Choosing the Right Siding for Your House

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to replace the siding on their homes at some point during the life of the home. Over time your home’s siding takes quite a beating. Constant exposure to the sun, heavy storm winds, hail, rain, and general exposure to the elements will eventually cause your siding to crack, warp, or just simply start falling off in places.

As a homeowner, it’s important to maintain your siding to avoid water damage, pests, and other types of damage that can result from not having the outside of your home properly sealed against the elements. But with so many different siding options, how can you know which one is right for your home, your climate, and your budget?

There are three main types of siding that are popular options for modern homes. These are wood siding, vinyl siding, and fiber cement siding. Each of these has different pros and cons, and offers a different look for the exterior of your home. Let’s take a deeper look at each option:

Wood Siding

For a classic feel, wood siding is a great option, and allows for all kinds of customization in terms of color and finish. Unlike other siding options, wood siding can be painted any color, or even stained to retain the natural grain and texture of the wood.

On top of aesthetic appeal, wood siding is incredibly durable and more eco-friendly than other siding options. Depending on your region’s climate, the manufacturer, and how well you upkeep your siding, you can expect wood siding to last anywhere from 10-50 years.

The main drawback to having wood siding is the large amount of maintenance that you’ll have to perform to keep your siding looking nice. Wood siding requires regular treatment for insect prevention, in addition to regular restaining and repainting.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is the most affordable siding option, and is installed on more than 30% of homes in the US. In addition to lower prices, vinyl siding also requires far less maintenance than wood siding. Vinyl siding will never rot, fade, warp, or crack unless it is struck by an outside force.

Depending on what kind of siding you get and your regional climate, you can expect vinyl siding to last you 50 years or more.

If you’re looking for a great product at an affordable price, vinyl might be your best bet, though it is easily damaged by falling branches or hail storms, meaning you could end up replacing it long before it reaches its 50-year lifespan.

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement is the most recent technology that’s breaking into the siding industry, but it’s rapidly gaining popularity with homeowners across the US. Fiber cement siding is made of cement, sand, and cellulose fibers, and is generally molded to mimic the look of wood siding.

This type of siding is the most durable siding option available, and can be expected to last 50+ years. It is also flame retardant, highly durable, and never needs to be repainted or refinished. It’s also completely resistant to termites and other pests that can wreak havoc on other types of siding.

 

When making your choice for new siding, take each different option into consideration to determine what is the best choice for your home. Think about your local climate, the amount of upkeep you want to be responsible for, the aesthetic you’re hoping to achieve, and your budget. While there isn’t a huge difference between the three most common options, some have benefits that outweigh the others. Talk to a contractor in your area, like Metropolitan Contractors, to get the latest information about your siding options. Make sure to put in your time for research so you aren’t stuck with more work than you bargained for after installation.

Make a Carpet Cleaning Toolkit This Holiday Season

Holiday season is just around the corner – that wonderful time of year when we open our homes to friends and family and good cheer. It’s also the time of mulled wine spills, tipped mugs of eggnog, cranberry stains, and grandchildren tracking dirt indoors. In other words, it’s the season of carpet stains. Thankfully, just a little advance preparation can keep a little mishap from becoming a permanent stain.

Start by assembling a carpet cleaning kit. Many of the items below are probably in your cupboard already:

  • Plain white cloth, or plain white paper towels
  • Vinegar
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Club soda
  • Baking soda
  • Table salt

Plain white cloth – Witness a spill, and you might be tempted to use whatever towel you have at hand. Instead, take a moment to grab a plain white cloth or paper towel. After a spill, your goal is to transfer any color onto the cloth; use a colored cloth or patterned towel, and you may just end up transferring more color onto your carpet.

White vinegar – It’s no accident that vinegar is so often mentioned in homemade stain removal solutions. Vinegar is a mixture of acetic acid and water. When mixed with water, the components of acetic acid break down; the remaining components are very effective at weakening and breaking down stain-causing substances. And because acetic acid also mixes easily almost any kind of liquid, it’s a great teammate for other cleaning solutions.

