Some Landscaping Help for My Unkempt Yard

My father came out to visit a few days ago, and he was struck by how bleak Norfolk can look in December. In a couple of months, many of the bare trees will look stately – almost elegant. But now, many trees that looked wonderful in the fall don’t look so good. Despite the fact that it’s almost winter, trees are giving up their leaves reluctantly, ensuring that walkways and parking lots stay difficult to keep neat and tidy.

I realized that Norfolk doesn’t look bleak or grey so much as it looks a little unkempt this time of year. When people aren’t heading out for some last-minute Christmas shopping or a holiday get-together, they’re staying indoors. People aren’t taking the time to keep things neat, to smartly pick up little pieces of trash and debris. Brown leaves are blowing about. Lawns are filled with ugly thatch and the occasional brown spots where leaves were allowed to press down on the grass for too long.

I can understand why people don’t want to do a lot of yard work this time of year. I don’t either. While I look for excuses to stay outdoors in the spring or summer, now I’m looking for reasons to stay in. They’re easy to find: It’s cold. It’s dark. I’m busy. It’s football season, and I’d rather watch a game than collect the leaves that have gathered under my shrubs. But I do want a neat yard. I decided it was time to find a landscaping and lawn care company to help out this winter.

I knew that a couple of my neighbors used landscaping companies. Both of their yards looked good – even now, when everyone else’s was looking a little haggard. Two different landscapers were performing the work, and my neighbors were kind enough to provide recommendations and contact information for both.

Before calling either company, I looked them up online to see what else I could find. Mostly I wanted to make sure that the online reviews didn’t provide any red flags. Thankfully, they didn’t, but it always pays to look. I also noticed another landscaper that got promising reviews – another prospect for me to check out.

Now it was time for a quick phone call to each landscaper. My mission was simple: I wanted to make sure that these were well-established companies. I wanted to get a sense of the professionalism of the company – one I would get just from talking to whomever picked up the phone. And I wanted to get a bi-weekly rate. I figured the rates would be about the same, and anything too low or too high would be a red flag. As it turned out, there weren’t any red flags to be seen – but only one of Norfolk’s landscaping companies would get my business.

What finally won out was the rapport I had with the owner of one of the companies. I got the feeling that he was someone I could trust to get the job done right. I thought that – if his landscaping crews did well enough – I’d keep using them even after the grey of winter gives way to the green of spring. I don’t mind yard work in the springtime, but I think I’ll find plenty of other excuses to stay outside.

Finding a Replacement Window Installer

When you’re looking to upgrade your home, don’t forget about your windows. If your home is more than a couple of decades old, and you’ve got the original windows, those windows may be out-of-date – even close to failure. Here in Boston, early winter is the worst possible time to have your windows fail on you; if your windows are cracking, leaking, or showing other signs of trouble, you need to find a replacement window company sooner rather than later.

When you start your search, plan to spend some time and effort. Start by asking your friends and neighbors for advice. At least one or two ought to have recently replaced their windows; if you trust their judgment, it never hurts to ask for a recommendation. You might discover who to trust – and who to avoid. The Internet is also a great place to search for a contractor. You can find customer reviews and phone numbers for any installer in town. Don’t let this wealth of information slip through your fingers.

So how will you know a good window company when you find one? The best ones will not only help you find the right replacement windows for your home, but they will also offer expert replacement window installation services.

Once you’ve found your window company, they’ll help you discover which windows are right for your home. Many types of windows are out there and they all have their own benefits. Living in Boston, you probably want energy-efficient windows that let in lots of natural light. Look for windows that can lower your energy costs throughout the year, as you’ll spend less money heating and cooling your home during the various seasons.

After walking you through everything and helping you choose the windows you need, the right company will complete the installation themselves. When it comes to something as important as your windows, you want an experienced professional to handle the entire process. Improper installation could cause you tremendous grief in the future. Instead, do your homework, play it safe, and don’t settle for anything less than one of the best replacement window installers that Boston has to offer.

Is Your Hardwood Floor Thick Enough to Refinish?

If you’ve lived with your hardwood floor for a few years, it may be starting to show a little wear and tear. And maybe you’re starting to wonder if that floor can be refinished; as it turns out, not every hardwood floor is a good candidate for it. Let’s take a look at one important factor – wood thickness – and see how it affects your options.

If you’re considering a refinishing, the thickness of your flooring is the first thing you’re going to need to know. If you’ve got a solid wood floor, chances are it was originally either 5/16” or 3/4” in thickness. However, a small fraction of an inch – anywhere from 1/32 of an inch to a tenth – will be lost each time the floor is sanded down for a refinishing. The shallower your floorboards become, the easier it becomes to accidentally sand down to the subfloor – and the more likely you’ll want to rely on a professional floor refinisher.

