Matching your Fencing to the Style of Your Home

Adding a fence is an excellent way to improve the design of your home as well as add value to it.  But before you jump into the process of installing fencing at your humble abode, you need to carefully think about what type is ideal for your home. Do you need privacy from nosey neighbors?  Security to keep out the bad guys?  Maybe a barrier to keep your pets and children from running off into the streets?   Below are a few suggestions on finding the right style for your home that I found through the guys at Fencing Unlimited.

Ranch Home?  Try Split Rail Fencing

Split rail fencing is a great way to give your home a rustic touch.  This style of fencing is a little rough split rail fence
around the edges and has a natural feel to it.  Its low profile and long lines mimic the design of ranch homes and a rough wood offers a complementary texture against a brick home. This style fence holds a strong history to it being fairly prevalent during the American civil war. They were traditionally constructed using American chestnut but now a days it’s fairly common to see cedar being used. You can still see historical examples all throughout central VA and Richmond VA on the many civil war battle grounds.

 

Simple Two-Story?  Try Picket Fencingpicket

For your basic, two-story home, opt for fence installation with picket fencing.  These fences can be as tall as you desire and their long, lean profile mimics that of the home.  This is a classic fence design that works well with a wide variety homes and allows your home to remain in clear view, perfect for those who live in subdivisions.  This style was first popularized during the colonial days of the American Revolutionary War.

Long Lasting and Low Maintenance?  Try Vinyl Fencing

Finally, if you’re looking for a fence with many benefits then you should definitely make sure not to overlook the Vinyl option. The vinyl breakthrough has been around since the 1980’s bringing strength and durability to everyone that chooses to use it.  Compared to wood it’s strength is fivefold. There are no toxic chemicals used to treat it like wood does. You will also find that there are many color optionslong white fence
and the cost is usually cheaper than wood or other metals. This is actually the same type of fencing that I had purchased from the folks at Fencing Unlimited back in 2005 and it’s still holding strong. It’s battled all the weather elements that Richmond provides us and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. I would say that I would continue to do business with them again but it looks like my fence has a long life to live. However, if you were thinking about new fencing somewhere in the near future then definitely give them a call!

The Benefits of Granite Countertops

wooden cabinets

Thinking about redoing your kitchen or bath?  If so, one of the harder decisions you must make is determining what material you would like for your countertops.  Many home owners are tempted to go cheap in order to keep the cost of their remodel down.  However, if you are taking the plunge, you should go all the way and opt for a natural stone.

And out of the natural stones available to you, granite countertops have by far become the most popular option. Here are a few reasons for this:

Value Retention

Unlike synthetic countertops, granite retains its value over time.  As it is incredibly durable, there is little that will cause it to depreciate in value.  Also important is that it adds to the overall value of your home.  Should you decide to sell, it is features such as granite countertops that could make the difference and make the sale.

They also don’t have to cost nearly as much as most people think. Most companies have a “request quote” option so you can get a local estimate easily enough. When in doubt, try a local store of a national chain such as Home Depot.

Sanitation

Setting it apart from other natural stone, granite is not porous.  This means that nothing can penetrate the stone.  While other types of countertops might hold onto smells and nasty germs, granite will maintain its integrity and keep your home healthier.  And cleaning it is much easier.  While there are granite specific cleaners on the market, simple soap and water will go just as far.

 Heat Resistance

Granite countertops are true stars in the kitchen.  As they are heat resistant, you do not need to worry about placing your baking dishes, pots, and pans directly onto it.  This makes it especially attractive for use in kitchen islands as it makes serving food easier—simply go from stove top to counter top without worry.  Cooking for family and guests will become a bit easier when there is one less thing to worry about.

More

There are plenty of other reasons for going with granite for your countertops. Here’s a link to one of the better FAQ resources I’ve seen. It’s by a major retailer in Richmond called Granite Source.

Learn from My Heating Mistakes!

It happened again. I can’t believe it. My furnace just shut down last week and it dropped to 12 degrees that same night! I am sooo over this this ridiculous winter! I moved from Boston to Baltimore to get away from the white stuff! Oh well, at least we don’t get as much snow down here. Anyway, back to my furnace woes…

Having lived in the Central Maryland area for only a few months, it really bugs me that I’ve had an HVAC repair tech out here twice already for the same problem. I’d finally had it, so I did a little research and found a new company called Arundel Cooling and Heating. They came out just once and fixed the problem within minutes. As it turns out, it was a short than kept happening because a previous repair guy (not to mention any names) had taken a wire and wrapped tape around an exposed portion instead of replacing it. It worked most of the time, but would occasionally hit the side of the metal cabinet and cause a ground fault.