Dishwashing liquid – This common household ingredient helps water to spread more easily over surfaces and penetrate deeper into carpet fibers. If your stain is water soluble – think holiday fare like food, gravy, and alcoholic drinks – a little warm water and dishwashing liquid may be enough to release the stain. If you need a little more stain-fighting power, add a little vinegar into the mix.

Club soda – The carbonation in club soda lifts stains and prevents them from penetrating carpet fibers; this home remedy is particularly effective at removing stains from red wine – a holiday season staple at my house. In fact, the professional carpet cleaners that I use – Rainier Chem-Dry – uses carbonation as a key component in their own cleaning solution. In addition to being effective, club soda also evaporates without a trace.

Baking soda – First, baking soda can act as a chemical catalyst for improving the effectiveness of vinegar. Baking soda is absorbent, and able to soak-up stain-causing liquids. Baking soda is abrasive; it’s slight grittiness can help to pry stains out of carpet fibers. And finally – it’s a natural freshener and deodorant. Apply a baking soda and vinegar mixture to a stain, and let it sit for a while; after it dries, circle back with a vacuum cleaner to pull up the soda and the stain.

Table salt – Baking soda is one kind of salt; table salt is another. If you don’t have baking soda handy, table salt may do the trick.

No matter which cleaning solution I try, I work slowly. I use each cleaning solution sparingly, to avoid spreading the stain. And I’ve had pretty good luck using each of the above ingredients, or combinations of them. That said, they don’t always work. The last item you should add to your stain-removing toolkit is the phone number of a professional carpet cleaner you can trust. You’ll want one handy, because time is of the essence when dealing with stains; the earlier you deal with them, the better your chances for complete removal.

Prepare for carpet stains in advance, and when the inevitable spill occurs, the fast cleanup won’t dim your holiday cheer.

The Lesser Known Advantages of Replacing Your Home’s Windows

Investing in Replacement Windows
Thinking about investing in some new windows for your home? There are a lot of benefits to doing so. Not only will it enhance the curb appeal and functionality of your house, but if you purchase high-quality modern windows from a reputable dealer, you’ll save money on your monthly energy bills, and the savings definitely add up overtime. Modern convenience, energy savings, and aesthetic considerations are all things that might spring to mind when you think about getting new windows. But what about some of the lesser known advantages?

Additional Security & Increased Surveillance
New windows can certainly bring you a greater view on your surroundings – but they also allow for greater visual communication between people inside and outside of your home. When you add new windows (or increase their size) in your home, you’re giving yourself more room to view things on the outside. You can more easily monitor your kids playing in the front yard, or more readily see anyone or anything approaching your home. Want to see whats going on in the backyard? Add some new windows in the kitchen so you can check things out in the backyard while working in the kitchen.

Bridge Indoor and Outdoor Living Spaces
Windows can do wonders for a room – they can brighten up a space and visually connect the indoors to outdoor spaces surrounding your home. This can improve the aesthetics of both areas, maximizing your view of the outside. Adding large windows to your home as opposed to several small ones makes it easier to achieve this affect – and pairing them with sliding glass patio doors can take it to the next level.

replacement windows

Get More Privacy
Windows are one of the primary things that separate public areas from private ones. This is why they should absolutely provide the level of privacy you want inside your home! One way to increase indoor privacy is to strategically place windows inside your home. For instance, placing a window up high in a wall allows you to see the outdoors from the inside and get sunlight into the room, while restricting the view from people outside. There are other ways to aid in privacy, like window treatments, textured glass, and privacy film – but if you want the best way, you should consult a reliable window installation company that can offer you a free consultation.

If you’re in along the east coast, Mr. Rogers Windows and Doors is easily one of the best companies to work with if you’re looking for replacement windows in Virginia or North Carolina. They offer a huge variety of high-quality glass packages that can increase the privacy and aesthetic appeal of your windows. Better yet, all of their windows are completely customized for your home. Nothing is pre-fabricated and every order is a custom-fit. They offer free consultations for anyone interested in replacing their windows or patio doors – just reach out to them to learn more.

