Charles Murphy. “Additional layers of protection include battery back-up pumps in case of power outages and water-sensing alarms for early notification.

As homeowner Bill Bellaver of Troy, Mich. reports, his sump pump protected his home for 33 years before taking its last gasp. His friends and neighbors were not so lucky. "Our WAYNE pump has worked well without any issues, while friends with lower quality or no pumps have suffered damage or loss of valuables,” he says.

Homeowners can make smarter choices with today’s new home solutions. It’s a way to reduce hassle, save money, and add convenience to their current lifestyle.