Miss Working Out in the Yard? Winter Is a Great Time for Some Landscape Planning

I enjoy living in Chesapeake, but I have to admit that winters can be dreary. While we don’t have to contend with the snow and ice of more northern climes, it can be cold, muddy, and a bit damp here in Virginia. And as I write, it’s starting to snow. It’s enough to keep me indoors, and out of the yard that I love.

Cold or not, spring will be here soon. So while I’m cocooned here in my home, I’m already starting to imagine some possible landscaping improvements. I’m spending some time sketching, some time web browsing to clarify some ideas, and I’m making the most of my time indoors. If you, too, are stuck indoors when you would rather be out working in your yard, now is a wonderful time to do a little landscape planning.

If you don’t already have some specific plans for your yard, creating a place to keep inspiring ideas is a great way to start. Make a folder to keep clippings of any magazine articles that included something of interest. Or create a digital folder on your computer where you can keep images, notes, and links to inspiring things you find online.

Let’s say you could use some inspiration, but don’t know where to start. Why not start by searching for a favorite plant or a tree? Do you like formal gardens or casual ones? Would you like to have fruit-bearing trees or shrubs, or a garden that smells wonderful in the summertime? Perhaps you would like to surround yourself with a favorite color – purple, anyone? Finding inspiration can be as easy as searching for “purple trees and shrubs” online.

Once you find something that inspires you, use it as a starting point. Perhaps you discover that you would love to have a purple Japanese maple tree in your yard. That’s a great start. You can build on that by reading about maples online, or by visiting your local nursery and asking the staff if they could show you some purple maples that grow well where you live.

As you learn, take down notes. Save pictures. Ask questions of people who know, like a local horticulturalist or landscaper. Keep track of which plants would flourish in the sunniest parts of your yard, or underneath the shade of your largest trees. Consider which plants will fill in your open spaces quickly, or take their time to reach maturity. When you start to get a more clear idea about how you would like your yard to look, taking some measurements and pencil-sketching out some ideas is a great next step.

If you love the idea of a beautiful yard, but you’re less sure about your landscaping planning abilities, call a landscaper. A few years ago, I called Grounds Guys. They put a basic landscaping plan together for me, and then planted a selection of trees and shrubs throughout my yard. Since then, I’ve taken over the planning, but I still rely on Grounds Guys to mow my lawn and keep my yard neat and clean. They’ve also planted a couple of larger trees for me.

Later today, I’ll be sketching out some ideas to add more color to a shadier part of my yard. It will be a few weeks before I’m able to purchase the flowers and shrubs I need to execute my plans, but I don’t mind. I’m perfectly content to spend a February afternoon indoors, spending a little time thinking about my landscape when it’s too cold to be outside. Maybe you would enjoy it, too.

Green Carpet Cleaning: Another Way to Be Eco-Friendly

For most of us, being environmentally-friendly doesn’t involve any grand gestures or sweeping changes. Going green involves making a lot of small choices and showing some commitment to doing what’s right – even when it comes with a little extra cost or effort. Recycling, composting, conserving energy and water, biking to work, using biodegradable materials – all of these add up to a life that leaves a smaller impact on the environment.

When most people think of ways they can be more responsible for the environment, they don’t think about carpet cleaning. But over the past few years, that’s been changing. More carpet cleaning companies have embraced green practices that aren’t that different from the ones you employ at home.

Not so long ago, carpet cleaning required the use of harsh chemicals, soaps, and detergents. Some of these chemicals and soaps were pulled away from the carpet during the cleaning, only to eventually be poured into our water systems; those that weren’t pulled away remained on your carpet. That’s not good for the planet or for you, as introducing such substances in your home can cause allergy or asthma symptoms.

Today, green carpet cleaners use carpet cleaning solutions that are natural, non-toxic, and safe for children and pets; they use less water, and more energy-efficient machines; and they’re less likely to cause any personal health problems.