Get Prepared for Winter
Power Outages

Depending on where you live, the effect of a power outage can range from mildly inconvenient to a near emergency. If you happen to live in the North or Midwest, a winter power outage could make it impossible for you to remain in an unheated home. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that many households in cooler climes have generators to use in the event of an outage.

While any generator can be helpful in the event of an outage, there’s a limit to what one can do without being connected to your household electrical system. Without a proper connection to a suitably powerful generator, a home’s central heating and air system will remain off during an outage; you would instead be forced to connect smaller and less efficient portable heaters to your generator.

If you want to be able to power your central heating and air system during an outage, you’ll need two things:

  • A large portable generator – 10,000 watts minimum
  • An interlock or manual transfer switch

Not every generator is capable of powering a household heating and air system. Per Consumer Reports, you could expect to be able to power a central heating and air system with a 10,000-watt portable generator. This assumes that the heating and air system requires 5,000 watts of power, and that other household devices will also be drawing power from the generator.

Please note that some central heating and air systems require more than 5,000 watts of power to run; these could be too large for any portable generator to power. Also note that some heating and air systems require more power at startup than they need to run; unless your generator can handle the extra demands of startup, being able to handle the running requirements won’t matter.

Central heating and air systems draw power from the household electrical system. So, in order for heating and air to run during an outage, you’ll need to be able to supply power directly to your home’s electrical system. In order to safely and legally connect your generator to your household system, you’ll also need either an interlock or a manual transfer switch.

Both interlocks and manual transfer switches perform the same basic function: Both allow you to switch the power feed from utility line to generator and back again. Both force you to connect to one power source or the other. Both prohibit you, mechanically, from connecting to the utility line and the generator at the same time.

Using an interlock or manual transfer switch ensures that power goes where it’s supposed to go. That’s important. Without one or the other, power from a generator could run backwards into a utility line; power from a power line could run backwards into a generator. Both circumstances can cause great damage, and even put people’s safety in jeopardy.

Preparing for a winter outage requires investing in a large portable generator and either an interlock or a manual transfer switch. But it’s the only way to ensure that you can ride out the outage in the comfort of a warm, cozy home. You’ll be able to enjoy the peace of mind all year long.

Winter is Coming. Are Your Windows Ready?

For some of us, winter is a wonderful time to cocoon at home – to stay warm and cozy and comfortable while storms and snows rage outside. For others, winter means drafty windows, cold rooms, walking around in a blanket, and dreading the monthly energy bill; for these folks, winter can’t end soon enough.

No matter how we feel about winter, it’s coming soon and it’s not going to end for several months. If you’ve been dreading the arrival of winter, now is the time to take steps to make your home more comfortable – without having to spend even more to heat your home. You may just discover that you can have a much more comfortable home without spending much time or money to do it. Here are some things just about anyone can do:

Caulk gaps around the windows

Think about this: A tiny gap around the window frame can let in as much cold air as a window that’s opened half an inch. If you wouldn’t leave that window open in the cold, you shouldn’t avoid dealing with drafts. So check around each window in your home. If you find a gap, consider filling it with some inexpensive caulk. Don’t forget to check windows in your basement or attic.

Use cellular shades

Cellular shades are the most energy-efficient window coverings. They employ cells to trap layers of insulating air around your windows, keeping winter air at bay so your room remains warm and cozy. Because cellular shades use air, rather than material, for insulation, they’re able to let through a fair amount of light – a definite plus in winter, when natural light is already in short supply.

Try insulated curtains

Curtains employ material, or even insulation, to trap cold air next to the window. Like cellular shades, heavier curtains can be effective in maintaining warmth. And, like cellular shades, curtains can be a stylish addition to a room. Unlike cellular shades, curtains tend to block out natural light – particularly if they’re insulated.

Consider replacing your windows

If you’re trying to keep warm this winter without breaking the bank, replacing the windows might not be your first option. Even if new windows reduce annual energy costs by several hundred dollars, it would take several years for that savings to equal the investment in new windows.