Some solid wood floors can be sanded more deeply than others. If you’ve got plank flooring, you’ll be able to sand through most of the plank and still expect great results. Tongue-and-groove floors cannot be sanded as deeply, as this would eliminate the connections that bond the individual boards together. As professionals should be able to more effectively and evenly sand the floor – removing less wood in the process – you may want to seek professional refinishing help for tongue-and-groove floors.

Many people wonder if they can refinish their engineered flooring. The answer is, maybe. Engineered hardwood floors feature a veneer that is much shallower than the typical 5/16” or 3/4” thickness of solid wood. The thickness of this veneer will be measured in millimeters; this thickness can vary greatly, from .5 to 5 millimeters. If the veneer’s thickness is close to the maximum of 5 millimeters (just under 1/5”), the floor could potentially be re-sanded once or twice.

If you’re considering refinishing an engineered floor, a consultation with a professional would be a good idea. If you have the original paperwork and warranty information on the floor, these documents may also have the insight you need: the veneer thickness and whether or not refinishing is recommended. Whether you plan on doing the work on your own, or having your floors professionally done, you’ll definitely want to consult any original paperwork you’ve got.

If you find that your floor doesn’t have the requisite thickness for complete refinishing, you may also want to consider a sandless floor restoration option, such as the one my local refinisher, Buff & Coat, offers. You may find that the less intensive, and less expensive, sandless options can restore your flooring to the point where you no longer want a complete sanding and refinishing. No matter which method you choose, here’s to hoping that your hardwood floor again becomes a source of pride and pleasure for you.

‘Tis The Season For New Electronics – Can Your Electrical Panel Handle Them?

Christmas is coming, and that means that another wave of electronic devices is coming to your home. And everything from that bigger fridge to your son’s new gaming console to your wife’s new tablet will be drawing more energy from your home’s electrical system. There’s one question you might want to be asking: Is your house’s electrical panel up to the task? If you’ve got an older panel, the answer may be no.

I know that my electrical panel won’t have any problem meeting my home’s power demands this holiday season, and shouldn’t for the next several years. But two winters ago, this wasn’t the case.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my old panel was rated at 60 amps. When it was initially installed, the owner probably imagined that a 60-amp panel could handle anything he’d ever try to fit in this house. And perhaps that was true then, but it hasn’t been true for some time. In a medium-sized home like this one, with moderate electrical demands, that panel could be overmatched.

So by the time Denver’s typically cold winter weather pushed our heating system to its limit, we started to see signs that the main panel was also maxed-out. The first signs were flickering lights – something I mistakenly associated with a strong winter wind. Then came the tripped breakers; once that started to happen, it occurred with alarming regularity. We were on the phone to Mister Sparky of Denver – a local electrical contractor – within a couple of days after the breaker tripped the first time.

I learned that the breakers were tripping in order to prevent our electrical system from being overloaded. And I learned that my system was being overloaded because our decades-old panel – not to mention the out-dated wiring – wasn’t able to deal with today’s power demands. Finally, I learned that a 100-amp panel would be more in line with the electrical demands of our home.

While a 100-amp panel was more than our home needed then – or now – I’m hoping that this panel lasts as long as the last one did. It had better, because upgrading the panel also required quite a bit of peripheral work including a new meter and some new wiring. It was a lot of work – and all of it needed to be correct and up-to-code; this was work that requires a licensed contractor – not a non-professional.

If you’ve got an older home, and don’t think that your panel or wiring have been upgraded for quite some time, I’d suggest arranging for a professional inspection. A licensed electrical contractor will be able to assess the state of your system and its ability to power your heating and air, appliances, and other devices in your home. I wish I’d had my system inspected earlier – if only to give me a heads-up that I had a major upcoming household expense that would require some budgeting adjustments. Here’s to hoping you learn from my experience.

This Fall’s Annual Project: Updating My Shower

Just about everywhere you look inside of my Vermont home, you can see a bit of my handiwork. That’s because when it gets cold outside, I like to stay busy inside where it’s nice and warm. Over the last few cold seasons, I’ve installed wood flooring, laid down slate tiles, replaced my kitchen cabinets and backsplash, and brought my laundry room into the twenty-first century.

This year, I’d like to turn my attention to the master bath. I’m feeling pretty ambitious. I know I’d like to replace the drywall, install a new vanity and toilet, and tile the floor. The question I’m stuck on is whether or not I want to install a new shower door, or if I want to pay a professional to do it.

Before I can answer that question, I need to figure out what kind of shower door I want. That’s important for at least a couple of reasons. First, it will help me decide if a new door and a professional installation are both in my budget. Second, the difficulty of installation varies with the type of door. I’m pretty handy, but I’ve never installed a shower door before.