Thankfully, there are a several green carpet cleaners in the greater Chicago area – I use K & T Chem-Dry, based in Joliet. I like their carpet cleaning service because it’s both green and effective. Instead of soaps and chemicals, K & T deep-cleans the carpet with the power of carbonation and safe ingredients taken from nature; they also use a lot less water than traditional steam cleaners. Other local cleaners use methods that are also effective as well as eco-friendly.

Many of us are willing to sacrifice a bit to make the world a little better place, but insisting in green carpet cleaning isn’t one of those sacrifices. Make the eco-friendly choice, and you’ll keep some chemicals out of the environment, help to ensure your good health, and still get to enjoy a bright, clean, touchable carpet. Green carpet cleaning is a win-win.

Choosing a Hardwood Floor That Will Age Well

One reason hardwood floors are so popular is that they can retain their beauty for years. In fact, some would argue that wood floors become more beautiful with age, as they acquire a rich patina over time. But long-lasting beauty isn’t something that can be taken for granted. If you’re planning to install new floors, you should know what you’ll be able to expect from them in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the factors you’ll need to consider.

Hardwood floors come in several dozen types of woods, and the choices can be almost overwhelming. But you can focus your options on the right woods by examining your lifestyle and your priorities. If you’re particularly concerned about durability – if you’ve got pets and kids, for example – you’ll want to lean towards harder woods. If you’re a city-dweller with no pets or children, and can expect lighter traffic on your floors, a softer floor that captures your fancy might be just fine for you.

The Janka hardness test makes it easy to compare woods, and to identify better choices for your lifestyle. Red oak, a very popular wood, is considered to be average in hardness and has a Janka score of 1290. Woods such as pine, walnut, teak, and cherry are softer, have lower Janka scores, and are more likely to show marks and dents; woods such as hickory, pecan, or wenge have higher scores and will be more durable. You can find the Janka scores for a great number of woods here on Wikipedia.

As mentioned above, hardwood floors acquire a patina as they age, and this patina varies depending on the type of wood. This is especially true today, as more exotic woods are used in flooring. Wenge, for example, will darken to a near black; purpleheart can evolve from a reddish-brown to a dark purple over time. At minimum, you can expect your floor to grow lighter or darker. With that in mind, it’s clear that you should plan to choose a wood that not only looks great today, but will continue to appeal to you as its color changes over time.

There is another factor that affects the color of a wood floor, and that’s the finish. Modern floors can feature either water-based or oil-based polyurethane finishes, or can simply be oiled. Water-based poly finishes let the natural color of the wood shine through, and their own color changes little over time. Oil-based poly finishes provide their own color, lending the floor a darker, warmer, more golden tone; these finishes also tend to darken over time, and while many find that change in color pleasing, it’s certainly something you need to consider.

Although oiled finishes lack the protective sheen of their polyurethane cousins, they’re quite durable. Oiled floors tend to quickly look older and lived-in, but their surfaces are actually less subject to everyday wear and tear. Oil finishes also develop their own patina over time, so you’ll want to take care to learn what you can expect in the future.

If you’re early in the process of planning a hardwood floor installation, you ought to look for local installers that work with a variety of types of finishes as well as a large selection of woods. Not all installers employ more than one type of finish, as many strongly prefer one over the others. The installer who handled my floors, Buff & Coat, offers several types of finishes so you can choose the one that best suits your lifestyle and will complement the color of wood you plan to use.

No matter what you do, you should plan to do your homework. With any luck, you’ll be living with your hardwood floor for the next few decades. If you take the time to make smart decisions before installation, you’ll be able to love your floor for decades, too.

Finding a Service Provider for Window Replacement in Chicago

If you’re planning to replace your windows here in Chicago, you’ve got a lot to consider. The choices can be almost overwhelming, but you should be able to greatly down your options by seeking out the answers to a few basic questions.

Number and Type of Windows

The first thing to do is figure out how many windows you’ll need to install; some windows may be greater priorities than others, but you’ll probably want to replace all of your windows at once – be sure to count them all. You’ll also want to identify your priorities: Are your choices strictly-budget driven? Are you trying to increase the energy efficiency of your home? Is a handsome appearance your top priority?