That said, there are some compelling financial incentives for choosing energy efficient windows. For one, homeowners may be eligible to receive tax credits for qualified, sufficiently energy-efficient windows. Many utility companies also offer rebates to help offset the cost of new windows; these replacement windows from Renewal by Andersen are an example of a rebate-eligible, highly-efficient window.

The biggest financial incentive to replace your windows is the boost that new energy-efficient windows provides to your home’s resale value. Per ISoldMyHouse.com, a $10000 window replacement could increase a home’s value by about $8500 – not bad when you’ve also got beautiful windows, a more comfortable home, and lower energy costs.

Don’t forget your doors

Windows aren’t the only sources of cold winter drafts: Doors can also feature gaps that can let in unwanted cold air. If one or more of your doors are letting in a draft, consider adding a replacement weather-strip to the door’s underside; you’ll find them at your local hardware store, and they’re easy to install. For an even easier solution, try placing a draft snake (or even a rolled-up towel at the base of the door to block cold air.

Get your windows (and doors) ready for the cold, and you just might find that winter’s not so bad after all. Hot chocolate, anyone?

Ideas For A Beautiful Dog House

Every dog owner around the world can’t help but want the absolute best for their furry friend. Whether you are looking for a new bed for them to rest on, new toys and treats for them to enjoy, or a new living space for your four legged companion, it’s important to look up some creative ideas before hand to ensure that you are not only pleased with the final appearance of the dog house, but your dog actually uses it too! Every dog needs a home that they can unwind in after a long day of ruff-housing.

DogPost1

We talked with the veterinarians at a nearby Richmond-based animal clinic, Wellesley Animal Hospital, to see what kind of ideas they had for implementing a custom doggie home – the staff were extremely helpful and had a great time coming up with these ideas:

  1. The first idea is a crooked design! Based on creative architectural designs, these type of dog houses have slanted roofs, curved doors, and almost remind you of taking a trip to Disney World. They are fun, creative, and look great.. The only downside is they can definitely be a pain to build and design. It’s absolutely important that you find a great set of plans and follow them to the exact specifications, or else this project could turn into a major headache.
  2. Another great idea that we’ve come across often are dog homes that resemble a modern, elegant house. These are generally easier to build and design, because there are plenty of tutorials and plans out there available to follow. A good reason to choose these style homes is the option for fully customizable paint options!
  3. One of my personal favorite designs, for both a dog’s home and your own, is a traditional log cabin style. These can be one of the harder designs to make, because the process and technique of putting together a log cabin is very tedious and extremely precise and specific. Make sure you grab one of your handy friends before you attempt to take these on!
  4. If you want to treat your furry friend like royalty, then perhaps you want to consider a beautiful dog house that’s modeled after an old fashioned castle! These are always fun to design and build, and they often provide a great aesthetic appearance to your back yard. Kids and even adults will want to live in it!

Providing a space for your dog to relax and unwind, and remove himself from the chaos and frenzy that is your home is a major factor in ensuring a healthy lifestyle for them. When you are deciding to get a canine or not, these can be some of the things to keep in mind. A healthy pet is a perfect pet!

Do-It-Yourself Carpet Cleaning

Deciding to pursue a home renovation can be a costly experience, in terms of both time and money. Whether or not you have a large budget for the renovation, it can be important to save costs on any processes possible. In some cases, the most expensive part of the renovation process could be an overhaul of your home’s carpeting and rugs. When you have a historic house that has not had a proper carpet cleaning process done on it in many years, it may be best to pursue a major clean of the entire home’s floor fabric before you renovate other areas.

A home renovation that includes a detailed carpet cleaning can produce great results, and visually leaves the carpets clean, shiny, fluffy, and totally renewed. This also helps the air in your home better circulate and prevents any kind of airborne bacteria and illnesses from spreading as well! Any family members or friends that have allergies to dust mites, pollen, and dander will also greatly benefit from the entire home’s carpet being clean.

If you don’t want to spend the money on having a professional carpet cleaning company like Chem-Dry of Charleston come out, it may be worthwhile to complete the carpet cleaning process yourself! There are a few options if you want to pursue an entire home detailing.