Had I needed a new system, I just found out that the Government sometimes offers specials, rebates and grants for homeowners who wish to save energy with their HVAC systems. Check out this link http://energy.gov/savings/hvac-equipment-rebate-program

Why get into so much detail? Because it might be able to help you out of a future jam. It turns out that less reputable contractors and so-called experts do this stuff all the time. Here are some of the main things to watch out for:

Are they billing by the hour or by the job? This is important. If someone is billing by the job, and has a big backlog to take care of, you want to be certain they have a stellar reputation for honesty. This is because it’s they have more to gain by getting out as quickly and cheaply as possible. On the other hand, an hourly job (plus the cost of parts) is usually going to do everything possible – and then some.

Above all else, use reputable contractors for all tasks, whether they are hourly or by the job. Arundel did an amazing job for me, and it cost about the same as the guy who first used the tape shortcut (as you can imagine – it was a cost per job deal).

Another quick tip is to always check online reviews. If the company you want to use, to fix your furnace for example, has a five star rating on Google+, Yelp or Angie’s List – they are probably a good fit and worth trying out.

I hope this helps. I wish someone had given me this advice, years ago. Good luck!

The Steps to Replacing Your Windows

How Much will Replacement Windows Cost?

Any time you are looking to make an improvement in your home, budgeting is the first step. For some projects, it’s easy to do a quick online comparison to see what you need to expect. For others, it’s more complicated, and you need to set an appointment for further details.

When it comes to home replacement windows, there are many variables at play. How many windows need to be replaced?  What size are they?  Do you have any specialty windows (bay, bow, etc)?  Are you looking for special features, such as tilt out, blinds inside, or energy efficiency?  Do you want them tinted or with another coating? Is safety glass important to you?  All of these factors will change how much you spend. In order to get an accurate budget, you need to take the following steps.

Decide on Special Features

Take some time to research various window features online.  Don’t be afraid to get a little lost on Google for a day to really get yourself informed.  There are likely more features than you imagine and you might discover a few that you simply must have in order to make life easier.  Once you know what features you want in your home replacement windows, rank them in order of importance.

Take Measurements of Your Windows

Depending on your window styles, this might get a little tricky.  Most windows are easy to measure—and there are guides online to guide you in the process.  However, bay windows and bow windows can be difficult to measure on your own.  Keep in mind that getting the measurements perfect isn’t a big deal unless you are planning to order the windows yourself.  The purpose of this is more to get a close estimate from a professional.

Set Up and Appointment with a Home Replacement Window Contractor

Finally, take your prioritized wish list and measurements to a replacement window contractor.  He or she will be able to show you potential options and create an estimate that will include labor, giving you the most accurate idea of what you will be spending.

Can Your Carpet Bounce Back, or Is It Down for the Count?

Eventually, any carpet that receives regular traffic will need to be replaced – no matter how expertly or regularly it’s professionally cleaned. The soft, even texture you love will eventually flatten and lose its looks. But that won’t happen overnight. Chances are, you’ll someday reach the point where you’ll wonder if it’s time to call on the steam cleaners to work their magic, or if it’s finally time to think about replacing that carpet altogether.

For many of us, new carpet represents a considerable investment. If and when that’s the case, choosing to replace that carpet won’t easy. But here are some ideas to keep in mind if your carpet has seen better days, and you’re wondering if a thorough professional cleaning is the best move, or if it’s time to think about replacing that carpet altogether. In this article, we’ll look at carpets that have lost their shape. As it turns out, some carpets are more likely to regain that shape after a cleaning than others.

Over time, traffic presses carpet down. Pressed-down carpet lays flat, and loses its softness and appearance. But some types of carpet fight to stay upright and retain their youthful shape better than others: wool, nylon, and DuPont’s Serona® carpeting are three examples. These types of carpeting feature stronger, more resilient fibers. After a cleaning, the tufts of a wool, nylon, or Serona carpet are more likely to stand again and regain their looks. Many synthetic carpets, on the other hand, are more prone to losing their shape and staying down flat.

Do you know what kind of carpeting you’ve got? Many of us don’t, but it’s not that difficult to identify what your carpet is made of. Snip a tiny piece of carpet from an inconspicuous place, like the inside of a closet. Next you’re going to want to gently burn the piece of carpet – preferably outside, as the piece of carpet may melt or create a bad odor.

Hold the piece of carpet with cheap tweezers or a paper clip, and light it on fire. If your piece of carpet burns and crumbles, it’s made of a natural fiber – more than likely wool. If you do have a wool carpet, you can count on to holds its shape very well and be exceptionally resistant to stains. Wool carpeting is also expensive – a big investment that can and should be maintained by a professional carpet cleaner like Chem-Dry. You can also count on a wool carpet to bounce back nicely after a steam cleaning.

