Hosting a Christmas Party? Here’s How to Protect Your Carpet From Spills

It won’t be snowing here in Phoenix anytime soon, but there are other signs that Christmas is coming. Holiday classics are on the radio, colored lights are adorning the houses on my street, and invitations to my annual party are in the mail. Another sign that Christmas is coming: I’m getting ready to tackle holiday-party spills on my nearly-white carpet.

If you said that it wasn’t a good idea to install an almost-white carpet in my home, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. I do have to take great care to keep my carpet looking clean. I vacuum twice a week, and have my carpets professionally cleaned twice a year. (And if you’re invited to my party, I’ll be there to take your shoes at the door.) But probably the most important thing that I do is attend to every spill and stain as soon as it happens.

If you’re committed to stopping whatever you’re doing to deal with a spill or a stain, the battle’s half won. Winning the other half of the battle requires you to know how to tackle the most common kinds of stains. Once you know what kind of tools you need, you’ve also got to keep them on hand. Want to do as I do this holiday season, and keep stains out of your carpet? Here’s how to deal with some of the most common stains.

Red Wine

White carpeting and red wine may not be a match made in heaven, but you’ll always find them together at my Christmas party. (Hopefully not too close together.) That’s why I’m always ready for a red wine spill. After a spill, I immediately start blotting up the wine with a plain white paper towel. I work gently, because the idea is to pull the wine up, not pull it down. I keep blotting until the towel is pulling up very little red. Next, I mix equal parts warm water and white vinegar with a dash of dishwashing soap.

I continue to blot, gently, until the stain is gone or until the blotting is no longer pulling up any red. If part of the stain remains, and you can’t pull any more out, stop what you’re doing and call a professional. (I call Dr. Chem-Dry – the company that already drops by every six months for a cleaning.) The earlier a professional cleaner can attend to the stain, the better the chance it will be removed. Wine is among the toughest stains, but this course of action has never failed. Sometimes, I’m even able to get the stain up without any help.

Coffee

Another staple at my home as well as my party is rich, dark coffee – something that definitely stands out against light carpet. Tending to a coffee spill isn’t much different than dealing with red wine. You’ll need a plain white paper towel. You’ll want the same mixture of warm water, white vinegar, and dish soap. You’ll want to gently blot stains until they disappear. And you’ll want to call your cleaning pro right away if you can’t handle that stain.

For whatever reason – probably because my coffee mugs are bigger than my wine glasses – coffee spills tend to be bigger than wine spills. So it’s worth mentioning here that, should you have a lot of liquid to pull up, be sure to swap out paper towels once they’ve been blotted down. You won’t want to push wet towels into the carpet. Plan on having a lot of paper towels on hand before any party.

Grease

While I hate to use the term grease in relation to the food I serve at my parties, the shoe fits. And when guests are walking around with meats, cheeses, and all of those other saucy or oily foods that I serve, some are bound to end up on the floor. While the basic ingredients for dealing with grease stains on carpet are almost the same, there are a couple of key differences.

First, you’ll want to swap out the vinegar for more dishwashing soap in your cleaning solution: Plan to mix one part soap to four parts warm water. You’ll also want to apply the cleaning solution to some paper towel, and press it into the stain for five minutes before beginning the bottle process. Both the extra soap and the extra time are needed to loosen and break down the grease to the point where it can be blotted away.

While I’m no carpet cleaning expert, I have managed to keep a white carpet looking great for a few years now. Do as I do – and quickly – and both you and your carpet will do just fine the next time you host a Christmas party.

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?

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.

Have a Tight Budget? 4 Low-Cost Hacks for Your Kitchen Makeover

If you have all the time and money in the world, you can do almost anything you’d like to make your home a better living space. Perhaps, you’ve been dreaming of building your own outdoor pizza oven or renovating your old porch. While you’re saving up for the big home improvement projects, there are some simple DIY hacks you can do without having to spend a lot of time and money. Let’s start with the kitchen.

1. Paint your kitchen walls and floors

Even things as simple as changing the color of your walls and floors can dramatically improve the look of your kitchen. Tired of the off-white color that’s been there for years? Change things up a bit by painting your kitchen walls with a vivid color such as bright red or lime green.

2. Replace the cabinet knobs

Enhancing the appearance of your kitchen doesn’t have to be a big-time project. You can start small—like replacing the knobs or handles on your cabinets. Some suggestions for stylish knobs: bronze, stainless steel, brass, crystal, or glass.

3. Add a modern-style backsplash

Backsplashes can be used not just for utilitarian purposes (like protecting your kitchen walls from food splatters and liquid spills) but also for decorative ones. You can go chic and trendy by installing a backsplash made of metals, stone, or glass. The result? A modern and sleek look!

4. Add some colors

Utensils, chairs, mats, containers, curtains, and any kitchen essential can add a dash of color to your otherwise boring kitchen. These items won’t cost you much but will make your kitchen look like brand new.

All these kitchen upgrades sound easy, right? Yes, because they’re actually easy and inexpensive to do on your own. Have you given your kitchen a makeover? Tell us your experience!