Because we live in Chicago, energy-efficiency and durability in tough weather conditions should always be considered. Addressing each of these questions will help to identify the windows you’ll need to accomplish your goals.

After you begin to narrow down the composition of your windows, you’ll also want to identify any other considerations: Do you want an individual window to open? Does the space (or lack of space) around your window dictate where and how it can open?

The more questions you ask, the more questions you’ll discover. The key is to take your time, and plan to do your homework. Are you ready to begin? A simple internet search for a phrase like “replacement windows Chicago” should give you lots of results for products as well as replacement window installers in the city. You can then use this information to decide exactly which room gets which type of window.

Quality and Brand of Windows

Price is very relative in this industry because of the availability of a wide range of products for the purpose. However, you should be able to narrow down your choices by first specifying a budget. Once you establish a ballpark figure, you might adjust it depending on your new window’s ability to add to your home’s value or save money on your utility bills.

Once your budget is clarified a bit, you’ll find many online resources that display prices for particular types of window. A lot of sites will let you compare products side-by-side so you can easily see the features, advantages, and prices of each type.

Reputation of the Service Provider

The service provider you choose should be an ethically-run business that focuses on customer satisfaction above all else. To find out more about the company, you can search for reviews about them on the Internet. You can find reviews on websites like Google, Yelp, and Angie’s List.

However, take everything you read with a pinch of salt because there is no guarantee of authenticity for web information. Rather, use what you find as a guideline that tells you which providers to avoid and which might merit some consideration.

Once you have all of this information, you’ll be more confident when speaking to Chicago’s replacement window sellers and installers. You’ll know which questions to ask, the kinds of answers you’ll need, and whether or not you’re dealing with a reputable company.

How Replacement Windows Can Pay for Themselves

  Nowadays it seems as if, unless you have a new home, replacement windows are considered to be a necessity, not a luxury.  Everyone knows that by replacing your windows you can increase not only the curb appeal of your home, but the energy efficiency as well. But do they really save you enough money that the windows will actually pay for themselves over time?  Let’s see.

insulating fiberglass windowMost fiberglass replacement windows are dual pained glass with some type of gas in between the panes. When installed properly, these types of windows should save the average consumer about 25 per cent on their energy bills. This is a conservative estimate, by the way as I can attest to having just had these new windows installed. Now if you assume an average home owner has an energy bill of 100 dollars a month, the 25 per cent decrease in energy consumption would be a savings of 300 dollars per year. After 10 years, that would be a 3,000 dollar savings. Of course, this would depend on the number of windows replaced, how much the original windows cost, etc. Studies have shown that most homeowners recover the cost of their windows within 3 to 5 years. These are just estimates however and I would be wary of any window installer who said any window would completely pay for itself in a certain time period.

Insulation for Comfort in Your Home

When you are talking about home improvement, there is nothing perhaps more irritating than having windows that have little or no insulation. You feel every little draft; single pained windows just seem to radiate cold or heat. I’ve sat next to windows that, although they were obviously closed, leaked so badly that it felt as if they were open.

Replacement windows are big selling points when selling your home, they will make you much more comfortable when you are inside your home, they will pay for themselves in energy savings quickly, what other reason do you need to replace your old style windows with new replacement windows? Some people simply want a new look or feel its time for an upgrade, but unless its 75 degrees out all year around where you live my number one priority when looking to buy new windows would be how efficient they are.

Why I Stick With Chem-Dry for Carpet and Rug Cleaning

Even After I Moved to a New State

Moving from the Atlanta area to Jacksonville Florida recently for work has been a bit of a transition for me. A lot has changed, but thankfully a few things stay the same. Somehow I managed to move next to neighbors who were also Falcons fans which is a good thing, the weather is nice and there are a lot of the same stores and services I used back at my old home. One of these I found the other day I was strangely happy to find was a local Jacksonville Chem-Dry service. I used Chem-Dry for a few years before I moved and it was one of the services I could always count on.