  1. Renting A Steam Cleaner – This is an option most people who want to pursue cleaning their carpets themselves look into. It is affordable, and can be rented from most large chain stores such as Lowe’s or Home Depot, or even a grocery store near you. They can normally be rented by the hour, the day, or for multiple days, to help accommodate your schedule and plans. The prices for renting a steam cleaner vary, and can run anywhere from as little as $20 + the cost of shampoo to upwards of $100 if you want to rent the steam cleaner for a longer period of time.
  2. Scrubbing The House – In some cases you may want to pursue making your own carpet cleaning solution that you can use to scrub and truly get a deep clean for your home’s carpeting. One of my favorite, go-to home cleaning solutions is a mixture of pure white vinegar (NOT apple cider vinegar – this can actually stain your carpet because of the coloring), mixed with baking soda, water, and a few drops of an essential oil. I add in the essential oil to leave a lasting scent that is pleasing and non-toxic. You can use any variety of essential oils that you like, there are many different smells to choose from such as lemon, lavender, or a mint variety.

No matter which option you want to pursue, whether a hand-scrub or something more professional such as a carpet cleaning machine, the end results should be the same – a cleaner, healthier home at a fraction of the cost of pursuing a professional carpet cleaning experience.

DIY Pizza Oven Building Guide: How to Build Your Own Outdoor Oven

Looking to build your own wood-fire oven right in your outdoor kitchen? Here are several instructions to guide you through the DIY outdoor oven building process.

1. Gather the materials.

Here are the things you need to have to be able to create an outdoor oven:

  • Brick tile
  • Cement mixer
  • Concrete mix
  • Trowels
  • Shovel
  • Tape measure
  • Angle iron
  • Welder
  • Rebar
  • Cinder blocks
  • Grout bag
  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Plywood
  • Oven kit (dome elements, base elements, thermal blanket, and metal door)

You also need to decide on the dimensions you want for your oven.

2. Build a foundation.

Using cinder blocks, build an L-shaped structure that is big enough to accommodate the oven and have space for the counter. Pile up the blocks and fill the holes with a slab of concrete. To support the concrete, lay a rebar into each hole.

When you’re done smoothing cement on the base, leave it to dry.

3. Create the floor of the oven.

The oven’s floor or the hearth should be made up of bricks in two layers, with the first one laid right above the cement board on the other side of the upper layer. The second layer is placed on top of the first one using water and silica so that it’s easy to take off when any of the bricks get damaged or cracked.

Because food like pizza can get into contact directly with the hearth, it should be safe and sanitized for food. To ensure food safety and prevent contaminants from reaching the food, cover the hearth in a vapor barrier.

4. Build the roof of the oven.

This step involves three tasks: deciding on the height of the roof, creating the roof form, and building the roof itself.

Deciding on the roof height

Measure the height of the opening and deduct it from the ideal opening height for an outdoor oven. Mark the opening’s width, the center point, and the center point to the 6-inch mark.

Creating the roof form

Use a rigid and flexible metal to create your form curve. Use a sliding T-bevel to locate your roof’s beginning angle and move that to the next bricks that will support the rest of the roof and bear its weight. Now, cut the form curves using a wet tile saw or a masonry saw. To prevent the oven from falling apart, secure the wall with two pieces of angle iron and attach them together with bolts and rods.

Building the roof

Proceed with building the roof with the rectangular brick, shaving any excess bricks to achieve a better fit. To make the roof strong, using a refractory mortar isn’t enough—you’ve got to combine it with ground-up fire brick. This will make multiple layers between the big joints for roof strength.

Finally, clean up the refractory mortar joints inside the oven that are hidden by the form. You’ll be spending around an hour for this task.

5. Build the chimney.

Use again your roof form to shape an identical one in the chimney. Also, use the remaining refractory mortar to finish the chimney’s base.

6. Build a façade.

This water-tight structure will serve as protection for the refractory mortar. Insulate the space between the actual oven and the façade using mineral wool or ceramic wool that can keep as much cooking heat as possible.