After making a visit to a nearby shower door showroom at Portland Glass, I’ve narrowed my decision to either a frameless design or a semi-frameless design. I love the clean, open look of the frameless doors – it’s almost like the door isn’t even there. Semi-frameless doors are almost – but not quite – as new and sleek looking. Both are a vast improvement over the curtain I use now.

With all else being equal, I’d go with the frameless shower door design. But there are two important considerations:

• First, the frameless designs cost a few hundred dollars more than the semi-frameless.
• Second, the frameless designs are more difficult to install – given their expense, thicker glass, and greater weight, these are probably beyond my comfort level.

At an earlier stage in my plans, I was hoping that I could ease a more expensive shower door into my budget by performing the installation myself. Now I know that frameless designs – as lovely as they are – don’t present that option to someone not used to installations like this.

I went back to the glass store, and looked almost exclusively at the semi-frameless designs this time. And it occurred to me that one of the shower doors would look really good paired with the new vanity I had in mind – both shared antique bronze elements similar to others that looked great elsewhere in my home. Maybe that semi-frameless design could win over my heart as well as my mind.

As cold weather approaches and I get ready for this fall’s home improvement work, my shower door has been special-ordered. It will arrive around the time I’ll want to stay cozy indoors. I haven’t yet decided if I will install it myself, but I’m comfortable with handling the work myself. I can’t wait to see how nice my updated bathroom looks by the time spring arrives.

Exterior Home Improvements – Painters

When it comes to home improvements around the neighborhood, nothing stands out more than a freshly painted home. Just recently, I had my home re-painted and it’s something that makes me smile every day as I return home from work. If you are considering having your home’s exterior painted, there are a few things you should consider.

Paint it Yourself, or Hire a Company?

This is a question that will really depend on your skill set, preference, and the amount of time you have available to devote to the project. Typically speaking, painting a home’s exterior can be a difficult task if you approach the project without the right knowledge. There are a lot of helpful websites out there that will better prepare you for the coming task, and for information specifically on painting the exterior of your home you can look here.

Of course, some of you may not readily jump at the opportunity to paint your home on your own – which is perfectly fine, as I’m the type of person that would prefer to hire a contractor to handle the job personally. When it comes to hiring someone to paint your home, it’s important to do some research on that contracting group, or the company that you are considering hiring. Look for reviews online (Angie’s List is very helpful), and be sure to get a quote from a few options in your area. I personally wound up hiring The Carpentry & Painting Experts and they provided some of the best painters in Richmond VA – something I’ve very pleased with.

Painting the exterior of your home is a great investment – and it personalizes your house to fit you and your taste perfectly. Enhance the curb appeal and value of your home, and impress your neighbors all at the same time with a fresh, vibrant coat of paint!

The Benefits Of Andersen Windows

window with a viewWindows are great. If you are a homeowner, you probably already know that replacement windows do a lot for your home because they allow us to see the great outdoors without leaving the comfort of our home and much more. They let you watch the snow fall as enjoy a hot beverage. But with so many window manufacturers out there, it may be hard to see the difference between producers and find the right one to go with. If you’re looking for new windows for your home, you should go with Andersen Windows. Here are some of the benefits of Andersen Windows.

  • Clarity you can see. Windows are great to look through but when they aren’t clear, they don’t serve their purpose very well. Andersen Windows are the clearest windows you’ll find on the market, made with the highest quality glass around.
  • They are great insulators. Your house loses a lot of energy through its windows. In the wintertime, this can add up to hundreds of dollars on your energy bill. Andersen Windows are made to insulate your home, so that it can maintain temperatures in the winter and summer. Nothing is worse than having a cold house in January and an unbearably hot home in August.
  • Security you can count on. Windows are another way to enter and exit your home. Although you may not be crawling through them everyday, it is in your best interest to make sure no one else can either. Andersen Windows are strong enough to stand up to the greatest pressure, so you can feel safe from danger. These windows will make your home more secure than before.

If you live in or near Philadelphia including Wilmington and Northern Delaware and could benefit from insulating replacement windows, I would recommend giving rbawindowsphiladelphia.com a visit. The benefits of Andersen Windows are very easy to see. You’ll feel safe knowing they’re protecting your home and you’ll enjoy looking through them year after year. They’re a great investment in your home as they both protect your family from the elements and save you money on your energy bill. Don’t let this window of opportunity close! Upgrade your home’s windows today.

Energy Efficient Replacement Windows

If you live in Pittsburgh, you are familiar with replacement windows. In cities where the climate is warm in the summer and cold in the winter, it’s important to upgrade your windows to keep your house a comfortable temperature. Since you will be using the heat or air conditioner throughout any season, having energy efficient windows can truly help you reduce your energy bills while reducing noise and keeping your house at a desirable temperature.

When choosing Pittsburgh replacement windows, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind. Different materials like wood and vinyl, different window styles such as double hung or casement, and different types of glass can make a huge difference in quality and price. One pieces of information that often gets overlooked is the U factor and R Value of a window.