Finding a New Carpet Cleaner

My new home was in pretty good condition overall but it needed a few touch ups. I was on the fence between having the upstairs carpeting replaced or not. I decided to see what they looked like after a deep, professional cleaning first. Naturally, I started to the online phonebook to browse through local cleaners. So my delight, sure enough my old trusty carpet cleaning company had a location in Duval county Florida, you can find their website here if you are interested. When I called I really appreciated the same friendly service and how simple it was to schedule a cleaning around when I could be home as I always like to be there when a service professional does any work.

Thankful for the Great Cleaning Results

chem-dry carpet cleaning before and after, jacksonville flIt didn’t take long into the cleaning process using the powerful, industrial strength truck mounted cleaning system to realize that the upstairs carpeting in question was more of a yellow than the shade of brown it had appeared to be just hours before. I couldn’t believe what a difference it made after the cleaning was complete. I asked the technicians what they thought about replacing the carpet after they were done with their work and they agreed that it didn’t need to be replaced at least in the short term. Im grateful for the good service and being able to save a lot of money by just needed a thorough cleaning instead of new carpets.

Handyman Services in Your Area

When was the last time that you took a good look at your home, and made up a list of everything that needs replacing or repairing?  Home improvement is a popular subject over the summertime, and if its something that you’ve been avoiding, now may be a good time to handle it.  But how do you what needs fixing, what is okay, and what is about to fail completely?

Handyman Services!

Well, if you have to ask that question – then chances are you are not a naturally born contractor at heart.  That probably also means that you aren’t down for DIY repairs – which is perfectly okay!  I’m exactly the same way, and whenever it comes to home based repairs, maintenance, or improvement projects, I will always rely on the assistance of a reliable Handyman here in Richmond VA.  If you aren’t really sure what needs to be repaired outside of cosmetic damage, then a good knowledgeable handyman can walk through your home with you and discuss everything that they see.  These suggestions for repairs are really helpful for understanding everything that could be improved in your home, and if something is going to need attention shortly down the road.

One handyman in my area (visit their website) has been outstanding when it comes to being honest, offering suggestions, and getting a job done correctly and professionally.  Best part – they are affordable too.  But what if you don’t have a handyman or contractor in mind already?  That’s simple, it just takes a little bit of research and then a couple of in-home estimates and walkthroughs before it’s pretty clear who is worth hiring and who is going to be a hassle.

For the best results, I really recommend getting the low-down on the reputation of at-least 5 or 10 companies in your area that offer the service you are looking for.  From there, take the best 3-5 from that list and schedule a walkthrough in your home.  Make sure that you take notes while going through your house, and compare them after all of the walkthroughs are finished.  Pay attention to how the contractor or handyman behaves, how polite they are, and what they seem to pay attention to the most.  These things will paint a pretty clear picture of their work ethic in the end, and is invaluable when trying to determine the quality of work they are going to provide.

Is Custom Furniture the Best Option?

Solve Your Interior Decorating Issues

The benefits:

Interior decorating can be both fun and stressful. When you aren’t sure what you want, there is an overwhelming selection to choose from. People spend hours filtering through their options for lamps, rugs, and color schemes for different rooms. On the other hand, some people know exactly what they want. In these instances, it can be difficult to find items that fall into the correct categories you are looking for.

If you know what you are looking for or are having trouble finding the things you would like, consider investing in a custom designer. Having someone custom making your furniture means that you can supervise the entire process from start to finish.

Purchasing custom furniture is also great because it is not necessarily expensive. Large furniture stores have warehouses to hold their leftover inventory. This can be extremely expensive because furniture is so large and its storage takes up a decent amount of square footage.

Another advantage of buying custom is that if you have a unique house, you may have trouble finding pieces that fit. For instance, curved walls and triangular shaped rooms make it difficult to find furniture that fits into the nooks or stand against the wall without taking up extra space.  480px-Vedel_childrens_furniture_gh

If you are finished decorating and find that you only need a couple more piece to fill some space, custom furniture is perfect for you. For instance, you may have the chairs set up and need a coffee table with specific dimensions to fit in the center. Have a glass table top custom cut from a company like Glass Doctor, who start with an in-home consultation to find your exact needs and measurements.