7. Install the door and handle.

For the oven door, you can have one custom-made out of two corrosion and heat-resistant metal layers. Then mount a handle to the front door. Now your outdoor oven is ready to bake pizza, pie, bread, and what have you!

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Building Your Own Office at Home? 8 Clever Décor Ideas for a Work-Friendly Space

Setting up your workstation at home? Regardless of how big or small your available space at home is, you can work from home in style with these eight clever interior design ideas.

1. Set your desk in front of a window.

A little sunlight can help boost your productivity, so it’s best to place your workstation in front of a window. It’ll offer you a great view, too. Add blinds or blackout curtains to offset harsh sunlight and fill the bare corner of the room with a tall bookshelf. The shelf will make your office essentials like pens, calculators, planners, etc. within an arm’s reach.

2. Achieve a modern, minimalist look.

If you want everything to look sleek and neat, your best bet is a set of white desk and chair that won’t make your workspace look too busy and cluttered.

3. Work with colors.

Do white and other neutral colors bore you to death? You can, of course, choose to create a vibrantly colorful work desk at home. This design technique especially works when you want to make your workspace look distinct from the room where it’s located, like the bedroom or living room. When you’re using a lot of colors, the key having a great design is to have a consistent style when it comes to your furniture style.

4. Get a C-table for a small room.

If the available space for your home office is very limited, you can go for a portable laptop or desktop table instead. Look for a table with a C-shaped frame so that you can tuck it under your bed. Literally, you won’t have to get out of your bed to work.

5. Blend your home office design with your existing room design.

Your home office’s design need not be different from the one you already have in the room. You can choose to integrate your workspace’s design to what you already have at home for a consistent look.

6. Go for an industrial-modern home office style.

To achieve this stylish design, use a combination of wooden and steel furniture pieces. You can even have a mobile office by choosing furniture with casters so that you can move them to any area at home as you please.

7. Install floating shelves.

Maximize the space in your home office by adding floating shelves that can accommodate your books, work items, and decorative items. Instead of taking up space horizontally, you leverage on your wall to provide the extra space you need.

8. Repurpose an old unused closet into a workspace.

Do you have any closet at home that you no longer use? The space it takes up would be a waste if you don’t take advantage of it. You can transform it into a lovely workstation by adding a desk and some floating shelves. Adorn the wall with a pretty wallpaper, and your closet will never look the same again.

As you can see, it doesn’t take much space to have your own stylish workstation at home. All you need is a bit if creativity and resourcefulness to turn any idle area at home into a good-looking and functional home office.

How to Make Your Living Space More Energy Efficient

Home improvement projects do more than just making your living space look better. Did you know that in some simple tweaks at home, you can greatly reduce your monthly power bills? In the United States alone, households spend more than a hundred billion dollars per year. Avoid adding up to the statistics—make your home more energy efficient and save on electricity costs with these four hacks:

1. Go for dual-flush toilets.

If your bathroom toilets have a single flush, you can save as much as a hundred dollar per year by replacing them with dual-flush ones. A dual-flush toilet has two buttons or handles with different flush strengths, helping you use only the amount of water that you actually need.

2. Turn off any unused computers.

Because of convenience, people tend to just leave their laptops or desktops turned on even if they’re not using them. These electronic devices still consume energy even though you’re not using yours, as long as you keep it on. When you’re not using your laptop for more than half an hour, you’d better shut it down to save on electricity.

Courtesy of https://www.savemoneycutcarbon.com/learn-and-save/infographic-save-1000s-home-energy-efficiency/

 

3. Use your fan more often than the AC.

It’s a no-brainer—air-conditioning units use up more energy than ceiling fans. So use your fan more often than your AC when the weather is cool. That way, you’ll save power by as much as 10%.

4. Opt for light dimmers.

Used in combination with your LED lights at home, light dimmers can contribute around 10% in energy savings at home. Depending on your lighting needs, you can adjust the level that your dimmers can deliver. That way, no electricity gets wasted.

The key to making your home energy efficient is to be conscious of how you’re consuming electricity at home and making some adjustments as needed.