If your carpet melts, it’s made of a synthetic material like nylon, polyester, or acrylic. Note the odor created. With any luck, you can match the odor to the kind of carpet you’ve got. Here’s a quick guide:

• Nylon – Burning plastic
• Serona – Plant or vegetable, like celery
• Polyester – Chemical, slightly sweet
• Olefin – Asphalt
• Acrylic – Strong meaty, fishy, or chemical
• Rayon – Paper or wood

Once you know your type of carpeting, you have a better idea about how much it might be able to recover. Of the types of carpeting listed above, nylon and Serona are most likely to rebound and recover their shape after a cleaning. The others are more likely to stay down, meaning that you’ll need to replace your carpet in order to get that pleasing soft shape that you’ve been missing.

Regardless of the type of carpet you’ve got, you should remember that occasional steam cleanings are needed in order to extend the life of your carpet. These cleanings remove the soil and grit that damages carpet fibers and accelerate the process of wear. If you’ve got a carpet that you don’t want to replace anytime soon, a professional carpet cleaning will help your carpet look better and brighter, for longer.

Home Improvement Options for Mobility Issues

Helping Those with Limitations

Some people have trouble getting around their home. They could be handicapped, recovering from an injury, or simply aging and needing some additional assistance. There are several small improvements you can make in any home to aid those who are having difficulty moving around. These adjustments can go a long way in giving others some additional independence in their daily lives.

Rails and Benches

First of all, installing railings is a key element in bathrooms and around other areas of the house. For someone who has trouble sitting down without losing their balance or hurting their joints, rails around toilet seats, bathtubs, and seating areas can be a huge help. In fact, to some it could be the difference between functioning on their own or using an elder care program such as Seniors Helping Seniors.

For those who are fatigued easily, having extra seating around the house lets them sit down as soon as they need to without straining themselves. To some, it can be difficult even getting from the couch to the bathroom. In these situations, placing stable benches in hallways, in the kitchen, and in any other unfurnished stretches in the house gives people an easy way to relax at any moment of the day.

There are little things that people will need to get up and do from time to time that can be eliminated. For example, turning off the lights and adjusting the thermostat are simple for those who can get up and walk to the fixtures quickly. Now, imagine recovering from knee surgery and needing to turn off a light.

Lights

As far as lighting goes, you could install motion light sensors or clapping sensors. This way, the lights will automatically switch on or off without you having to get up and walk to a certain control. The only issue is, sometimes you may want a light off while you are in the living room to watch TV or have some other complication. There may be some instances where it is essential to get up. Call your local electrician for assistance with installing a new system.

Thermostats

A programmable thermostat means that you can set temperatures for certain times of the day. For instance, preset the temperature to be 73 degrees from 7am-10pm, and then set the temperature to drop to 70 degrees between 10pm and 7am the next morning. To take it a step further, a remote controlled thermostat will allow you to make changes as you like throughout the day.

These simple home improvement tips can go a long way to someone depending on others for help. Help seniors or anyone else suffering from mobility issues keep their independence and stay happy and healthy in their homes for as long as possible.

Replacement Windows Can Brighten Your Outlook

Boston is home to some of the most beautiful urban landscapes in the world; the hills, the tree-lined streets, and the rivers all make for an uncommonly pretty urban area. Here in this landscape is your home, your castle. You can look out on this picturesque world from your living room and can appreciate the beauty that’s within your view.

But if your windows have seen better days, the otherwise inspiring view may not move you at all. If your windows are looking ratty, or are drafty, it might be time to get some new ones. New replacement windows in Boston are not hard to find and there are many to choose from.

There are so many options to choose from: double- and triple-paned windows and low-E glass are popular here in Boston where we have to contend with cold weather. You’ll find that modern energy-efficient windows can save you money and energy. They act as insulators that protect your home’s interior from the exterior temperatures. They’ll make your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Isn’t that what everyone wants?

New replacement windows will also increase your home’s value. If you may be looking to sell your house in the next few years, any investment you make now will pay off later. Energy-efficient homes are very popular; the more efficient you can make your home, the more attractive it will be to a buyer. The number of windows your home possesses can also attract home buyers; the more natural light that gets into your home, the better. Everyone enjoys being inside more when they don’t always have to rely on artificial light.

Investing in replacement windows will do more than improve your home’s value or lower winter’s heating bills. It may not sound like much, but windows are the lenses through which we see the world. You’ll be amazed at how much brighter Boston appears when you view it through shiny new windows.

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.