The risk:

You always run the risk of having the furniture not look exactly how you had imagined. This could be an issue because you can’t return a custom item. Someone else might not want the exact piece you designed.

You could also run a risk of timing. You may need the furniture by a certain date, but if it isn’t complete it will not arrive. Builders could have hold ups from waiting for the correct materials or having the labor take longer than they had planned. A premade piece of furniture is ready to go, although it will never have the value of being a piece that you custom designed.

A Good Reason to Schedule a Visit from an Electrician

Even though winter’s high utility bills have given way to the less stress-inducing bills of late spring, I’ve had the nagging feeling that I’m paying too much for power each month. By that, I mean that I might be using more energy than I should be – and paying for it each month.

I’m not the greatest at doing all of the little things to save energy, but I try. In the winter, I set the temperature to be a little lower than I’d like, and this summer, I’ll try to go without air conditioning as much as I can – instead keeping cool with ceiling fans that don’t use as much energy. I’ve replaced several light-bulbs with the newer, m type, and I turn lights out when I leave the room. Maybe it doesn’t add up to that much, but it’s something.

Then I started thinking about what uses the most energy in my house: after my heating and air system, that would be the range of appliances that I own. I have no idea if they’re efficient or not – not sure if they’re Energy Star-rated or if they’re going through electricity like they’re no tomorrow. Then I realized that I didn’t know if my house itself was efficient – or if it was letting air in and out like a sieve. I needed a few answers, and didn’t know where to get them.

As it turns out, many electricians in my hometown of Littleton are happy to provide answers for you; they can visit your home, and audit everything from the light bulbs you’re using to the spaces around your doors and windows where drafts could be making it harder for you to heat or cool your home. Your electrician will review your utility bills, ask you questions, and get a sense about how you use the devices in your home.

The purpose of this audit is to generate ideas. Once the audit is completed, the electrician will be able to relate where your energy is going and steps you can take to stem the flow. For example, I tried to be good with my temperature in my home, but I know now that a programmable thermostat would take things an extra step; it would cut back on my heating and cooling when I was at work, and not around to enjoy the temperature anyway.

All in all, my home was in a little better shape than I expected. My energy usage is no worse than average for people with similar homes and households. My house isn’t too leaky and my appliances – generally speaking – aren’t that inefficient. Cutting back on the heating in air five days a week should be enough to should get me ahead of the curve.

It’s too early to say how much on an impact my programmable thermostat will have on my energy usage, but I’m hoping to make my investment back in the next couple of years. In the meantime, I feel like I’ve done something good for the planet and for my budget. Having one of Littleton’s electricians audit my home was definitely time well-spent.

Staying Cool in Stafford VA

Stafford VA is a great place to live in Virginia, located close to Washington DC but far enough away that families can avoid the hassle and inconveniences of living in a big city. Winters are cold, but the summers are also hot. When you are located in an area with warm summers, it is important to have a great HVAC system and maybe even an outdoor pool. For air conditioning in Stafford VA, call a professional who specializes in installation and repairs.

When choosing your go-to HVAC business in Virginia, remember that some of these companies can help you out with other services. Instead of having a separate company for plumbing, appliance, electronics, and HVAC, you can find one that does it all. This way, you will have less research and can put all of your trust in one company. Some may even have loyalty programs that will benefit you with discounts in the long run.

It is so important to have an emergency handy man because there are so many things that can go wrong in your home at a moment’s notice. For example, your house could be struck by lightning and you may immediately need an electrician to inspect further damage. A blockage in your pipes could cause a sewage backup in your house, and you would need to immediately call a plumber. If your washing machine or drier stopped working, you would need to call a professional before your laundry load piled up.

As a homeowner, make the responsible choice to research businesses that can cover all of your needs ahead of time.

 

 

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