What is a U-Factor and R-Value?

Together, these factors tell how well-insulated a window is and how it transfers heat. The U-Factor picshows how quickly a window loses heat, or transfers heat back and forth. On the other hand, the R-Value says how well a certain material contains heat. In mathematical terms, U is the inverse of R (or U = 1/R).

A higher U factor means that a material loses heat quickly, while a lower U factor means there is more resistance to the flow of heat. Typically, an energy efficient window has a U factor of 3 or lower. This is important to take note of in cold climates where building use lots of heat. A U factor also takes other conditions into account, such as how sunlight reflects of a window pane or is absorbed into the material.

The R value is a simpler number. This refers to specific materials and their ability to insulate or resist the transfer of heat. The R value is based off of conduction and resistance. A higher value means better insulation while a lower value means the material transfers heat easily.

Making sure your windows have the appropriate U factor and R value is a great way to ensure they will be truly energy efficient before installation. Click here for more information.

Redoing Your Kitchen Cabinets

Your Wood Cabinet Options

Kitchen remodeling can be a huge pain. It’s difficult to rip apart a room you use every day of your life, and redoing it can be extremely expensive. When it comes to old worn cabinets, don’t jump to the conclusion that they need to be replaced. You may be able to avoid the headache and look into some other cheaper, easier options.

Resurfacing and Refacing

The least desirable option is to reface or resurface your cabinets or drawers. This means that you will have to remove the laminate finish or veneer that currently covers your cabinets and replace them. For the sake of consistency, you may have to also reface the sides of cabinets or whatever components are visible. Veneers are thin wood coverings often applied to cover a different material. If your cupboards do not have veneers, refacing will not make sense unless you replace pieces altogether.wooden cabinets

Refinishing

A less expensive option is to refinish your cabinets. This means that the entire cabinet is left intact, but the color or finish is changed. First, the wood is sanded down or chemically stripped. Then, a new stain (which could also be colored) is applied to the fresh surface. You could also apply paint before adding a finishing coat. This process costs about a third less of the cost of refacing or resurfacing cabinets. The downside is that the sanding can leave particles in the air and all over your kitchen surfaces. Likewise, chemical stripping can leave behind noxious fumes.

Renewing

An alternative to these methods is to renew your cupboards. This process is the simplest, least harmful, and least expensive of all options. A deep clean will remove grease and grains of dirt deep inside the crevices of your cabinets’ wood surface. The current coating will also be scrubbed away. Next, a polyurethane finish is applied to the wood for a newer look. Companies such as N-Hance use this method as an alternative to cabinet refacing in Richmond.

Whether or not you can use each of these methods will depend heavily on the state of your current cupboards. Do they have a laminate coating or veneers? Are they already painted white? Are they so worn out that you are really for new doors and hinges all together? Whatever you decide, know that you have options when it comes to fixing up your cabinets!

Fall Cleaning in Your Home

‘Tis The Season!

Each year, most people go on a spring cleaning rampage to get rid of clutter and clear out their homes. Have you ever considered fall cleaning instead? Now that the weather is getting cooler in Charlottesville, you will probably be spending more time indoors. It’s a great time to get things clean and in order so you can enjoy your time inside!

Bathrooms

Get rid of all of the pollen, dust, and other allergens lurking in your cooling unit. For example, you can easily clean your fans with a canned air blast. Just make sure that you don’t inhale the residue. Yobathroom cleaningu should also check the drawers that hold your towels, toothpaste, and other bathroom necessities to make sure they haven’t been collecting dust. These areas of the house often go overlooked and become magnets for hair, dust, and other particles.

You should also get rid of any of the mildew in your bathroom. Not only does this mold give off an unpleasant odor, it can also be harmful to your respiratory system. Luckily, a solution of chlorine and warm water can easily scrub off the mildew spots. Get rid of any molding shower liners- they are easy to replace. If you are experiencing recurring mildew that spreads over a large area of your walls, you may have a deeper issue and should consider calling a professional.

Kitchen

If you have a gas stove, now is a great time to clean out the burners. Cold weather means extra use of the stove for cooking soup, chili, spaghetti, and other hot meals. Take this opportunity to clean with a vinegar solution or another kitchen cleaner. Use steel wool to scrape off hardened pieces of burnt food and end with a polishing agent.

Kitchen CleaningLike your bathroom, take the time to clear out all of the pots and pans in your cupboard and give them a good scrub. We are often more covered with how clean our pans are then how clean their homes are. In this instance, use a gentle organic cleaner to scrub the wood. You don’t want harmful chemicals touching your food utensils!

Fall cleaning is a great way to kick off a new season in Charlottesville! Don’t forget to wipe down the areas of your home that you may use the least often because they are probably the main dirt-collecting areas.